Halfdan Hussey would much rather see you in the movies. But that is not yet possible.
So the CEO and co-founder of Cinequest and his crack team of programmers have come up with the next best thing as they set their hopes on hosting a personal festival in August. In the meantime, they’ve made another surefire online version called Cinejoy that’s full of world premieres, specials, and celebrity appearances. Even Alec Baldwin and Thomas Jane join in to spotlight the LAPD cop drama “Crown Vic”.
Regardless of the iteration Cinequest does, the festival continues the annual tradition of being Silicon Valley’s premier showcase for indie and genre filmmaking. After an interrupted season in March last year due to the closure of the cinemas, this year’s program of films, live streams on the red carpet, screening parties, questions and answers and much more is on the program from March 20-30.
There is of course main draw when the films. There are films and shorts under the radar – some are deeply rooted in the Bay Area, others are bridges to other countries. This March edition includes 111 world and US premieres from 55 countries.
There’s so much to this cinematic smorgasbord that we offer a guide to some of the servings chosen. All films are available from March 20-30.
“A nice curse”: Martin Garde Abildgaard’s capricious romantic drama takes an original premise and fills it with compassion, even hope. The Copenhagen-based filmmaker’s feature film debut is a minimalist mood piece set entirely on a quiet island where the entire population has fallen asleep for unexplained reasons. The lonely photographer Samuel (Mark Strepan in a delicate performance) wanders through the desolation and is fascinated by the slumbering Stella (Olivia Vinall), a fiery ghost with whom he engages in imaginary (or are they?) Conversations. “Curse” gets a world premiere and casts a dreamlike magic, while these two sympathetic characters combine in waking and not awake hours.
“A tough problem”: Steven Spielberg entered the debate about what really constitutes a soul with his misguided but fascinating “AI: Artificial Intelligence” from 2001 – the emotional questions raised by advancing technology. Her self-confident feature film debut – a world premiere – revolves around Ian, a tormented young man who feels mercilessly undesirable at his mother’s funeral. Why is his sister so cruel? And why did Ian’s mother try so hard to have him later in life? Johnny Berchtold methodically withdraws emotional layers and lets the surprises unfold naturally. Make an effort to catch this food for thought.
“Range Roads”: Her parents’ unexpected death sends depressed child show host Frankie (Alana Hawley Purvis) back to rural Canadian roots she left 20 years ago. Kyle Thomas’ moving, attentive drama features Frankie reuniting with bitter brother Grayson (Joe Perry), discovering her parents will not mention her, and reconnecting with a sexy old flame (country singer Chad Brownlee ). Thomas displays a natural grace with his storytelling, is careful with a surprising family secret, and makes Frankie a complicated and personable character. Range Roads may travel a familiar road, but their characters and situations are refreshingly real. It gets a world premiere.
“Sexplanation”: Santa Clara filmmaker Alex Liu really wants to talk about sex and also about why Americans really don’t want to talk about it. He makes a charming guide, be it at a chatty brunch with friends, sits down with his parents and shares parts of his own experiences as a gay man from the Bay Area and even asks his people about their gender. “Sexplanation” is airy and engaging and doesn’t go beyond tickling. It makes important points, however, especially when Liu interviews experts like adolescent psychologist Lisa Medoff of Stanford University. What is the result of all of this? If you enjoy your carnal pursuits and do not harm anyone, then just have fun.
“The boys in red hats”: Remember the much commented video of a smug white teenager in a MAGA hat giving such a grin to a Native American activist in front of the Lincoln Memorial? It sparked a choppy social media reaction that was fed and shared everywhere. But, as many discovered, there was more to the story that matched the idea. Director Jonathan Schroder’s personal documentary (he is a graduate of Tony Covington Catholic High School, Kentucky where the teenagers were educated) takes a brief look back at the incident and the video and its main actors – teenage Nick Sandmann and activist Nathan Phillips one of which refused to speak to him. What “Boys” ultimately reveals is that there are many gray areas in our political landscape, and the abysses continue to grow. At this world premiere, both liberals and conservatives are likely to scream back at the screen.
