The Cinequest Film & VR Festival is thirteen days of movies, parties, celebrities, and memorable experiences. But for anyone wanting to attend for the first time (or for the 25th time), the schedule can be a little bit daunting. Not to worry: here’s a handy survival guide that gives all the highlights nobody will want to miss.
1. Opening Night
Two Cinequest Maverick Award alumni return, with the opening night film, Krystal. Directed by William H. Macy and featuring Rosario Dawson in the titular role, this unconventional comedy stars up-and-comer Nick Robinson (Jurassic World, The Kings of Summer) and will be followed by a discussion with cast and crew members.
2. 3Below Debuts
Joining the California and Hammer theaters as screening venues in downtown San Jose, the newly renovated 3Below Theaters & Lounge (formerly Camera 3 Cinemas) will be an official venue of the festival. Camera 3 was the first theater to host Cinequest, so this is both a homecoming and the exciting debut of a new, state-of-the-art theater. The Century 20 in Redwood City returns as the fourth screening venue, giving easy access to the festival to residents on the Peninsula.
3. Virtual Reality Returns
Where better than the Silicon Valley and Cinequest to showcase the latest experiences, games, and films of the immersive entertainment scene? A scheduled VR Cinema Program and a VR Experience Lounge return this year, offering access to exciting experiential content and educational workshops from experts in this emerging art form.
4. Maverick Spirit Awards
Cinequest continues its tradition of honoring icons, legends, and risk takers in entertainment with its Maverick Spirit Award. This year’s attending recipients include Nicolas Cage (Moonstruck, Raising Arizona, Adaptation), Andie MacDowell (Sex, Lies and Videotape, Four Weddings and a Funeral), Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black, Stronger), and Tom Cullen (Downtown Abbey, Game of Thrones, Black Mirror).
5. Oscar-Caliber Cinema
Academy Award-winning and -nominated actors and directors are well-represented in this year’s program. Oscar-nominated filmmaker Milcho Manchevski returns to Cinequest, with his provocative film Bikini Moon, and Academy Award winner Jan Svěrák will premiere his feature Barefoot.
6. Short Film Programs
From animated to documentary, comedic to dramatic, audiences can see nine distinct shorts programs in this year’s festival. Cinequest is an Academy Awards short film qualifying festival, and this is one of the few opportunities to watch these outstanding mini-movies on the big screen.
7. Women’s History Month Celebration
This year’s festival features a new partnership with Lunafest, a nationally touring film showcase that features award-winning short films by, for, and about women. A special screening on March 7, in anticipation of International Women’s Day, is followed by a panel discussion led by writer and blogger Carly Severn, co-host of KQED’s podcast The Cooler.
8. Silent Film in the Spotlight
Experience the annual tradition of seeing a masterpiece from the silent film era, accompanied by live music on the Mighty Wurlitzer organ, in the spectacular California Theatre. This year’s screening is the classic 1928 film The Wind, starring Lillian Gish.
9. Soirees, Meetups, and Parties
Each day and night of the festival, cinephiles can flock to special events and meetups to discuss, debate, and celebrate Cinequest’s program—often with the filmmakers themselves. With social venues in both San Jose and Redwood City, there’s always a place to go to connect with fellow film lovers. Passholders also get access to the VIP Lounge, while attendees of the Opening and Closing Night film screenings are invited to enjoy an epic after party to kick off and close out the festival.
10. Closing Night
More than 30 years after the award-winning Platoon was released, director Paul Sanchez—who also starred in the film—has assembled the cast and crew to recount their personal experiences making the film in the new documentary Brothers in Arms. Film lovers won’t want to miss it, and it’s the perfect way to cap off an amazing two weeks of remarkable cinema.
This article originally appeared in Issue 10.1 “Tech”