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Cinequest San Jose Fest opening

14th Annual Cinequest San Jose Film Festival (March 3 - March 14)

Outside the temperature was 61°, slightly chilly for California. But inside the San Jose Repertory Theatre, Cinequest 14 sizzled on opening night.

“We’re hip, we’re hot, we’re here!” exclaimed Jens Michael Hussey, Director of Public Relations, as he kicked off the festival that runs from March 3-14.

Hussey announced the winner of Cinequest’s first screenwriting competition, which drew 271 entries. A three-jury process whittled the number down to ten finalists, whose scripts were judged for Maverick vision, story, character development, dialogue, marketability and originality. Lance Hammer’s The Imperfect Cell won the $2,000 US 1st place prize. The script deals with the relationship between a lonely 65-year-old waiter and a vibrant composer. A Los Angeles writer-director of short films (Issaquena) and former art director (The Man Who Wasn’t There), Hammer stated that his project is nearly financed and will be shot this year. Peter Alton’s Mister Dunbury’s Exotic Lunatic Caravan was awarded 2nd place and $1,000, and Steven Warren’s Marcus came in third, taking the $500 prize.

This festival has always been about the concept of maverick, about those stepping outside the norm. Cinequest Founder and Executive Director Halfdan Hussey transformed the noun into a verb, proclaiming, “Today Cinequest mavericked the Internet.” He introduced Cinequest Online, the first cyberspace service designed to securely deliver DVD-quality, full-length feature films worldwide. Connecting cutting-edge Silicon Valley technology with independent filmmaking offers the option of bypassing traditional distribution channels. Enabled by technology from Kontiki, the first phase of the distribution and promotional service launches with access to content from this year’s festival.

Whether gazing at a cinema screen in downtown San Jose or a computer monitor from anywhere around the globe, the Cinequest line-up consists of 68 features and 97 shorts from 22 countries. The delightful Norwegian comedy Unitedopened the festival on a crowd-pleasing note. Writer-director Magnus Martens and lead actors Håvard Lilleheie and Berte Rommetveit fielded questions with wit and grace after the screening.

During the 14-day festival, a Maverick Spirit Award will be presented to Arnold Schwarzenegger--bodybuilder, actor and current Governor of California--for succeeding in three careers. He wasn’t kidding when he delivered the Terminator line, “I’ll be back.” Other Maverick Spirit Award recipients are screenwriters David and Janet Peoples (Blade Runner, Unforgiven, 12 Monkeys) and Kurt Miller for crafting extreme sports movies with his legendary filmmaker father, Warren Miller.

In the spirit of becoming one of the foremost discovery festivals, Cinequest aims a special spotlight on Norwegian cinema. The Nor Wave includes Morten Tyldum’s Buddy, Jens Lien’s Jonny Vang, Jon Haukeland and Tore Vollan’s Mannen som Elsket Haugesund/The Man Who Loved Haugesund, Jo Strømgren and Runar Hodne’s Mot Moskva/Destination Moscow, and John Sullivan’s Play. Latino and Pacific Basin films are other destination points on the cinematic map.

DXD (Digital by Digital) Forums continue to focus on how technology can empower creativity in people, including New-School Delivery and Distribution; HD Post Strategies for Digital Cinema; High-End, Low-Budget DV Cinema (a 48-hour movie-making experiment); All Digital Movie Making Opportunities; and The Color of Digital. Expanding into Professional Movie Making Forums, Cinequest takes filmmakers from scripting through distribution strategies in a two-day program.

The curtains will close with the world premiere of Terry Benedict’s Conscientious Objector, a documentary on World War II veteran Desmond T. Doss. A member of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, Doss remained true to his religious beliefs and his country by serving as a medic in the 77th Infantry Division.

Cinequest promises to operate “outside of the form, outside of the formula” in a very special way.

Susan Tavernetti

Tavernetti is a San Francisco Bay Area journalist

(Clive Charlwood: photo credits)


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