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A vanguard organization set in the Silicon Valley, Cinequest’s uniqueness and impact result from being ahead of the curve in the powerful integration of creativity and technology. Cinequest fuses the world of the filmed arts with that of Silicon Valley’s innovation to empower youth, artists and innovators to create and connect - driving transformations and a better tomorrow. Cinequest does this through Cinequest Picture The Possibilities and Cinequest Film Festival.
Cinequest 18 - Feb-March 2008 - The First Two Days
This year the Cinequest film festival offers movie lovers a festival of discovery, and thus far, they have not disappointed.
Opera – Mexico
Opera is a story divided into five acts, with each act more or less starting the same way. A girl (Magdelena Flores) wakes up, endures a boring road trip with her older lover (Arturo Rios), and we get to look at some scenery. Her lover is a writer, who scorns his novels in favor of paying gigs, such as the travel guide he is currently writing. This is ironic, as we are subject to many languid shots of countryside and buildings with no indication as to what or where we are looking at. The film moves at a snail’s pace, and I soon started to feel as bored as the young woman. With no character arcs or resolutions in sight, the film staggered to a halt.
Imagine The Brown Bunny without the interesting bits.
Konyec - Hungary
Things picked up remarkably however, when I viewed this wonderful film. Described as ‘Bonnie and Clyde – the later years’, Konyec, directed by Gabor Rohonyi, continuously moved and inspired me. Set against a backdrop of early 21st century Hungary, where the elderly have lost the respect of the young and the government, Emil (Emil Keres) and Hedi (Teri Foldi) are on the edge of poverty, barely able to meet their bill payments, and watching as elements of their lives are slowly repossessed. Emil suddenly decides to take matters into his own hands, and embarks on a crime wave that embroils his loving wife, and catches the imagination of the public. This was a thoroughly well acted and beautifully filmed film, and I would love to see it reach a wider audience (hopefully NOT via a remake).
I rounded off the day with two shorts programs for a total of 27 new shorts, some being student entries, the majority being excellent. I am a huge fan of the short format, and the quality of many of the shorts on show was exceptional, even better than previous years.
Two standout short films for me were White Vans, directed by Aren Hansen and concerning the theft of beloved bicycles and one man’s attempt to root out the perpetrators, and Mamitas, a student film made by Nick Ozeki of Chapman University which was as remarkable and uplifting as Gordo was last year.
Bitter Sweetheart - Sweden
My Friday started extremely well with this edgy, hilarious and touching film from director Hella Joof. ‘Sweetheart’ concerns the story of Lina (exquisitely portrayed by Mylain Hedreul), a 15-year-old graduate who yearns to lose her virginity, but frets about doing the deed, along with everything else in her life. The depiction of the loss of innocence, along with the repercussions, is handled sensitively and humorously, yet is open-minded enough to guarantee it cannot be seen on a US screen other than at festivals. This is a real pity as, in this age of Juno-mania, here is a film that could be considered a precursor to the current indie favorite, and yet stands head and shoulders above it.
I followed this with another round of short films, this time under the banner ‘Forward, Backward, Sideways’. The collection certainly included some skewed views of the world – most noticeably Sovereignty, a brilliant and damning portrayal of our reluctance to help our world neighbors by director Jonathan Sale.
The Substitute – Denmark
I had heard people comparing Ole Bornedal’s film to Robert Rodriquez’s ‘The Faculty’ – but this comparison does not do The Substitute justice. From the opening, chicken-unfriendly shot to the thrilling climax, Ole’s film stands on its own feet as a chilling and comical depiction of an alien invasion. The central message of this film is that we should always listen to our children, for they have many insights that we are prone to dismiss through the ‘wisdom’ of age. The cast is superb and Dan Laustsen’s cinematography is beautiful. A fun and absorbing B movie!
The Art of Travel – USA
I rounded off the day with the American premiere of The Art of Travel, directed by Thomas Whelan and starring Christopher (Malcolm in the Middle)
Masterson and Brooke (Baywatch) Burns. The Art of Travel was a mixed bag, beginning with a resounding wedding surprise, resulting in a hilarious retreat to an unfamiliar and threatening country and suddenly morphing into a jungle adventure, complete with soul searching and (literally) uphill struggles. The result is a film that is certainly a journey, but an episodic one, and not entirely satisfying at that. A little trimming of the foliage could turn this film in a tight and enjoyable romp.
So ended my first two days. The best films on offer are undoubtedly the European entries, and they merely reinforced my wish that the majority of American cinema could be less about the returns, and more about the journey.
-- Neil Baker
The Bulletin Board
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