Cinequest 2018 is just around the corner

Make your plans now to attend the 28th edition of Cinequest, Silicon Valley’s own major film festival. By some metrics the largest film festival in North America, Cinequest was recently voted the nation’s best by USA Today readers. The 2018 Cinequest is scheduled for February 27 through March 11 and will present almost 100 feature films and dozens of short films and virtual reality experiences from the US and over thirty other countries. And, at Cinequest, it’s easy to meet the filmmakers.

This year’s headline events include:

  • Celebrity appearances by William C. Macy, Andie McDowell, John Travolta, Charlie Sheen and Turner Classic Movie host Ben Mankiewicz.
  • Opening night film: Macy presents his new comedy Krystal, co-starring Rosario Dawson;
  • Closing night film: Brothers in Arms, a documentary on the making of Platoon, co-presented by the narrator, Sheen.
  • New movies with Peter Fonda, Burt Reynolds, Jon Hamm, Marion Cotillard, Hilary Swank, Piper Laurie, Rosamund Pike, Stanley Tucci, Melissa Leo, Kiefer Sutherland, Kal Penn, Robert Forster, Mathieu Amalric, Charlotte Gainsbourg, James McAvoy, Alicia Vikander and Michael Shannon.
  • New movies by directors Wim Wenders, Arnaud Desplechin, Melanie Mayron, Jan Sverak (Kolya) and Tony Gilroy.
  • The silent The Wind with Lillian Gish, projected in a period movie palace, the California Theatre, accompanied by world-renowned Dennis James on the Mighty Wurlitzer organ.

This year, Cinequest presents 74 world premieres and will host over 800 artists from over thirty countries

Indeed, the real treasure at Cinequest 2017 is likely to be found among the hitherto less well-known films. In the past four years, the Cinequest gems Eye in the Sky, Wild Tales, Ida, The Hunt, ’71, Corn Island, The Memory of Water, Magallanes, Quality Problems, The Sense of an Ending, For Grace, Lost Solace, Class Enemy, Heavenly Shift, Oh Boy/A Coffee in Berlin and The Grand Seduction all made my Best of the Year lists.

The renovation of the old Camera 3 Theater into 3Below Theaters & Lounge means that Cinequest will regain its Downtown San Jose vibe, with concurrent screenings at the 1122-seat California, the 550-seat Hammer and the 257-seat 3Below, all within 1600 feet of the VIP lounge at The Continental Bar.  There will still be satellite viewing in Redwood City.

3Below has lost Camera 3’s middle aisle and replaced all the seats.  The decor is sharp, and they’ve added a movable stage for performances, lectures and Q&As.  The once notorious restrooms are remarkably clean (and no longer accessible from the neighboring parking garage, so they have a chance to stay that way).

At Cinequest, you can get a festival pass for as little as $165, and you can get individual tickets as well. The express pass for an additional tax-deductible $100 is a fantastic deal – you get to skip to the front of the lines!

Take a look at the entire program, the schedule and the passes and tickets. (If you want to support Silicon Valley’s most important cinema event while skipping the lines, the tax-deductible $100 donation for Express Line Access is an awesome deal.)

As usual, I’ll be covering Cinequest rigorously with features and movie recommendations. I usually screen (and write about) over thirty films from around the world. Bookmark my Cinequest 2018 page, with links to all my coverage (links on the individual movies will start to go live on Sunday February 25). Follow me on Twitter for the latest.

NOIR CITY 2018 is here

The Noir City film fest, always one of the best Bay Area cinema experiences, is underway in San Francisco this week. Noir City is the annual festival of the Film Noir Foundation, spearheaded by its founder and president Eddie Muller. The Foundation preserves movies from the traditional noir period that would otherwise be lost. Noir City often plays newly restored films and movies not available on DVD or streaming. And we get to watch them in a vintage movie palace (San Francisco’s Castro Theatre) with a thousand other film fans.

Eddie Muller, who you should recognize as host of  Turner Classic Movie’s Noir Alley series, has programmed this year’s version as “Film Noir from A to B”.  Back in the classic noir period of thw 1940s and early 1950s, filmgoers expected a double feaure – an “A” movie with big stars, followed by a shorter and less expensively-made “B” picture.  Each evening of Noir City will feature A and B movies from the same year, starting with 1941 and ending with 1953.  Trench coats and fedoras are not required (and no smoking, please), but, other than that, you’ll get the full retro experience in the period-appropriate Castro.

