Cinequest, founded by Halfdan Hussey and Kathleen Powell, is still going strong after 28 years. This year’s theme, “Impact,” focuses on the importance of the film festival as a platform and opportunity for filmmakers, audiences, and the community. Filmmakers are able to take the next step in their careers by sharing their work with appreciative audiences who provide valuable feedback, in addition to the recognition that filmmakers gain through festival awards or simply having their work included as festival selections. Audience members who open themselves up to the diversity of experiences and stories that are shared through the films in this festival are able to benefit from the power of film to build bridges and increase cross-cultural understanding. In addition to experiencing these carefully curated films, audience members are impacted by the connections they are able to make while participating in both formal and informal conversations with the community of artists and fellow filmgoers that attend Cinequest. And of course, there is the economic impact that the film festival has on the neighboring businesses in San Jose and Redwood City.
Without access to Camera 12 in recent years, Cinequest has been working diligently to ensure that audiences continue to experience the quality and quantity of screenings, panels, workshops, soirées, and other events that Cinequest has become known for. To that end, Cinequest expanded programming up the peninsula to Redwood City last year—which not only bolstered the number of available screens but also eased the burden of commuting for attendees that live or work further north—however, Cinequest remained committed to San Jose’s downtown core as the festival hub. This year, with the opening of 3Below Theaters & Lounge (formerly Camera 3) to supplement the palatial California Theatre and the renovated Hammer Theatre Center, Cinequest will once again be able to screen all films in the downtown core. Peninsula attendees need not fear, though, as Cinequest will still be screening many films at the Cinemark Century 20 in Redwood City, as well.
The big names coming to this year’s Cinequest will include the 2018 Maverick Spirit Award winners Tatiana Maslany, Tom Cullen, Andie MacDowell, and John Travolta, as well as the 2018 Media Legacy Award winner Ben Mankiewicz. Beyond the Hollywood stars, Cinequest is also a great place to meet local filmmakers, like Dana Nachman, whose independent documentary production company KTF Films is based in Los Altos. Nachman, who brought audiences the uplifting Batkid Begins, will return to Cinequest with another heartwarming story, titled Pick of the Litter, about puppies in training to become guide dogs. And it wouldn’t be Silicon Valley without some attention paid to the cutting edge of film technology. From VR cinema programs featuring the likes of John Travolta and Nicolas Cage to workshops addressing the storytelling implications of immersive virtual experiences, audiences will be able to fully explore the world of VR and AR.
Cinequest is also keen to develop community partnerships in order to enrich the festival experience. Cinequest has been proud to center the work of women in film for many years, with 98 directors who are women included in this year’s lineup. In a new partnership, on the eve of International Women’s Day, Cinequest will host Lunafest, a traveling exhibition of short films by, for, and about women. Cinequest also believes in the value of bringing together creative communities. Building on the success of last year, Cinequest will partner with Reed Magazine to present “Poets N Film,” featuring local spoken word artists (scheduled to include ASHA, Bill Cozzini, Roberto Duran, Eli Hansen, Lita Kurth, Mighty Mike McGee, Joe Miller, and Kimy Martinez) combined with satirical dance routines, hilarious costumes, sound experiments, live music, and projections. Two short films about poets will also be showcased as part of this event.
There are many ways to explore this 13-day festival, running from February 27 to March 13, but one thing is for certain: it is an experience not to be missed.
The complete line-up, as well as tickets and passes, can be found on the Cinequest website.
Written by Julia Canavese
Photography by Daniel Garcia