Cinequest 2024 – Wrapup and Last Chance Reviews

Cinequest wrapped up on Sunday with the Maverick awards ceremony, recognizing the work of Mathew Modine, and a showing Hard Miles starring Modine. And although that was the only opportunity to see Hard Miles, many Cinequest features and shorts streaming online at the Cinejoy adjunct virtual festival. With that in mind, let’s spotlight a few items that we didn’t already cover over the last two weeks.

Future Date

In the distant future where the outside climate is unlivable and everyone is forced to spend their lives alone in tiny rooms, two people win the rare opportunity to go on a very unusual date… in person!

Combine a deadly future climate change that prohibits venturing outside, with a populace that has basically forgotten most everything that was once known about dating, much less cooking, and you’ve got an unlikely rom-com that actually delivers all the goods. Genuinely funny, a little disturbing, and just enough heart to make you cheer for Stanley Wong and Shuang Hu as the awkward couple. Recommended.


I covered a few shorts that were shown paired with live shows, but wanted to call Disarmed out specifically because this is a compelling gut-punch of a quick story that you should not miss. Timely and moodily manic, I won’t risk spoiling anything here except to say that what you’re expecting is not what you’re getting. Seriously, do I have to write multiple paragraphs dancinig around what a brilliant short this is? No, I don’t. No, I won’t. And you can watch it on Cinejoy for less than it costs for a comic book. So go watch it. Now!

The Island Between Tides

Six-year-old Lily vanishes. For two days and nights, no one can find the cheery girl who’d strayed onto a remote tidal island. Until she’s found at the exact spot she was last seen with no memory of being away. Unharmed but not unaltered. The changes start gradually. Lily develops prodigious musical abilities, sensing the world through a mysterious melody only she can hear. But she can’t shake her obsession with this island she can’t remember, and that her family won’t discuss.

At 20, the melody leads her back to it, and when she disappears again, this time it’s for good. Or so everyone believed. Decades later, Lily reappears. But impossibly, she looks just as she did the day she vanished. To her, no time passed at all. Still a young woman, the rest of the world has aged around her, her family now whittled down to her elderly father, middle- aged sister, and the troubled son she’d left as an infant. Her assimilation isn’t easy, testing even the strongest family’s bond. Because this time, Lily didn’t come back alone.

I gave you the whole synopsis from the Cinequest guide because this only played live once, and isn’t available through Cinejoy. Just be on the lookout for this film, because it’s so many things at once, and well worth seeking out. Again, you got a lot of it in the guide description, anything I could add would spoil some great storytelling.


Lera, a young Ukrainian refugee who recently arrived in Ireland, fears the worst and uses dark-web séance software (The Orb) to discover that her sister Maryna has died in the conflict back home. Through The Orb, she makes contact and discovers that her sister Maryna is disoriented and stuck in an after-death limbo, based around the beach they went to as children. The beach is in Berdyansk, an Azov Sea resort currently under Russian occupation. Together, the sisters must find a way to come to terms with what has happened and find a way for both of them to move on.

And finally, the last film I watched at Cinequest, but lucky you, it’s available on Cinejoy. Another amazing short, compact and moving filmmaking and storytelling. Again, at 15 minutes running length, you’re not expecting so much to be slipped onto the screen in front of you. Again, the Cinejoy screenings are so inexpensive you really can’t afford to let fine films like this pass you by.

And so…

Another great Cinequest has gone by, leaving us with a week to catch up to thing we missed, or even things that deserve a second viewing. Thanks to all the filmmakers who I got to chat with, the other viewers who shared their recommendations, and to founders Halfdan Hussey, Kathleen Powell, their amazing staff, and especially to Michael Rabehl, Christopher J. Garcia, and Gabriella Deyi for advice and tips throughout the festival.

One more time…

Ric Bretschneider
San Jose California
March 19, 2024

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