Noir City runs through next Sunday, February 4. To see the this year’s Noir City program and buy tickets, go here.

Many of the films in this year’s program are VERY difficult to find.  The Man Who Cheated Himself, Destiny, Jealousy, The Threat and Quiet Please, MurderThe Man Who Cheated Himself has just been restored by the Film Noir Foundation.

My personal favorites on the program:

  • I Wake Up Screaming (sorry – last Friday night):  A very early noir with a stalker theme and a creepy performance by the tragic Laird Cregar.
  • Shadow of a Doubt (sorry – last night): Set in Santa Rosa back when you could drive through it quickly, the ultra-sympathetic Theresa Wright starts connecting the dots that link her very favorite Cool Uncle (Joesph Cotten) to serial murders.
  • Roadblock: I love the growly noir icon Charles McGraw as a mean heavie or a relentless copper.  Here he plays against type as a super-straight sap turned to the dark side by the dame he falls for.
  • The Blue Dahlia:  The only original screenplay by the master of the hardboiled, Raymong Chandler.  Alan Ladd returns from wartime service to find an especially disloyal wife.  When she is murdered, the cops suspect him, and the mob is after him, but he does find Veronica Lake. (Digression: Were Ladd and Lake the shortest pair of romantic leads ever?)

To see the this year’s Noir City program and buy tickets, go here. Don’t miss out on Noir City’s bang up final weekend, with The Man Who Cheated Himself and Roadblock, The Big Heat and wickedly trashy Beverly Michaels in Wicked Woman.

Laird Cregar in I WAKE UP SCREAMING

It’s here: the 40th Mill Valley Film Festival

DOWNSIZING – coming to the Mill Valley Film Festival

The Mill Valley Film Festival always showcases many of the most promising prestige films that are scheduled for release during Award Season. It’s the best opportunity for Bay Area film goers to catch an early look at the Big Movies.

For example, last year’s festival featured La La Land,  Arrival, Loving, Elle, Toni Erdmann, Lion, The Handmaiden, The Salesman and Paterson.

THE SQUARE – coming to the Mill Valley Film Festival

Here is a selection of the MVFF’s Oscar bait:

  • Downsizing from director Alexander Payne of (Sideways and Nebraska).
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri from Martin McDonagh (The Guard) – see trailer below.
  • The Shape of Water from Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth).
  • Last Flag Flying from Richard Linklater (Boyhood, Before Sunrise/Susnet/Midnight).
  • Wonderstruck from Todd Haynes (Far from Heaven, Carol).
  • The Square from Ruben Ostlund of (Force Majeure).
  • Thelma from Joachim Trier (Reprise, Louder Than Bombs).
  • The Current War from Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl).
  • Call Me By My Name from Luca Guadagnino (I Am Love, A Bigger Splash).
  • Loveless from Andrey Zvyagintsev the director of (Leviathan).
  • The Florida Project by Sean Baker the director of (Tangerine).
THE FLORIDA PROJECT

Celebrity appearances, for those of you who like that sort of thing, will include Sean Penn, Kristin Scott Thomas, Andrew Garfield and Holly Hunter.  For those of you seeking a chance to hear great filmmakers discuss their work in the flesh, you’ll get your chance with Richard Linklater, Joe Wright, Todd Haynes and Alfonso Gomez-Rejon.

The directorial debut of actor Greta Gerwig will screen, as will the first German-language film directed by actor Diane Kruger.

There will also be several documentaries featuring musicians:  Paul Butterfield, Bill Frisell, Joe Satriani and Sly and the Family Stone.

This year’s MVFF runs from October 5-15,  at the Sequoia in Mill Valley, the Rafael in San Rafael,  the Century Larkspur and the Lark in Larkspur and the Century Cinema in Corte Madera. Check out the program and tickets for the MVFF.

SUBTE-POLSKA: memory, vitality and loves from the past

SUBTE POLSKA

Here’s a wonderful movie (with an off-putting title) that you can ONLY see Sunday in Palo Alto or Wednesday in San Francisco. Subte-Polska is an Argentine gem about a nonagenarian chess master addressing his own memory, vitality and the need to find closure with his past. A promising first feature for writer-director Alejandro Magnone, Subte-Polska is the sleeper Must See at this year’s San Francisco Jewish Film Festival.

