American Underdog


463 PASEO DE PERALTA, Santa Fe NM, 87504

Thursday April 25th, 8:00 – 10:00 PM


418 Montezuma Ave, Santa Fe, NM. 87501

Saturday, April 27th, 8:30 PM

Opening Night will start off with a splash with indy sports-drama AMERICAN UNDERDOG, a redemption story set in the world of MMA, from first-time Peruvian-American director Gustavo Martin Benites starring Danny Trejo, Veronica Falcón, Vishy Ayyar, Taylor Treadwell, Suleka Mathew and Andrew Gray, who will all be in town to present the film along with producers Naveen A. Chathapuram, Cristy Coors Beasley and Rashaana Shah. Danny Trejo will receive the Festival’s highest honor, the Lifetime Achievement Award in a ceremony at the start of the night in the Scottish Rite Temple Theater; and Veronica Falcón will receive the Trailblazer Visionary Award at Saturday’s Awards presentation at the New Mexico History Museum, followed by a ticketed reception in her honor.

American Underdog” delves into the journey of an Indian-American immigrant and former amateur MMA fighter, recently released from incarceration, who seeks redemption and transformation. After intervening in a convenience store robbery, he becomes an unlikely local hero, thrust into the unforgiving spotlight of fame. Encouraged by the community, he reluctantly enters a local MMA tournament, confronting his past demons and striving for victory.


Gustavo, a Peruvian-American director based in Chicago, IL, makes his feature film debut with “American Underdog”. With over a dozen short films showcased at international festivals and featured on, Gustavo’s work, including the acclaimed documentary “Fupa”, has earned him recognition across the globe. He has collaborated with industry veterans like Ron Perlman, Ali Larter, and Jennifer Hudson, and has benefited from mentorship under directors such as Lance Acord and Melina León, whose guidance propelled his short script “Breathe” to become a finalist at Scriptapalooza 2021.

Director Statement

American Underdog encapsulates the poignant journey of an Indian-American immigrant and former MMA fighter, freshly liberated from incarceration, embodying the archetype of the Prodigal Son. Unexpectedly thrust into the limelight after thwarting a robbery, he grapples with newfound heroism amidst his internal turmoil. As he reluctantly enters an MMA tournament, the intense training forces him to confront the shadows of his past and uncertainties of his future.
Throughout the film, every character reflects the human condition of flawed existence, striving for or attaining redemption within their fractured lives. It resonates as a universal narrative, where grappling with internal struggles leads to catharsis, sacrifice, and the discovery of inner strength. ‘American Underdog’ is a testament to the indomitable spirit within us all, urging us to rise from our darkest moments to embrace our light and triumph.


Gustavo Martin Benites


Gustavo Martin Benites, Matthew Mascia


Naveen A. Chathapuram, Cristy Coors Beasley, Rashaana Shah


Danny Trejo, Veronica Falcon, Vishy Ayyar, Taylor Treadwell, Andrew Grey, Omi Vaidya, Suleka Mathew, Rajita Chakravarty, Hope Adams, Calvin Peters, Jacob Peacock, Jaspal Binning, Meghan McDonough, Jamison McDermott, Derek Fisher (Cinematographer), Christopher Cibelli (Editor), Brenden Hubbard (Consulting Producer)

Year Released:



United States



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