“One moment”: In his final role, Danny Aiello gives a bittersweet performance as a capricious but lovable widowed patriarch who alternately makes the lives of his adult children blessed and miserable. The main daughter Caroline (Adria Tennor) is frustrated by incessant calls during working hours and unfortunate road breakdowns. While the key signs point to Alzheimer’s, Joe McGinnis (Aiello) doesn’t fully acknowledge it … until he enters a talent contest. Deirdre O’Connor’s warm, sentimental, and immensely relatable feature of the writer / director only lasts a little but encompasses dysfunctional families in all of their pain and fame.
“The first death of Joana”: When her beloved great-aunt dies in a rural Brazilian town, 13-year-old Joana (Leticia Kacperski) tries to find out why she has always been single. Her sniff coincides with her own sexual awakening, awakened by her bullied friend Caroline (Isabela Bressane), who is attracted to other girls. Award-winning director and co-writer Cristiane Oliveira gives us a sensitive and open exploration of hidden loves and changing views on gender roles and sexuality and our natural world.
“Weightlessness”: Campbell Middle School’s innovative Zero Robotics program comes into the spotlight in director Thomas Verrette’s inspirational documentary, which was shot primarily in the South Bay. Verrette takes a “spell-bound” approach and focuses primarily on three students, Makayla Engelder, Advik Gonugunta and Carol Gonzalez, who are attending Tanner Marcoida’s class. The goal is to create code that programs satellites and then enter a NASA-sponsored competition where astronauts put the programs to the test. Verrette’s mission isn’t just limited to space activities, he also takes time to meet parents and reflect on the diversity of the Bay Area and the challenges immigrants want to face here. It’s a winner.
“Anchor point”: The title refers to a fire fighting strategy that creates a safe zone from which to fight a fire. It also aptly describes the steps two female firefighters – Kelly Martin and Lacey England – had to take to ward off institutional sexual harassment. Holly Tuckett’s documentary gives an intense, intimate glimpse into the lives and careers of Martin and England and how they were confronted with sexism. Martin, who worked in Yosemite before retiring, eventually testified before Congress. “Anchor Point” is an eye opener, but it also leaves us with the annoying realization that not much has changed.
“Welcome to the Show”: Dorie Barton’s disorganized Mindbender doubles the amount of satire. At the last minute, four party college boys give up Thanksgiving commitments so they can vacation together. When you’re invited to an interactive theater experience called “The Show,” they add alcohol and drugs and decide to go see it. Soon they will be blindfolded and thrown onto a deserted street. Is that real? Or are they bitten players on a strange stage? We’re just as disoriented and intrigued as they are by this curiosity with a great cast that gets into a strange groove.
“Women are losers”: What the first feature film by the writer / director Lissette Feliciano lacks in subtlety, energy, style and passion more than make up for it. The film shows how despicable women were treated by men and all of American culture in the late 60s and 70s, and features a strong cast, particularly Lorenza Izzo as rule-breaker Celina. She lives in San Francisco with her traditional parents (Steven Bauer and Alejandra Miranda) and endures everything from parental abuse and a creepy boss to a friend’s botched abortion behind the door. Feliciano uses creative methods to keep things from getting didactic and even stages a cheeky little musical number in the mission. It also features a killer soundtrack.
“Events before, during and after a basketball game”: Ted Stenson’s crowd-pleaser is graciously funny, in that Christopher Guest / “Best in Show” fashion. From two umpires, one of whom is distracted during the game, to the two coaches of a struggling high school basketball team, Stenson’s film is a whimsical delight. Add in a student-led theater company and members who want to be creative against patriarchy and you’re guaranteed to have fun in the cinema.
Contact Randy Myers at [email protected]
CINEJOY (VIRTUAL CINEQUEST FILM FESTIVAL)
When: From March 20-30, there will be virtual screenings, screening parties and other events
Tickets: Most of the shows are $ 12. creatics.org/cinejoy