Tadeusz (Hector Bidonde) is a working class nonagenarian chess master. He’s still able to win several simultaneous chess matches, but his age is catching up to him and he has periods of confusion and memory loss. His doc has prescribed meds that counteract the memory loss, but he refuses to take them because they…wait for it…diminish his sexual performance.

His adult adopted son (Marcelo Xicarte) is understandably frustrated because he has to keep tracking down an unnecessarily (from his perspective) addled old man. And the son is in a touchy period in his own marriage.

Tadeusz is a Communist Jew who left Poland, his family and his girlfriend to fight fascism in the Spanish Civil War. He found another lover in Spain, but he left her,too, when they were defeated by Franco. Tadeusz’ family didn’t survive Hitler. That’s a lot of loss, and Tadeusz dealt with it by emigrating to Argentina and LITERALLY going underground. To avoid triggering painful memories, he gets a job constructing and then working in the Buenos Aires subway system. He sets up his son as a subway driver, and his best buddies also work in the subway, including the guy who runs the underground newsstand (Manuel Callau).

As Subte-Polska unfolds, Magnone explores our sense of memory, and how we consciously and subconsciously handle both the cherished memories and the devastating ones. As he takes and abstains from taking his meds, Tadeusz’s short-term memory ebbs and flows. This is a guy who has framed his entire life to suppress the memories of his youth, but he begins to remember his youth more and more vividly. As he remembers, he feels a need to find closure.

Tadeusz is a strong-willed person, and Subte-Polska is pretty funny as he causes consternation in his son, doctor and friends – in everybody except his well-serviced girlfriend and his ball-busting old friend from their first days underground. Marcelo Xicarte and Manuel Callau both prove to be excellent comic actors.

Speaking of acting, Hector Bidonde delivers a magnificent lead performance. Bidonde plays someone who has always been determined to do what he wants, stubborn to his core, still confident in his beliefs, mental acuity and sexual prowess, but occasionally shaken by moments of confusion.

You have three chances to catch Subte-Polska at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival:

  • Cinearts (Palo Alto), Sunday, July 23 4:25 PM
  • Castro (San Francisco), Wednesday, July 26 4:05 PM
  • Albany Twin (Twin), Tuesday, August 1 6:30 PM.

The SFJFF runs from July 20 through August 6 at theaters in San Francisco, Palo Alto, Albany, San Rafael and Oakland. You can peruse the entire program and buy tickets and passes at San Francisco Jewish Film Festival.

Subte-Polska is funny, insightful and moving. I’m still mulling it over. This film deserves a US distributor – and a US distributor who changes the title. After all, it’s a subtitled movie about a 90-year-old; ya gotta help the audience want to see this. It’s the under-the-radar Must See at this year’s SFJFF.

San Francisco Jewish Film Festival: top picks

sfjff

the 37th annual San Francisco Jewish Film Festival (SFJFF37), opens this Thursday. The SFJFF is the world’s oldest Jewish film festival, and, with a 2016 attendance figure of 40,000, still the largest. It’s one of the Bay Area’s top cinema events and here are my top picks:

  • Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story, the riveting biopic of a glamorous movie star who invented and patented the precursor to wireless technology; that’s amazing enough, but Bombshell delves deeply into how Lamarr’s stunning face, her Jewish heritage, and mid-century gender roles shaped her career, marriages and parenting. Top notch. Bombshell plays Wednesday July 26 in Palo Alto, Sunday July 30 in San Francisco and Saturday August 5 in Albany.
  • A Classy Broad:  This delightful bio-doc chronicles the amazingly resilient life of Marcia Nasatir, the first woman production vice-president at a major Hollywood studio.  We all owe a debt to Nasatir for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Chinatown, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Rocky, Carrie and Apocalypse Now.
  • Subte Polska:  An Argentine gem about a nonagenarian chess master addressing his own memory, vitality and the need to find closure with his past. A promising first feature for writer-director Alejandro Magnone, Subte Polska is the sleeper Must See at this year’s SFJFF.
  • Levinsky Park: Israel was created as a home for refugees.  What happens when African refugees overwhelm a neglected Tel Aviv neighborhood is the subject of this topical documentary.
  • Fritz Lang:  What better protagonist for a crime drama than the creator of the masterpiece M and pioneering master of film noir, the director Fritz Lang?  Fritz Lang imagines Fritz Lang gathering research for M by tracking and interviewing a real serial killer, all while under police suspicion for his own past.
  • Ben-Gurion, Epilogue:  Footage from a recently discovered video interview allows us to hear from Israel’s founding leader in his own words.
  • A pre-release screening of the environmental documentary An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power with an appearance by former Vice-President Al Gore. It plays the SFJFF on Monday evening, July 24 at the Castro in San Francisco, but the the screening is currently at rush.

