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Cinequest 17 Revolution Starts in San Jose

More than 1,000 festivalgoers joined the Cinequest 17 Revolution on opening night, February 28, in downtown San Jose, California. The cinematic revolution of discovery and empowerment will not be televised, but you can bet it will be distributed over the Internet. Only connect.

When Cinequest Co-founder and Executive Director Halfdan Hussey welcomed the crowd at the meticulously restored California Theatre, a 1927 movie palace, he urged everyone to “open minds and hearts” to the 550 artists from 50 countries participating in the festival that will run through March 11. Hussey's comments also brought to mind the “only connect” catch phrase from E.M. Forester’s Howard’s End, as he suggested that the 70,000 expected attendees should make an effort to meet each other over the next twelve days. Connectivity has a double meaning in high-tech Silicon Valley.

Hussey should know. He joked that a few Cinequest relationships resulted in marriage, and many in the audience laughed since they knew he was referring to his own to festival co-founder, Kathleen Powell.

The hot-pick events of this year’s festival include the Maverick Spirit Awards. Recipients are indie film producer Christine Vachon (Boys Don’t Cry, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Far From Heaven, Infamous), actor Minnie Driver (Big Night, Grosse Point Blank, Good Will Hunting and Phantom of the Opera), The Police drummer and composer Stewart Copeland (Everyone Stares: The Police Inside Out), and screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects and The Way of the Gun). Writer-producer-director J.J. Abrams (Felicity, Alias and Lost) will be a keynote speaker at the Day of Distribution filmmaking and technology forum. Other forums will focus on the Day of Sight and Sound, Day of the Writer and Day of the Producer.

Filmmaker Mira Nair introduced her film, The Namesake, as “a piece of my heart.” She had read Jhumpa Lahiri’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel on a plane while in deep mourning and experienced the shock of recognition: Similar to the novel’s protagonist, Nair knew what it meant “to bury a beloved person in a country not called home.” She said the film was like a fever, and she had to make it.

Starring Tabu, Irfan Khan and Kal Penn, The Namesake deals with a young couple that emigrates from Calcutta to New York in the 1970s. With humor and poignancy, the drama examines the clash of cultures and meaning of family—themes also vibrantly explored in Nair’s Mississippi Masala and Monsoon Wedding. The opening night film was very well received despite intermittent problems with the theatre’s sound system.

The Cinequest 17 curtains will close on March 11 with the North American premiere of Stephane Gauger’s Owl and the Sparrow/Cú Va Chim Se Se, a USA-Vietnam co-production.

by Susan Tavernetti

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