Posts Tagged ‘Cinequest’



Completely filmed in black and white, BUMMER SUMMER is a beautifully shot film.  I can’t say this enough.  Every single scene was brightly lit and interesting and could be used as a terrific advertising still for the film.  There were scenes in this film that just took me unaware:  a boy and girl filmed only from their mouths down making out in the back seat of a car, or a girl just running down the path in a sundress and boots.  This is a black and white indie film, but it’s no Clerks… whether a shot of a couple sitting on the grass in the park, out on the porch at night, or waking across a bridge in the dark, every scene is beautifully lit and gorgeous. (more…)



PASSENGER SIDE is the first film from Cinequest 20 that had me clapping when it was over, with a little tear in my eye.

It’s a twist on a road trip movie, as 95% of the film is spent driving in the car, but they don’t really ever leave Los Angeles (except for a quick trip through the desert).  It is Michael’s birthday, but it appears that everyone has forgotten it.  His estranged, (supposed) formerly drug-addicted brother asks him to drive him around on errands all day, but it is soon clear that these trips are not just to the post office and dry cleaners.  Michael thinks his brother Tobey must be chasing a new drug lead, but Tobey insists they are not.  Along the way they meet all sorts of on-the-fringe oddballs, and throughout the day Michael tries unsuccessfully to contact his girlfriend so they can make birthday plans. (more…)



For the first time since viewing CANARY I find myself in the middle of a film review conundrum, wondering how to explain how absolutely awesome is COOKING HISTORY, even though I turned it off around the halfway point and have no intention of ever returning.

It all depends on your horror threshold.  I would guess this documentarian secretly wants to direct some hilarious horror films, because that is almost what you have here.  It certainly is a documentary, filled with interviews with the people who were called upon to cook for troops in six different wars, and they are quite incredible.  These heart wrenching stories of poisoning loaves of bread for the enemy or leaving out the last meal for the dead soldiers are overlaid with the recipes:  “Bread to poison 300 soldiers”, “Pancakes to feed 1 million dead”.  Humorous and heart breaking at the same time.  It is drop dead serious but also told with a twisted sense of humor. (more…)



KILL THE HABIT is an enjoyable little film that gives the impression it wants to be an all-female Tarantino-like story.  It fails, but it is a fun ride.  Listed under the “Laugh Mavericks” category, it is humorous but cheats a lot in trying to make up for its lack of originality.  It is a comedic, fun ride, but it is flawed in some big ways.

The very first problem I had (well, tied with some amateurish acting) was what I think is an idiotic premise that is used all too often to set up a plot.  A man is murdered, but it was by accident and in a clean-cut case of provable self defense.  In real life, it would be much easier to call the police and turn one’s self in, especially since there are clear strangulation marks visible on the killer’s neck through the entire film.  But no, it’s much easier to decide to cart that body all over town looking for a place to hide it in order to have a reason for the film’s existence. (more…)



THE TIJUANA PROJECT is a heart breaking documentary about the garbage dump villages in Tijuana and the children who live in them.  It is the story of the families who live near and around the huge trash dumps, and who scour the garbage for treasures which can then be sold or turned in for money.  The film focuses on the children, and their laughter and game play is a strange juxtaposition against the hopelessness and despair of their life’s backdrop.

The Cinequest program claims the film is “NOT a story of despair and hopelessness,” but I am not sure I agree with this.  Methamphetamines and heroin are huge problems for the adult males in this village.  Crime is so bad that the local police will not enter the town cemetery to fight the drug dealers who do business there.  “This is a woman who lives in the ground,” says one of the children, pointing casually to a woman who is quite literally sitting INSIDE the trash in the dump.  The boy runs away laughing as she throws something at him.  Another man tells the story of his brother who was shot several times in the cemetery.  Somehow he was lucky enough to get help. “God saved him,” says the man as the camera pans over to his brother… who clearly did not get away scot free and has one eye missing or rolled back into his head.  I believe it could be debated whether God did this man a favor. (more…)

Cinequest Film Review: RASPBERRY MAGIC


RASPBERRY MAGIC is described as a “family drama” in the Cinequest program, and it certainly is a film to which you could take your preteens.  I am just not sure adults will appreciate this film on their own.