The SFJFF runs from July 20 through August 6 at theaters in San Francisco, Palo Alto, Albany, San Rafael and Oakland. You can peruse the entire program and buy tickets and passes at San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. Here’s the trailer for Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story.

San Francisco Jewish Film Festival: Al Gore in person, plus Hedy Lamarr!

sfjff

It’s time to get ready for one of the Bay Area’s top cinema events: the 37th annual San Francisco Jewish Film Festival (SFJFF37), which opens July 20, and runs through August 6 at five locations throughout the Bay Area. The SFJFF is the world’s oldest Jewish film festival, and, with a 2016 attendance figure of 40,000, still the largest.

Al Gore in AN INCONVENIENT SEQUEL: TRUTH TO POWER

Here’s an early peek at the fest highlights:

  • A pre-release screening of the environmental documentary An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power with an appearance by former Vice-President Al Gore (the screening is currently at rush).
  • Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story, the riveting biopic of a glamorous movie star who invented and patented the precursor to wireless technology; that’s amazing enough, but Bombshell delves deeply into how Lamarr’s stunning face, her Jewish heritage, and mid-century gender roles shaped her career, marriages and parenting. Top notch.
  • The especially strong slate of documentaries, always a rich trademark of the SFJFF.
  • Scores of feature films from around the world (I’ll be recommending movies from the US, Israel, Germany and Argentina).
  • And the always popular program of short films, Jews in Shorts.

One of the most appealing features of the SFJFF is that, wherever you live in the Bay Area, the fest comes to you. SFJFF will present film events at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco, the Landmark Albany Twin in Albany, the CinéArts Theatre in Palo Alto, the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael, and the New Parkway Theater in Oakland.

You can peruse the entire program and buy tickets and passes at San Francisco Jewish Film Festival.  This weekend I’ll be posting my top picks for the fest.

BOMBSHELL: THE HEDY LAMARR STORY

San Francisco International Film Festival: fest preview

SFFILM60_LOCKUP_Vertical

This year’s San Francisco International Film Festival (SFFILMFestival) – the 60th edition – opens on April 5 and runs through April 19. As always, it’s a Can’t Miss for Bay Area movie fans.  This year’s program is especially loaded.  Here are some enticing festival highlights:

  • The indie smash Patti Cake$, which rocked Sundance and SXSW.
  • A screening of Citizen Kane with William “Will” Randolph Hearst III discussing his family.
  • James Ivory (Remains of the Day, Howards End) will receive an award and present a 30th anniversary screening of his Maurice. (Ivory isn’t British, he was born in Berkeley – who knew?)
  • Noted film historian David Thomson will discuss what really frightens him in that San Francisco treat, Hitchcock’s Vertigo.
  • Speaking of Hitchcock, there’s also the new documentary 78/52 on the 78 set ups and the 52 cuts in Psycho’s iconic shower scene.  Talk about a Deep Dive…
  • Ethan Hawke gets an award and presents his new film, Maudie.
  • Prolific writer John Ridley (12 Years a Slave and a multitude of TV show) introduces his new miniseries Guerilla.
  • Amir Bar-Lev (the Tillman Story) will present his documentary on the Grateful Dead Long Strange Trip (but, just like a Dead concert, it’s four hours long).
  • That roguish 72-year-old sex symbol Sam Elliott will attend a screening of his new movie, The Hero.
  • A critical favorite, director James Gray (The Lovers, The Immigrant, The Yards) will attend the screening of his newest film, The Lost City of Z.
  • The new film from the Dardennes brothers (The Son, The Kid with a Bike, Two Days One Night), The Unknown Woman.
  • The world premiere of the experimental film Discreet from Bay Area writer-director Travis Mathews. I’ve seen it, and it’s strangely compelling.
  • The latest from Oscar-winning documentarian Barbara Kopple (Harlan County USA, Miss Sharon Jones!) – This Is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous.
  • Sieranevada, the latest from Romanian director Cristi Puilu (The Death of Mr. Lazarescu).
PATTI CAKE$ photo courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society
PATTI CAKE$
photo courtesy of SFFILM

 

The calendar of this year’s festival includes a rich program of indies, documentaries and foreign films. Among the foreign choices, I liked the little Irish self-discovery movie A Date for Mad Mary.

