Features & Columns

Cinequest Week 1 Recap

San Jose's anti-man-about-town falls hard for city's annual film festival
NO BORE, MAN: John Boorman, director of films such as 'Deliverance' and 'Glory,' was honored at one of Cinequest's kickoff events. Photograph by Dane Andrew/TEN

Last week, Cinequest exploded with giddy euphoria, road rage violence, John Boorman's war memories, Asperger syndrome and Miss India America. What a combination. When I think about it, that's exactly the flavor of diversity I'd expect from Silicon Valley.

To kick things off, the anti-man-about-town attended the grand opening gala hoedown spectacular—a fantastic hyper-happy-documentary about the Batkid project that turned San Francisco into Gotham City in November 2013. Batkid Begins jammed the California Theatre to near capacity and resonated with just about everybody, in the same way the original project captured millions of peoples' lives around the world on that legendary day. A happy tear-jerker, the film documented in painstaking detail the vast network of people and organizations that chipped in with logistical support: police, the circus, restaurants, AT&T Park, SF Opera's costume shop, plus literally millions of fans all over the world who chimed in with online applause as the day unfolded.

That was just the opening night. Twenty-four hours later, the anti-man-about town found himself, in more ways than one, during a soaring epic series of violent revenge episodes under the title of Wild Tales. A magnificent, macabre and hysterical exploration of impulsive behavior—and now apparently one of the most popular films ever to come out of Argentina—Wild Tales elicited uproarious laughter from many of the native Spanish speakers in the audience. And watching it with subtitles was no issue, whatsoever. It was that moving of a vehicle. Literally, I mean, because one of the episodes featured a rollicking-vicious road rage encounter unlike anything since Alfred Hitchcock episodes first busted everyone's gut from TV screens decades ago. Other episodes in the film featured an explosives engineer trying to survive numerous parking tickets, a rich family and its corrupt lawyers trying to cover up a son's DUI murder of a pregnant woman, and, in another case, a waitress trying to deal with an abusive customer. If your sense of humor verges toward the dark side, Wild Tales is coming to a theater near you soon. Watch for it.

Of course, Cinequest isn't just about sitting in theaters. There are VIP soirees and awesome maverick meetups at nighttime. VIPs were also treated in the lounge with a neuromodulator vat of Guayaki yerba mate, which, sort of like kava, tends to harmonize the opposing forces of alertness and relaxation—definitely needed for festivals like this.

But back to the films. Any time the legendary director John Boorman rolls into San Jose, it is an event worth attending. The 82-year-old who gave us Deliverance, Hope and Glory, Excalibur, and Hell in the Pacific provided rocking conversation on stage. Cinequest honcho Halfdan Hussey interviewed him for several minutes, and at one point he asked Boorman about his definition of success. Boorman referenced his film Zardoz, one that tanked upon release. I'm paraphrasing, but Boorman said it was the only film that went from failure to a classic without passing through any phase of success.

I was so inspired that I impulsively went to Amazon and snared a copy of Boorman's autobiography, Adventures of a Suburban Boy, for a whopping $0.78—a smoking deal. I relate to that title, which is another reason why Cinequest is so appealing. One gets inspired by simply being in the same room with all of these characters. So many to choose from.

And speaking of choices, on another night I was forced to choose between two world premieres. One was a documentary about a dude with Asperger syndrome and his 20-year quest for love. The other was a comedy about a woman who enters a Miss India America pageant just to spite her ex-boyfriend. I picked the second one. To be honest, I wanted to see both combined into the same movie, but that's for another column.

Aptly titled Miss India America, the wholesome comedy cracked up the entire audience, many of whom were of Indian origin. Afterward the cast took the stage and answered questions. Co-writer Meera Simhan said she was partly inspired by her own experience entering a Miss India America pageant, right here in San Jose, years ago.

That right there, my dear readers, is the type of awesomeness that unfolds each year at Cinequest. There's still a few days left—get out there and see something.