It is a very well made film, with the darling Lily Javaherpour playing Monica, the very intelligent oldest child of two parents who can’t seem to get their acts together.  Monica’s father loses his job and is trying to sell a children’s educational video that does not include a fun factor.  Monica’s mother is having her own problems as a freelance writer and takes to bed after her unemployed husband leaves the family.  This leaves 11 year old Monica to care for the home and her younger sister all by herself. (more…)

Cinequest 20: “Hewlett-Packard” Opening Night

HP Vivienne Tam Digital Clutch Notebook

Standing in the cold drippy rain, while waiting to be let into the California Theatre, was made somewhat better when Jason (Jason Watches Movies) arrived. He always has a good story to share. As Matt pointed out, people braved the weather, set the Olympics to record and the house was full.

Hewlett-Packard and Cinequest:

Look in the theater lobby for the HP ‘TouchSmart’. The user can search for films, browse by country, genre, date , and venue. There is something called MeTV enabling the user to email Cinequest moments to friends, family, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

The Cinequest audience is asked to fill out a card with a bit of personal information, and our thoughts on the movie last viewed. This year incentive to do so is encouraged by the chance to win a HP Vivienne Tam digital clutch notebook (Inspired by the Chinese love story – Butterfly Lovers).


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.

Counting down to Cinequest 20


It’s that time of year again, when you see red banners flying from the street poles, hoards of student interns running wild-eyed around the streets of San Jose, and your local film loving friends are suddenly speaking another language that sounds to your untrained ears like “Independent Halfdan forums the Maverick worldwide scheduling Babnik parties.”

What does it all mean?

It means there are less than four weeks until the Cinequest Film Festival hits San Jose. This will be the 20th year of our beloved festival, and if you live in the area without ever having attended, it might be time to start venturing out of your cave. Cinequest is one of the top ten film festivals in the world, and each year filmmakers from around the globe come to our beautiful city to take part in the fun and excitement.

World Premiere of Hell Is Other People

World Premiere of Hell Is Other People

This year the festivities running between February 23 and March 7 will include writer and filmmaking forums, a 3D Showcase, silent films from the 1920s, special visits and discussions with actor Benjamin Bratt and writer Deepak Chopra, over twenty different parties, and the premieres of 76 films from around the world.

Metblogs plans to give full coverage to the festival this year and you should make every effort to participate in this yearly event. Last year Cinequest pulled out all the stops to put on the biggest, most fun festival that our city could hold, but with this year’s 20th anniversary you can be assured that founders Halfdan Hussey and Kathleen Powell will guarantee an experience you’ll never forget.

You can buy a pass that will give you access to all the films and various forums and parties, depending on the level purchased. Or you can buy individual tickets ranging from $10 each, $7 for matinee, $5 student, or up to $12 for special screenings. From experience, Metblogs recommends purchasing some sort of pass which will help you avoid ticket lines the day of the desired show or will allow you to change your mind and see a different film instead.

North American premiere of Life in One Day

North American premiere of Life in One Day

You should definitely mark off the dates on your calendar and try to attend the festival for at least one showing. Last year the films were outstanding and they are sure to be even better this year. You have the chance to meet many talented independent filmmakers and actors, and also many established, well known names, as well as see outstanding film that much of the world will never get a chance to see.

Keep your eye on Metblogs for up to date information, and check out the film line-up at the Cinequest website.

You can also follow Cinequest on Facebook or Twitter.

Cinequest Film Festival 2008: “Sherman’s Way”

Joaquin & Craig

Joaquin & Craig

My Facebook Birthday Reminder for Week of November 2nd:

Craig Saavedra – Director/Producer

I met Craig and Joaquin in 2008 at Cinequest 18. I wasn’t the only one to fall for this film entry.

Sherman’s Way“(music plays) was recognized with:
* Audience Award for Best Feature: Cinequest Film Festival 2008
* Audience Award for Best Feature: Newport International Film Festival 2008
* Audience Award for Best Feature: Gaia Film Festival 2008
* Special Jury Award: Jackson Hole Film Festival 2008

“Sherman’s Way” was a delight to view. As a little red MG came into its own with a remodel and a new shine, so did the players of the film. Sherman (Michael Shulman) made the needed changes to help find his way. Palmer (James Le Gros) attempts to reconnect with family.

A good portion of “Sherman’s Way” was filmed around Clear Lake, California. I haven’t been to that region of the state, but Joaquin Sedillo‘s gorgeous cinematography put it on my ‘places to visit’ list.

Sherman’s Way: Written by, Tom Nance.

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