Features & Columns
For 13 days a year, downtown San Jose is flooded with dreamers. They are of two kinds: There are fans who immerse themselves in a flood of movies from around the globe, letting a day of films take them away. And there are moviemakers with their own dreams—who hope that their slaved-over film will break through the pack and garner some attention.
Cinequest is a meeting place of minds. It's a place for the messianic who insist, Brecht-wise, that art is a hammer to shape the world.
But there's loads of room as well for partiers and scenesters—people who like to pack a bar, handicap commercial potential and do the necessary public service of cutting an inept movie down to size.
Two huge cash prizes, voted on by the audiences, will make the handicapping doubly interesting this year. The chance to see Maverick Spirit honorees Harrison Ford, Salman Rushdie and Chuck Palahniuk is going to be something to talk about for years.
Best of all, however, will be the surprises, the outrages, the unexpected friendships—all the hysteria unique to a film festival—that will make Cinequest 23 something to remember.
Two silent films in 35mm and three undisputed classics (Dr. Strangelove, Lawrence of Arabia and Taxi Driver) screening in the new 4K restoration process will remind younger filmmakers of the kind of perfection they can strive for. The home-brewed, sometimes inept starter films on display will remind them that the ability to make a movie is within the reach of almost any dreamer.
One of the best film schools you've never heard of: San Jose State University's student training facility Spartan Films, which for the last 12 years has led students through summer feature-length filmmaking workshops. As Barnaby Dallas, the coordinator of production at the studio says, "We have something in common with Woody Allen—we're also always making one film a year."
The opening night film at Cinequest is one of the strongest openers in the festival's 23-year history—for at least its first two acts. Set in 1962, Ginger & Rosa concerns a 17-year-old bred-in-the-bone English bohemian nicknamed Ginger (Elle Fanning). She lives in fear of nuclear war while carrying out a passionate friendship with a far more troubled, fatherless girl, Rosa (Alice Englert of Beautiful Creatures). Meanwhile, the '60s start to ferment and become intoxicating.
(U.S.) In 1989, the hopes of the world were first aroused, then dashed, by the announcement that a pair of researchers at the University of Utah had discovered a frictionless and radiation-free form of fusion. The aftermath is investigated in this absorbing documentary, neither overly skeptical nor overly credulous (and this may count as a liability, if you're trying to get a definite answer).
The Cinequest Film Festival, now two years over the drinking age, runs Feb. 26-March 10.
General Admission $10, Matinees $7, Students $5, Opening and Closing Nights $50, Maverick Spirit Events $15-$30, Passes $145 and up