The 20th anniversary of the Cinequest Film Festival begins today, February 23.  Year after year I am stunned when long time San Jose residents ask me, “Just what IS Cinequest, anyway?”  Well, Folks, Cinequest is one of the top ten film festivals in the U.S. and it is right here in your very own backyard.  This year the festival runs from February 23 to March 7, and will include more than 200 film screenings, including 76 U.S. and World Premieres from 45 countries.  But people still seem to have some confusion when I speak to them about the festival.  So right now I am going to answer some of the most common questions and comments I hear:

What Cinequest is and is not:

1.  Cinequest is not JUST for the hoity-toity upper-class, neither is it only for film makers or film students.

Cinequest has movies for everyone, from teenagers to the elderly to your employer’s IT guy to the burly sanitation engineer on your street to the high school student to the college student to the entrepreneur to the bartender at The Loft to the cashier at Baja Fresh to the old cranky retired guy down the block.  There is absolutely, positively, something for everyone at Cinequest.

2.  You do not have to dress up to go to a film festival.

Many people dress up for Opening Night because the film is in the California Theater and there is a party after.  But many don’t.  As far as the rest of the movies, comfort is essential, just as going to any movie.  And though many people come for only a couple movies, many others have marathon viewing schedules and barely arrive to the Camera Theaters out of our pajamas.  You’re in a dark movie theater, folks, arrive with curlers in your hair if you like.

3.  Cinequest has more than just foreign films.

Cinequest has PLENTY of foreign films, it also has plenty of films from the USA, Canada, Australia, and Great Britain, so if you don’t want to read subtitles you can still come every single day and never read more than an opening credit.

4.  Cinequest also has foreign films.  And they are good.

Listen, I’ve seen hysterical foreign films that blow the socks off Zombieland, I’ve seen foreign films sadder than Mystic River.  I’ve seen fantastic films from Hungary, Finland, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Ecuador, Turkey, Iran – and they are all just as good and accessible as anything you see at your local AMC.

5.  Foreign films are not all obscure, obtuse, or impossible to understand.

Some are.  Sure.  But the majority at Cinequest are just as understandable as your local AMC movies and leave you much more satisfied when they’re over.  Honestly, you’re missing a lot if you stick to American and English-only films – some of the best films I’ve ever seen have been (easily understood) foreign films.

6.  You know you won’t like Cinequest because you only watch horror films?

Honey, have I got the festival for you.  Obviously you haven’t seen Blood Car, Samurai Avenger, or Audie and the Wolf.

7.  You’re a geek and can’t leave your WOW games or your XBox/Wii for two hours?

Haven’t seen Monster Camp,  Corpse Run, or God is D_ad obviously.

8.  Yes, in fact there IS parking downtown, and Cinequest will validate your parking ticket.

There’s also a convenient little thing called the Light Rail System that drops you off right by the theaters.

9.  Cinequest is not expensive.

Sure, you can buy a pass to get into all the movies for $145 or a super-special VIP pass for $500, but a single student ticket is only $5 and matinee shows are only $7.  Even regular priced tickets are $10 and that beats most regular theater prices.

10.  If you don’t like going to the movies alone, this is the place for you to go – alone.

I go to the majority of my Cinequest films alone and have NEVER stood in line without someone talking to me about a film or striking up a conversation in the seat next to me.  I am actually pretty shy in real life – but I don’t feel that way at Cinequest.  Everyone there has one thing in common – they want to see some fantastic movies.  You don’t have to come up with small talk because you already have something in common: the film you are about to see or the film you just saw or the film you want to see or the film you heard about.  I have never felt less alone than when I am at Cinequest by myself.

I hope this has cleared up any misconceptions you may have about our beloved film festival.  The most important thing you need to know is that this is the 20th anniversary of the most fun twelve days of the year and you should not miss it.  Take a look at the films at the Cinequest website and choose at least a couple to give a shot.  We will be posting reviews on Metblogs to help you with your choices, but you should feel free to just take a chance.   You just might be lucky enough to see what feels like a precious gift that most of the world will never have a chance to see.

1 Comment so far

  1. The Dridge (unregistered) on February 23rd, 2010 @ 1:23 am

    Great post, Cynthia! I especially agree with your last point. CQ is as much about being a social event as it is about sitting in the dark. And I have made some great friends through CQ.

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