And, I don’t know anything about this film, but my favorite movie title in the fest is Donkeyote.

The 60th San Francisco International Film Festival (SFFILMFestival) opens this Wednesday.  Here’s SFFILMFestival’s information on the program, the calendar and tickets and passes.

Throughout SFFILMFestival, I’ll be linking more festival coverage to my SFFILMFestival 2017 page, including both features and movie recommendations. Follow me on Twitter for the very latest coverage.

DISCREET photo courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society
DISCREET
photo courtesy of SFFILM

Cinequest 2017: festival preview

cq logo

I’ve already seen over twenty offerings from Cinequest 2016, and here are my initial recommendations.

AUDIENCE-PLEASERS

Andrew Keatley and Jacob Casselden in FOR GRACE
Andrew Keatley and Jacob Casselden in FOR GRACE

For Grace: a winning British dramedy about an adoptee’s search for his biological family that doesn’t go as expected. First feature for director Sebastian Armesto. North American premiere at Cinequest.

Quality Problems: a remarkably successful indie dramedy that is equally funny and insightful. First feature film for directors Brooke and Doug Purdy. World premiere at Cinequest.

The Twinning Reaction: a startling and moving documentary about a Mad Men-era research project and its profound human impact. World premiere at Cinequest.

 

THE BEST OF WORLD CINEMA

THE TEACHER
THE TEACHER

The Teacher: a gripping Iron Curtain Slovak-language drama with a brilliant, award-winning performance from Zuzana Mauréry in the title role. I’ve seen over twenty Cinequest films so far, and this one is probably the best.

Exiled: a gripping and haunting Latvian drama. One of the most emotionally powerful and visually arresting films at this year’s Cinequest. North American premiere.

 

SOMETHING YOU HAVEN’T SEEN BEFORE

painless1
Painless: in this indie thriller about obsession and loneliness, a man cannot experience physical pain – and, in this movie, freedom from pain is a BAD thing. First narrative feature film for director Jordan Horowitz. World premiere at Cinequest.

Prodigy: this indie psychological thriller Prodigy features a potentially lethal game of wits between a psychologist and a superhuman sociopath – who is nine years old. First feature film for directors Alex Haughey and Brian Vidal. World premiere at Cinequest.

Aloys: a Swiss drama where a lonely surveillance expert (think The Conversation) is dared by an unknown woman to use aural clues to visualize himself in places and situations and, ultimately find her. His imagination is unleashed, and he creates fantasies at once both more real and more outlandish. First feature for director Tobias Nölle.

 

GET OUT THE HANKIES

Memento Mori: this documentary about organ donation must be the most emotionally shattering film at Cinequest. First feature film as solo director for Niobe Thompson. US premiere at Cinequest.

 

WOMEN FILMMAKERS

This year, Cinequest presents 65 films directed by women! These include Anishoara, Quality Problems, That Trip We Took with Dad and The Twinning Reaction.

 

BEFORE IT’S IN THEATERS – SEE IT HERE FIRST

Several Cinequest films already are planned for theatrical release later this year. I haven’t seen them yet, but you can see them first at Cinequest: The Zookeeper’s Wife, The Last Word, Carrie Philby, Tommy’s Honour, The Promise, The Ottoman Lieutenant and (Re)assignmentThe Commune and Una also have US distributors.  I’m especially looking forward to these movies (that I have not yet seen):

  • The Commune:  Director Thomas Vinterberg has directed two of my favorites: Celebration and the 2014 Cinequest triumph The Hunt.  This one is about a Danish commune in the 1970s.
  • (Re)Assignment (soon to be released as The Assignment):  From the master of the genre thriller Walter Hill (The Warriors, The Long Riders, Southern Comfort, 48 Hrs.).  A vengeful plastic surgeon (Sigourney Weaver) captures a hit man (Michelle Rodriguez) and performs sexual reassignment surgery on him, releasing a new hit woman (also Michelle Rodriguez) into the world.

Take a look at the entire program, the schedule and the passes and tickets. (If you want to support Silicon Valley’s most important cinema event while skipping the lines, the tax-deductible $100 donation for Express Line Access is an awesome deal.)

As usual, I’ll be covering Cinequest rigorously with features and movie recommendations. I usually screen (and write about) over thirty films from around the world. Bookmark my Cinequest 2017 page, with links to all my coverage. Follow me on Twitter for the latest.

