A viewer’s guide to what USA Today readers voted the Best Film Festival.
I’m happy, so happy, to update this pre-Covid-shutdown article for use in 2022. This year Cinequest moves back from virtual film festival to one of in-person smiles, some probable hugging, and this festival’s unique sense of community.
As regular listeners to the Fanboy Planet Podcast know, San Jose’s award-winning Cinequest film festival opens Tuesday, August 16. Opening night at Cinequest typically features an independent film that has or is expected to shortly gain general distribution.
This year’s opener is Linoleum, a comedy starring Jim Gaffigan, as the host of a failing children’s science TV show. Having livelong aspirations of being an astronaut, Gaffigan’s dream realization may have just fallen into his backyard. Opening nights are fun productions, with a red carpet walk, and Q&A with the creatives. And this year is no exception; Gaffigan will receive Cinequest’s Maverick Spirit Award during this year’s festival opening.
For more information and tickets, click here.
But that’s just the kick-off of two more weeks of Cinequest to enjoy! And we’ll help you do just that in this article.
For many, Cinequest is more about the indies; smaller independent films. Indies are a joy. Why? Because independent filmmakers and their crew are typically trying to tell stories they love and believe in, using a medium with which they’re similarly in love. And they do this without the interference of large corporate studios who answer to stockholders more often than their heart. And so you get some unique and memorable experiences, unlike what you’ll see in general release.
Aw. Isn’t that sweet.
But indies can be hard to find. Or rather, can be hard to find just the right ones for you. There are hundreds of films being shown at Cinequest, you likely have not heard of most because they simply don’t have the backing money to advertise to you. So how do you decide what to see?
Well, you can browse the event guide, if you have the time. Note the ones that sound interesting. See anything you absolutely want to see? You can buy tickets online for specific showings direct from the web site. Uncertain? Just head down to the festival and discuss them with other film lovers, and sometimes just take a chance. It’s not uncommon for a long conversation between strangers at Cinequest to start with “what film are you looking forward to?” or “What’s the best film you’ve seen so far?” Because at its heart Cinequest is two weeks where a community of film lovers gathers, enjoys films and each other’s company, and occasionally makes a few new long-term friends.
Cinequest is also an opportunity for audience and creators to mingle. That guy sitting next to you might be the director of this film, or may give you a postcard advertising his film that’s showing later in the day. If you’re a film fan, the opportunity to discuss what went right and wrong, what you loved or didn’t, and to get feedback from the creators themselves, is a terrific experience, often for them as well. People involved in independent film are doing it all for the love of the subject matter and the art.
So, from this we can wrap up with a few pointers on getting the most out of your time at Cinequest:
- Look for World Premieres! There are lots. And you get the “yes, great film! I was at the premiere back in 2018!” bragging rights.
- Look for the names you recognize, this is often a chance to see actors stretching into roles we’re not accustomed to seeing them in. (Look carefully! I missed Grant “The Flash” Gustin playing a pot smoking artist in Krystal at the last live festival!)
- But don’t ignore the films and actors you’ve never heard of. One of the real joys of cinema is going to a film where all the big beats haven’t already been spoiled by weeks of advertising trailers. Again, think future bragging here. (Come on, you know you love that.)
Most of all, for Bay Area / Silicon Valley folks, this is an opportunity to get out to an annual event that celebrates the love of creativity in Cinema, bringing to you unique and memorable experiences. You can put off your rewatch of Sandman on Netflix a couple of weeks. Now is time for something new and exciting.
August 14, 2022
San Jose, California