Planning to be in San Jose between February 28 and March 12 for the 27th Annual Cinequest Film Festival? The popular event features hundreds of films, forums, events, and parties at venues throughout downtown, with the programming expanding this year to include VR and new locations. It can be overwhelming, but to make planning easier, here’s a breakdown of what you shouldn’t miss.
1. Opening Night Film
Start your Cinequest experience off right with the opening night film, The Last Word, starring Shirley MacLaine as a successful businesswoman who enlists a young writer, played by Amanda Seyfried, to pen her biography. A study in the tension between fact, fiction, and how each of us would like to be remembered, The Last Word screens at the California Theatre on Tuesday, February 28 and is followed by an exclusive after-party.
2. Awesome Screening Venues
Cinequest boasts two iconic downtown venues: the California Theatre and the Hammer Theatre. One of the Bay Area’s gems, the historic California Theatre has been restored to the “movie palace” feel of its original 1927 construction, and you’ll be able to catch featured Spotlight Films there daily.
3. New Locations
With the recent closing of longtime partner Camera 12, the festival has expanded its reach to the CineArts theater in Santana Row and further north to Redwood City. So find yourself a travel buddy, and get ready to trek up and down the peninsula.
4. Soirées & Meet-Ups
Each evening, local bars and restaurants host the Maverick Meet-Ups and the VIP Soirées. This is your chance to mingle with fellow festival-goers, meet filmmakers, and network to your heart’s content. Several of these meet-ups also feature music, art, and other activities. In addition to connecting fellow movie fanatics, these soirées are the perfect opportunity to explore film culture in a new place.
5. Virtual Reality
This year’s festival features a new virtual reality program, with screenings that will give you a glimpse into the possibilities of this emerging technology, interactive stations to take it for a test drive, and forums where you can learn more and meet the leaders who are shaping the future of VR.
6. Writer’s Celebration
Cinequest’s annual Writers Celebration is held on Sunday, March 5 and features panels, forums, and workshops for aspiring writers and industry insiders alike. Don’t miss the special Maverick Spirit Award event with writer and director Jason Reitman, whose credits include Up in the Air, Juno, and Thank You for Smoking.
7. Movies to Fit Your Mood
From comedies to dramas, documentaries to animated films, there are dozens of movies available every single day of the festival. So before you peruse the embarrassment of riches inside your program, ask yourself, “What am I in the mood for?” Cinequest will have a movie to fit your needs.
8. Bay Area Films
Two Bay Area feature films are on the schedule this year: The Valley, a drama about an Indian American entrepreneur trying to come to terms with his life, and Chee and T, a comedy about “the only two guys in Silicon Valley who have nothing to do with technology.” Don’t miss this opportunity to support the local film industry.
9. Short Film Programs
Got a short attention span? There’s a place for you at Cinequest. In addition to the brief VR experiences, the festival offers ten short film programs. Favored genres include animated, comedy, and mindbenders, but you can also view the latest from high school and college programs. While feature films dominate the commercial market, it’s often the shorts that leave festival-goers with lasting impressions.
10. Closing Night
On Sunday, March 12, finish off your festival fare at the California Theatre with the closing night film, The Zookeeper’s Wife, starring two-time Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain and directed by Niki Caro (Whale Rider). The screening is preceded by a short awards presentation and is often paired with a Q&A with the director or the stars of the film. Don’t miss the epic bash after the show, which includes hosted food and drinks, activities, and the opportunity to meet the creators and stars of your favorite films.
Written by Nathan Zanon
This article originally appeared in Issue 9.1 Find