Cinequest Insiders Look at the 2017 Festival

QUALITY PROBLEMS
QUALITY PROBLEMS

The Movie Gourmet asked the folks who pick the movies at Cinequest about this year’s program.

MIKE RABEHL is Cinequest’s Director of Programming/Associate Director.

Is there any remarkable new filmmaking talent with a first or second film (like Lost Solace or The Center) that I should seek out?

Rabehl: Personally, I think there are so many discoveries this year, so it would be hard to pick just a couple, but if I have to give you just a few titles, I think I’d look at:

  • Aloys
  • All the Beauty
  • Exiled
  • Fixed
  • For Grace
  • Quality Problems
  • The Moderns
  • Painless
  • Seat in Shadow
  • Hunting Flies.

I know that is a few more than a couple, but seriously have a huge list of “favorites” this year.

What are your predictions for the biggest audience pleasers? Something like The Grand Seduction, Wild Tales/Batkid Begins?  What might be the festival’s biggest surprise hit?

Rabehl:: I am almost always wrong on this, so if you quote me, I know something else is going to be the big hit, but I think: For Grace or Quality Problems.

Is there anything that we haven’t seen before in a movie?

Rabehl: I won’t say too much about them, but the films that are completely original and like nothing I, personally, have not seen before:

  • Aloys
  • Exiled
  • Menento Mori

Any Can’t Miss movies from the Spotlight films?

Rabehl:

  • Opening (The Last Word)
  • Closing (The Zookeeper’s Wife)
  • Carrie Pilby
  • Una
  • The Commune
  • Goldstone
  • (Re)Assignment (this one is a button-pusher and going to really stretch minds a bit).

I see that you’ve pulled in your usual haul from Belgium and Norway. Any Must Sees this year from those national film programs or other world cinema?

Rabehl: My personal picks…
King of the Belgians (Belgium)
Hunting Flies (Norway)
All the Beauty (Norway)
Past Imperfect (Belgium)
Flemish Heaven (Belgium)
Anishoara (Germany, Moldova)
The Citizen (Hungary)
The Nurse (Turkey)
Secluded (Denmark)
The Teacher (Slovakia, Czech Republic)
That Trip We Took With Dad (Germany, Romania, Hungary, Sweden)

I must say that this is really just a paired down list, and there are SOOOOO many others I could do in each genre, break it down by experience, etc… So, choosing favorites is not always my thing, because we’re fans of so many of them.

 

THE TEACHER
THE TEACHER

CHARLIE COCKEY is Cinequest’s International Film Programmer.

Some of Cinequest’s highlights always come from international cinema – IDA, of course, and THE HUNT, HEAVENLY SHIFT, IN THE SHADOW and the exquisite CORN ISLAND. What should we be looking for at Cinequest 2017?

Cockey:  Five URGENTLY recommended, listed alphabetically. Don’t miss ANY of these!!

Aloys – Switzerland – 2016
Magical minimalist film that manages to breathe new life into a tired idiom. Visually riveting, it casts a truly unique spell with straightforward images and brilliant editing to convey its heart. That it is a first film makes it all the more remarkable. If you give yourself over to it I think you’re in for a wonderful experience.

The Citizen – Hungary – 2016
In my opinion, this one is a must. Suffice to say that I gave it a 9.75 rating. The non-professional actors bring a nobility to their characters that gives the film added weight. Really, don’t miss this one.

King of the Belgians – Belgium – 2016
Another wonderful one, another must-see. Plus which, it’s the perfect antidote to the cynicism and disappointment surrounding us these post-election days, a breath of fresh air equally welcome to the festival-goer. During festivals sometimes we NEED some light and freshness. This wonderful film has both in spades.

The Teacher – CR, Slovakia – 2016
Consider this a companion piece to “Identity Card”, the wonderful Czech film from several years back about the teenage boys in 1974. This one is set in the same year, but reveals a much darker aspect. A portrait of a schoolroom Stalin, it is a fine examination of manipulation and corruption whose parallels with Trump are inescapable. This must count as one of Hřebejk’s best films since his Oscar-nominated “Musíme si pomáhat” (the film during which I first met Helena – so of course this film is special for me). Don’t miss it. It’s really fantastic.

