This year’s Cinequest Film Festival brings the work of 700 film artists and innovators to Silicon Valley audiences (expected to top 100,000), many for the first time. Whether filmmaker, armchair critic, red carpet regular, or casual movie buff, Cinequest offers a variety of experiences for every festival goer.
Opening and Closing Nights:
The festival is bookended by the Opening and Closing Night films at the gorgeous California Theatre, followed by their respective after-parties. On Opening Night—Tuesday, March 1—catch Eye in the Sky starring Helen Mirren, followed by an after-party at The Farmers Union. Finish your Cinequest festivities on Sunday, March 13, with the blowout Closing Night party at the newly reopened Hammer Theatre (formerly the San Jose Rep).
Maverick Spirit and Media Legacy Awards:
Each year, the festival hands out special awards honoring creative vision, independence, and leadership in filmmaking. This year, actor and director James Franco will receive a Maverick Spirit Award, and film critic Owen Gleiberman will speak at a Media Legacy Award screening of one of his favorite movies, Manhunter.
Day of the Writer:
The Day of the Writer brings a series of panels and events that focus on the process of writing. Panelists include working TV and film scribes, producers, and others. The day also incorporates Cinequest’s Screenplay Competition, where screenwriters get a chance to pitch their stories live on stage.
Future of Film Showcase:
Cinequest is known for tapping into the latest technological advances related to the movie experience, and the Future of Film Showcase gives visitors a taste of everything from mobile cinema to VR (virtual reality). Don’t miss a rough-cut screening of the locally made feature Mr. Invincible (written by previous Cinequest Screenplay Competition winner Stacie Shellner) showing on massive, three-paneled Barco Escape screens.
Features and Short Film Programs:
With hundreds of films—including close to 50 world-premiere features and dozens of shorts you’ll never have a chance to see again—there will be a lot to choose from. Spotlight Films, which screen each evening at the California Theatre, are a good place to start, while documentaries and international features tend to be the critical darlings. Any of Cinequest’s short film programs is recommended.
The student film competition at Cinequest has always been a highlight, but this year the festival is giving these future filmmakers a bigger platform. Look for two short film showcases for the College Film Competition plus a High School Film Competition shorts program, as well as expanded forums and educational opportunities that will connect aspiring youngsters to industry pros.
Party Every Day:
Each evening during the festival, a different local bar or restaurant hosts a Maverick Meetup and a VIP Soirée (you need to secure a VIP badge to attend the latter). These gatherings are a perfect way to mingle with fellow film lovers and meet the people behind the films and the festival.