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[whitespace] Halfdan Hussie Building on Reputation: A loyal following of filmmakers and audiences is important to Cinequest executive director Halfdan Hussie.

Frame Job

Cinequest gears up for 12th year of independent filmmaking--with a special emphasis on the medium's digital future

By Richard von Busack

THERE WERE TIMES when keeping Cinequest San Jose Film Festival afloat must have seemed like an impossible mission. So it's appropriate that one of the early confirmed headliners at Cinequest 12 (Feb. 21-March 3) is the composer of the Mission: Impossible theme, Lalo Schifrin. Along with John Barry, Schifrin was the most influential composer for the secret-agent sound, creating scores for Murderer's Row and Bullet, as well as his Oscar-winning soundtrack for the sapient-insect thriller The Hellstrom Chronicle.

The opening-night film at this year's Cinequest will be the Northern California premiere of The Search for John Gissing, a film by Mike Binder, creator of TV's The Mind of the Married Man. Binder's workplace comedy focuses on a vengeful Brit (Alan Rickman) hexing a Yank businessman (Binder) who has come to replace him at his job. While Rickman isn't expected to show up in person (he's currently in the process of stealing Harry Potter 2), some of the other cast members are considering a trip to San Jose; an opening night reception is slated afterward at Paolo's.

Cinequest 12 will close with Alexandre Rockwell's 13 Moons, a drama/comedy set in L.A.'s underside, with frequent Coen brothers star Peter Stormare, plus Steve Buscemi as "Bananas the Clown." The return of director Rockwell and screenwriter Brandon Cole to the festival--after their previous efforts, In the Soup and OK Garage--is something Cinequest associate director Mike Rabehl and executive director Halfdan Hussie feel especially good about.

"This year," Hussie says, "filmmakers whose films we've shown in past years are coming back. Some people who submitted short films are returning now with features. A loyal following means a lot to us."

Having been listed as one of the Top 10 fests in Chris Gore's Ultimate Film Festival Survival Guide also means more publicity for the once modest San Jose affair. "We had 300 more submissions than last year," Rabehl says. "That includes 1,100 films on tapes, a little over 500 shorts. We ended up turning away quite a few we would have liked to have in the festival."

While the details of this year's fest were still being hammered out at presstime, Cinequest has announced that its schedule will include 13 world premieres and 14 U.S. premieres, along with shorts, features and documentaries from 29 countries.

Among the confirmed entries: Dwayne Beaver's feature film The Rhino Brothers, about a pair of hockey-playing siblings in Winnipeg, Canada, coached by their mom; first-timer Doug Finelli's comedy Grownups, with a pair of Freehold, N.J., pals in the late 1970s contemplating wife-swapping; and the local debut of the new film, A Song for Martin, by Sweden's Bille August (Smilla's Sense of Snow).

As the Bay Area independent film scene is dominated by documentaries, Cinequest's selection this year includes such true-life films as Tribute. Executive-produced by Steven Soderbergh and directed by husband-and-wife team Kris Curry and Rich Fox, it follows the touring careers of various "tribute to" bands.

Rabehl is enthusiastic about the shot-in-Cuba Yank Tanks. "My whole line for this one is 'It's Buena Vista Social Club for cars.' Right after Castro, lots of American classic cars got trapped there--this created a whole new kind of mechanic, since there were no new parts being made for these old autos."

One of the bigger departures at this year's Cinequest is a retreat from the various international sections. "Our feedback was that the filmmakers didn't like being ghettoized," Hussie explains. "So this year, and in upcoming years, we've decided to focus on one particular regional cinema. That's why we're having a 'Focus on Mexico Showcase' program at the Mexican Heritage museum, along with five Mexican feature films.

One of the most important components of the festival is its attention to the future of filmmaking in the DXD (Digital by Digital) Showcase and Seminar Series. This year, DXD includes nine all-digital feature "films" screened at temporary digital projection systems at the Camera Cinemas and the San Jose Repertory Theater. Representatives from Sony and Panasonic will arrive to mull over the future of micro-filmmaking. Watch Metro for information on guests and films to come.

Cinequest 12 runs Feb. 21-March 3 at the Camera Cinemas and the San Jose Repertory Theater in San Jose. For details, see the program insert in this issue or call 408.295.FEST. (Full disclosure: Metro is a major sponsor of Cinequest.)

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From the January 24-30, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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