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That Was the Cinequest That Was

[whitespace] And the winners that should have been ...

By Richard von Busack

This year's Cinequest San Jose Film Festival was crowded but more organized than has sometimes been the case in past years. The neo-realist Iranian film Traveller From the South was the judges' pick for best of festival. We thought the fest could use some additional awards:


Best Swanning: "Screen legend"--and so she was introduced--Jennifer Beals, in a full-length white tapestry gown, mobbed by autograph hounds for a full half hour after her film Twilight of the Golds got a reprise.

Nicest Guy Award: Rod Steiger. Runner Up: Gabriel Byrne.

Most Head-Scratching Cinematic Experience: Goodbye, 20th Century!. Directors Aleksandar Popovski and Darko Mitrevski--the Caro and Jeunet of Macedonia--trying to translate the question "What were you guys smoking when you made this film?" tossed at them by KSJS's Tim Seca.

Most Elusive Celebrity: Cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, who answered 15 minutes of questions and then raced out the back way to catch a jet to New York.

Most Tranquil Celebrity: Director Paul Bartel helping himself to muffins at the tent buffet Sunday morning outside the Camera Cinemas.

Most Dire Short: Lillith. This experimental film contrasts the legend of Adam's first wife with interviews with a raspy New Jersey topless dancer. It missed none of the tricks of the grand old days of experimental cinema: discordant Eastern European vocalists on throbbing the soundtrack, apropos-of-almost-nothing found (?) images of jellyfish (feminine but deadly?; tentacled but sensuous?).

Best Local Film: The Distraction, snuck in at the last minute and booked against stiff competition from Jennifer Beals. The film was Greg Tennant's lyrical but surprisingly evenhanded story of a young, married male artist's crush on a woman at his temporary job. More about it in the future.

Most Overlooked: Camp of Lost Women, which ought to be picked up for the art-house circuit.

Best Tirade: That producer who, after having wrenched the film away from his director, brought it to the Cinequest anyway. He personally introduced the picture with a long, thorough and fragrant airing of his dirty laundry. The last words before the lights went out: "I don't know what the director thinks of all this, because I no longer have a working relationship with that director."

Best Lesbian Scene: The finale to Out of Season, scored to Janis Joplin's "Take a Piece of My Heart."

Most Crowded Screening: Deliverance, which was inexplicably shuttled to a smaller theater at the last minute, much to the confusion of audience and projectionist.

Most Obviously Bound for Hollywood: Kurt Kuenne, who saw to it that Variety reviews of his film Scrapbook were posted all over the UA Pavilion Theater.

Should Have Been Bound in Hollywood: The opening film, Angel's Dance.

Actual Cinequest '99 Awards

The award most representative of the vision of Cinequest, The Maverick Spirit Award, went to We All Fall Down. Directed by Davide Ferrario. Italy.

Best Dramatic Feature went to The Traveller From the South. Directed by Parviz Shahbazi. Iran.

Best First Feature went to Cleopatra's Second Husband. Directed by Jon Reiss. United States.

Best Documentary Award went to Old Man River. Directed by Allan Holzman. United States.

Best Short Film Award went to Human Remains. Directed by Jay Rosenblatt. United States.

Best Short Animation Award went to Shock. Directed by Zlatin Radev. Bulgaria.

Audience Choice Award was a tie between:
Elles. Directed by Luis Galvao Teles. Portugal.
With Friends Like These. Directed by Phillip K. Messina. United States.

Audience Choice Honorable Mention Awards went to:
Full Moon. Directed by Fredi M. Murer. Switzerland-Germany-France.
In the Navel of the Sea. Directed by Marilou Diaz-Abaya. Philippines.
OK Garage. Directed by Brandon Cole. United States.
Scrapbook. Directed by Kurt Kuenne. United States.

The following people received Maverick Tribute Awards:

Rod Steiger (Appeared at Cinequest)
Gabriel Byrne (Appeared at Cinequest)
Vilmos Zigmond (Appeared at Cinequest)
Jennifer Beals (Appeared at Cinequest)

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Web extra to the March 4-10, 1999 issue of Metro.

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