Features & Columns

Multimedia Event Showcases Local Poets, Live Music and Film

Cinequest's Poets 'n' Film event will feature the all-women performance-poetry group called Invasive Species. Photo by Chris Knight

The interdisciplinary genius Jean Cocteau opined that all art forms, especially cinema, could be understood as poetry. So in my view it makes sense for the Cinequest Film and VR Festival to incorporate a Poets 'n' Film event. This year the gig will unfold on March 8 at 3Below Theaters & Lounge, the old Camera 3 Cinemas, now fully renovated and transformed. Regulars will jump for joy over the new bathrooms.

This year marks the second Poets 'n' Film event after its debut at the 2017 Cinequest. The brainchild of local poet, filmmaker, actress, painter, academic and provocateur, Kimy Martinez, the multimedia event will showcase local poets of all sorts, but also incorporate live music, video projection and costumes.

Martinez originally spawned the idea a few years ago while working at REED, the literary journal of San Jose State University, a publication that eventually went on to sponsor last year's event and will do so again this year. Martinez was the magazine's poetry editor and also harbored a deep appreciation for poetry films, a separate genre in of themselves. She proposed the idea to Cinequest co-director Halfdan Hussey, who gave the green light.

"Being Halfdan, he is very much into taking risks and chances," Martinez said. "And he's very innovative, loves new ideas and also he's a writer as well. He said 'Yes, let's try it,' so I wholeheartedly just went for it."

Last year the event took place in Uchida Hall at SJSU. This year, with 3Below as one of the primary festival venues, the poets will exploit a much better space, since it has a stage, lighting and more tech capabilities, which, in turn, means more opportunities for experimentation. Some of the poets will do their thing without any need of extracurricular technology, while others are natural multimedia performers, with video projection as a standard part of their gig. Martinez will emcee the event along with Bill Cozzini, a local institution going back to the glory days of the Ajax Lounge 25 years ago, the former avant-space above what's now Cafe Stritch. Two poetry-based short films, Unspoken and I Remember, will also screen as part of the program. Musicians will perform between the poets.

One aspect that's different from last year's Poets 'n' Film event is that rather than having each poet perform his or her work separately with no knowledge of anyone else's work, Martinez at least tried to get the poets on the same page and show up to rehearsals, just to hear everyone's input, learn what they wanted to read, and get their participation in developing a through-line for the whole evening's festivities. The result will be a more provocative and cohesive event.

"This was a positive aspect of having rehearsals," Martinez said. "It was a surprise how wonderfully diverse we are, with our thoughts and ways of presenting our poetry."

Infiltrating the Poets 'n' Film event will be the costumed all-women performance-poetry group, Invasive Species, an incendiary ensemble Martinez launched to explore feminist issues via poetry. She described the group as a surreal combo of the Ronettes and punk. Jean Cocteau would be proud.

"Invasive means we do poetry that is disturbing," Martinez said. "It invades your thoughts. So much that you mull over what has been presented to you. Or that you take action over what has been presented to you. We're in costumes, wigs, very much in character. We try to pull out all the stops."

As if that wasn't enough, Martinez, through her film production company Stabbydoll Media, will also present the short Bill Rules during Cinequest on three separate nights. Both she and Cozzini star in the film, essentially a mockumentary about an online video team documenting a drug dealer's life as it goes off the rails. The aim of Stabbydoll, says Martinez, is to incorporate controversial subjects and dark humor in a hands-on, maverick, anti-Hollywood fashion rooted in the talents of the local community. People with no acting experience are encouraged to audition.

"We've been finding people that aren't actors, but they become actors," Martinez said. "They learn the skills and that's because of two things. They have the devotion and they're authentic. They're honest, there's something in their core that is sincere."

Poets 'n' Film
7pm, Thursday, March 8
3Below Theaters & Lounge
Tickets at www.cinequest.org