Alan Dominguez on Photos of Angie, Ken Buck and getting found

The name Angie Zapata is known across the country for her brutal murder in Greeley in 2008, when she was killed for being biologically born a man. It was the first hate-crime case in the country involving a transgender person, and her murderer was found guilty. While her family wanted to get back to the "normal" small-town life they were trying to live, Alan Dominguez had other plans -- the director wanted to tell Angie's story and educate the public -- but what the Colorado native didn't realize was that he also was going to educate himself.

This weekend, the 3rd Annual Cinema Q Film Festival takes over the Denver Film Center/Colfax, with Dominguez's Photos of Angie playing the opening last night. Dominguez took time to sit down with Westword and share what he learned, his future plans and getting the side of the killer.

Westword: Why did you choose Angie Zapata's case for the subject of your film?

Alan Dominguez:: This case had a number of ironies for me, which is what I love in a good film. The fact that Angie was from a traditionally male-centered culture, working class, living in a smaller city and, at the same time, trying to find herself in those environs. It really intrigued me. People who find themselves going against society's current have always fascinated me. Also, the conservative fabric of Greeley got my attention, and how this type of prosecution had been attempted before in much larger cities, but to no avail.

Had you met Angie or the family before making the film?

I had no contact with them previously and really only casually followed the trial and case. It was Melanie Asmar's Westword coverage of the case that really got my interest going in a comprehensive direction.

Did you get any resistance from the Zapata family at any point during the making of the film?

Not at all. In the beginning, they were not easy to get in touch. I first tried to make contact with them about six weeks after the trial, but it was a slow process. It hadn't even been a year since Angie's death. They were not only in mourning, but they really wanted their lives to return to some sort of normalcy. There were a lot of people who acted as go-betweens for them, to protect their privacy, and they ended up being part of the film.

The go-betweens ended up in the film as well?

Yes. The go-betweens were Adam Bass of GLAAD and Kelly Costello of the Colorado Anti Violence Program. Their interviews were very important to completely contextualize the trial and the behind the scenes work that was happening.

How did the community react to your making a film about Angie?

I was really moved by how willing everyone was to participate in any way they could. I interviewed Ken Buck during his Senate campaign and I was especially impressed by his willingness to go on the record at a time when it was not politically convenient for him to do so. Mr. Buck and I may differ politically, but we left the interview with a palpable mutual respect for what we were trying to do.