Preview Of Cinequest 2019

by on February 26, 2019

Cinequest returns to San Jose and Redwood City from March 5-17, 2019.   Over its thirteen days, this year’s festival will feature 132 world and US Premiere films from 50 countries.  But what’s different about this year’s edition is the expansion promised by its new title, the Cinequest Film & Creativity Festival.  2019 attendees can look forward to VR programs, a Moonshots Creativity Summit featuring presentations from both young and luminary creators in the fields of science and art, and even comedy sets by local stand-up comedians…among other things.  Here are some programming items to look out for:

Maverick Spirit Award winner Nandita Das’ biopic “Manto” kick off the festivities.  It’s a portrait of the controversial Urdu writer Sadaat Hasan Manto. The film alternates dramatizations of scenes from Manto’s brilliant career with dramatizations from many of the writer’s stories.  Ultimately, Das’ film is a testament to Manto’s credo that “Either everyone’s life matters or no one’s does.”

In Emily Ting’s drama “Go Back To China,” the freezing of her financial accounts forces trust fund baby Sasha to return to China to learn the family toy business.  But getting a ground-up hands-on education about the business leads to her learning to appreciate her family.

Take one hot Labor Day, six poor Latino and Afro-Latino teens, and a luxurious but currently unoccupied mansion belonging to Los Ricos.  Laura Somers’ drama “Rich Kids” shows what happens to these teens when they spend the day in the mansion living a life they can barely dream of.

“Buy Me A Gun” takes place in a near-future Mexico where women regularly disappear and drug cartels practically run things.  Huck is a 12-year-old girl trying to survive in the midst of daily gunfights. But the abandoned baseball camp Huck and her father maintains happens to be a favorite narcos playing spot…

Heidi Yewman’s documentary “Behind The Bullet” tells the stories of four people who have to live with the consequences of gun violence.   They range from someone who fatally shot a home intruder to someone trying to cope with literally dozens of facial reconstruction surgeries.

“Upstream Color” director Shane Carruth produces and stars in the horror drama “The Dead Center.”   John Doe is a supposed corpse who emerges from a body bag claiming he’s controlled by a blackness inside him.  As a psychiatric doctor and a medical examiner try to unravel the enigma posed by Doe, the answer may lie with something very old and evil.

In “The Extraordinary Journey Of Celeste Garcia,” the titular planetarium guide’s humdrum life gets upended thanks to an offer from her weird Russian neighbor.  That weirdo turns out to be an alien who invites Garcia on a trip to her home planet.

In Cinequest’s VR Experience Lounge, you can do everything from free falling through space (“Down The Pixel Hole”) to taking part in a 4-player hyper-reality science fictional collaborative experience (“Eclipse”) to witnessing a re-telling of an old Native American legend about how the first animals dealt with their first winter (“Crow: The Legend” with voice work by John Legend and Oprah Winfrey).

Andres Rovera’s horror thriller “Come, Said The Night” centers on a modern day family having very strong beliefs in Greek mythology.   The family’s emotionally charged relationships with two outsiders threatens to bring delicate family dynamics crashing down.

In Maria Mealla’s “Bring Me An Avocado,” a happy family gets thrown into chaos after the mother gets shot by a robber on her birthday.  Despite others’ efforts at support, miscommunication and mounting frustration soon causes the father to become an emotional mess.

In the drama “An Audience Of Chairs,” talented concert pianist Maura Mackenzie loses custody of her daughters thanks to an unfortunate event.  Can she rebuild her life and regain the love of her children?

Lee Cronin’s horror drama “The Hole In The Ground” concerns a mother and son who move to a rural town for a fresh start in life.  But those hopes get dashed particularly when the son starts displaying some truly disturbing behaviors after his mysterious disappearance.

The Television/Webisodes section includes a mix of series samples and pilots.  In the Netflix European production “Undercover,” ecstasy producer Ferry Bouman’s life changes when two undercover operatives attempt to infiltrate and shut down his operation.   The Russian science fiction drama “The Blackout” involves a mysterious menace that has cut off contact between all towns and left lots of human corpses. In “Taboo,” stand-up comedian Philippe Geubels invites four people facing hardships of various sorts to a holiday at a luxurious country house to find the laughter that gets them through hard times.

In the documentary “Travel Ban: Make America Laugh Again,” a group of Muslim standup comedians travel to parts of America where Muslims aren’t welcome.  They hope their jokes can demystify Muslims and show through laughter that their concerns are not much different from those of their audiences.

Halla is an Icelandic monkey-wrencher trying to bring down the evil aluminum plant threatening the Icelandic highlands.  But her crusade threatens to be side-lined when she’s approved to adopt a baby from war-torn Ukraine in “Woman At War.”

The November 26, 2008 Mumbai terrorist siege provides the dramatic basis for Anthony Maras’ “Hotel Mumbai.”   A strong cast which includes Dev Patel and Anupam Kher show how the siege brought out the heroism and unity of ordinary Mumbai citizens.

“Little Histories” is set against a real-life event, the coup that temporarily removed Hugo Chavez from the presidency of Venezuela.  But the film focuses on how five different individuals try to keep their lives normal in the face of political upheaval.

Since 2009, an average of slightly over one Palo Alto high school student a year commits suicide.  Why is this happening in one of the country’s richest and most achievement oriented school districts in the nation?  Kathryn Basiji and Liza Meak’s documentary “The Edge Of Success” talks to everyone from students to community members to find causes and possible answers.

The six subjects of Pascui Riva’s sports documentary “Ordinary Gods” aspire to join their respective nations’ national teams and shine on the World Cup stage.  But being able to play soccer well feels less stressful than dealing with homesickness and personal injury.

Veteran documentarian Ruby Yang also dips into sports films with “Ritoma.”   Young Tibetan yak herders have become basketball fans thanks to watching NBA games on TV.  A former US basketball coach decides to take these herders’ enthusiasm and athleticism to create eight local teams for a basketball tournament.

Zhang Yimou (“House Of Flying Daggers”) returns to the historical action field with “Shadow.”  Dang is the military commander of the Chinese kingdom of Pei. He’s endangered both inside and outside the royal palace by everybody from personal enemies to the unstable king he serves.  To defeat these threats, an elaborate plan is concocted involving Dang’s “shadow,” a look-alike good enough to deceive even the unstable king.

The “Poets ‘n’ Film” program brings together California Poet Laureate Dana Gioia, Venus Jones, SevenKelee Lucky 7 Boult, and Santa Clara Poet Laureate Mighty Mike McGee (among others) presenting poems on everything from political warfare to the pains of a broken heart.  Rebel’s Kamp provides live musical accompaniment. Blank Verse Films and Stabbydoll Media will meanwhile present short poetry films.

“WBCN And The American Revolution” is a documentary look back at the Boston FM radio station which pioneered free-form radio.

Cinequest closes things out with a film which has been literally decades in the making.  The road to this film’s eventual completion included a documentary about the mishaps falling on its beleaguered director.  But now, at long last, Terry Gilliam finally delivers “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote.” 10 years ago, artist Toby (Adam Driver) made a student film about Don Quixote.  A return to the Spanish village where Toby shot the film reveals the unexpected effects of his project on the villagers. In particular, the shoemaker (Jonathan Pryce) cast as Don Quixote actually believes he is the legendary character and that Toby is Sancho Panza.  The duo set out on a magical journey through the Spanish countryside.

Speaking of magical journeys, make the trip to San Jose and/or Redwood City for yourself and see what Cinequest 2019 has to offer you.

(For further information about Cinequest 2019 and the films and events mentioned above, go to www.cinequest.org .)

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