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Download Update

Cinequest announces downloads and rentals for fans of independent films

By Richard von Busack

WITH NEW technologies, everyone can make his or her own film. The hard part is getting it seen. It's an old story and a sad one—having sunk time, treasure and tears into an independent film, budding moviemakers can't get a venue for their movies. Cinequest, San Jose's long-running film festival, now has something in common with Sundance: its very own distribution arm. As of Sept. 14, Cinequest online is expanding to allow viewers to buy, download or rent independent films through a partnership with Netflix. "People who love independent films but can't see them will be able to have access them as they were never access them before," said Cinequest's Jens Hussey. "We're filling a market niche here."

During the last Cinequest, the festival's website made available downloadable trailers and, in some cases, entire films for free one-time download. What's hoped for now, says Hussey, is a system where filmmakers without distributors will get up to 70 percent of the profits for the sales of their movies on line without the usual marketing fees being subtracted, as in mainstream distribution deals. In addition, nonHollywood movie fans will be able to always access films on the Cinequest label. In normal video-rental stores, as in bookstores, shelf-space is rationed. A new movie's time to catch the public's eye is short, before newer product comes in to elbow it aside.

Cinequest announced the first six films to be released by Cinequestonline.org, which are also available for rent on Netflix: Celesta Davis' documentary Awful Normal is notorious as the movie where the director confronts oncamera the man who molested her as a child. Sam Neave's Cry Funny Happy concerns personality clashes at a 30th birthday party. Nick Tucker's Fandom is a film about one Gordon Coleman's mania to meet actress Natalie Portman. Peter Devin's Rock & Roll Superhero is a true-life piece about a would-be rock god. Terrorists is Jay Martel's comedy about a small-town police chief (played by Ian Roberts, the stage manager in Anchorman) who believes that his hamlet is under siege by Muslim fanatics. Lastly, Seizing Me is Cinequest executive director and co-founder Halfdan Hussey's 2003 adult thriller.

Other movies will be added as the year goes on, I passed on to Jens Hussey the multiple requests I've received asking for copies of a Cinequest favorite, the hard-to-find and apparently still deal-less documentary The Conscientious Objector. Cinequestonline.org, with some 40,000 registered members, is claimed to have received 3,000,000 hits during the height of the festival. This site and the Cinequest label will keep on expanding, as momentum builds for the next Cinequest film festival, opening March 1, 2006.

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From the September 14-20, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2005 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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