That Trip We Took With Dad – Romania, Germany, Hungary, Sweden – 2016
Easily the best Romanian film I saw this year, it has a deftness similar to “Identity Card”, though of course, being Romanian, it’s completely different. A widower-father with a medical condition that needs attention sets out with his two sons head from Bucuresti headed for Germany. But it’s 1968, and just about everything that can go wrong does, including Russia sending tanks into Czechoslovakia, and our hapless family cannot help but fall afoul of just about every bump in the road they encounter. Done in a wonderful understated retro style, by film’s end EVERYONE has changed: grown, learned, gained, lost. A truly wonderful film

Cockey:  These are STRONGLY recommended:

Anișoara – Germany, Moldava – 2016
This is the followup to Panihida, which I brought to Cinequest, and which I hope you saw. The same young woman, now some years older, is at the heart of this film as well. Though this one has more overt narrative than Panihida, it’s told in an elliptical, indirect fashion that sometimes seems almost without a story. As before, the sounds, rhythms of the village are at its heart, but here with a darker edge.

The Listen Project: The First Five Years – MULTI – 2016
A gathering of music from around the world, local musicians from all over. What comes across along with the joy of making music – and of hearing it – is how there are so many differences, so many varieties, and yet, underneath, how similar they are at their heart.

Loop – Hungary – 2016
Science fiction with almost no “special effects”, and none needed. See it for its mindbending clockwork aspects as our hero gets caught up in a sort of time loop, that gets pretty wild at times. Definitely great fun.

Cockey: And these are recommended as well.

Queen Anne’s Lace – USA – 2016
US Indie of lesbian interest.

Train Driver’s Diary – Serbia – 2016
I only saw the beginning of this and knew it was going to be something Cinequest would want. I sent it ahead, and it turns out I was right, since here it is!

And one SHORT film:

Urban Cowboys – Poland – 2016
A wonderful film – 30 minutes. It’s a very unusual subject, and a lovely treatment of it. In fact, I was profoundly moved watching it. I’ve no idea which shorts program has it, but it’s worth finding. [Note: Urban Cowboys is part of Shorts Program 2.]

THE TWINNING REACTION
THE TWINNING REACTION

SANDY WOLF is Cinequest Documentary Programmer.

Last year’s doc program was very strong, especially The Brainwashing of My Dad, Chuck Norris Vs. Communism, Dan and Margo and The Great Sasuke What do you see as the strongest 2-3 documentary features this year?

Wolf: The first doc I am going to recommend is Shorts Series 6, which is the short doc series and includes Bayard and Me. That is the only short doc I have seen, and I can not only vouch not only for the film, which is coming directly from premiering at Sundance, but for the filmmaker himself, who goes by the name of Matt Wolf (and unless there is a change of plans, Matt will not be here, as he has a work commitment which conflicts with Cinequest).  [Note:  Sandy’s son is the noted documentarian Matt Wolf (Teenage).]

Wolf: The following two docs were my two favorites this year:

  • The Bullish Farmer
  • The Twinning Reaction.

Wolf:  I am also recommending these other docs (there are a few other which I
haven’t seen):

  • New Chefs on the Block
  • Levinsky Park
  • Cradle of Champions
  • Honest Struggle.

Bookmark my Cinequest 2017 page, with links to all my coverage. Follow me on Twitter for the latest.

Cinequest 2017 around the corner

cq logoMake your plans now to attend the 27th edition of Cinequest, Silicon Valley’s own major film festival. By some metrics the largest film festival in North America, Cinequest was recently voted the nation’s best by USA Today readers. The 2017 Cinequest is scheduled for February 28 through March 12 and will present 132 films and virtual reality experiences from the US and over twenty other countries. And, at Cinequest, it’s easy to meet the filmmakers.

This year’s headline events include:

  • Celebrity appearances by actress Jane Lynch (Glee, Best in Show) and director Jason Reitman (Juno, Up in the Air, Young Adult).
  • Opening night film The Last Word, with Shirley MacLaine and Amanda Seyfried;
  • Closing night film The Zookeeper’s Wife with Jessica Chastain.
  • Preview screenings of films planned for theatrical release later this year:  Carrie Philby (Nathan Lane, Gabriel Byrne), Tommy’s Honour (Sam Neill, Jack Lowden, Ophelia Lovibond), The Promise (Oscar Isaac, Christian Bale), The Ottoman Lieutenant (Michael Huisman, Josh Hartnett, Ben Kingsley) and (Re)assignment (Michele Rodriguez, Sigourney Weaver).
  • The silent Flesh & the Devil with Greta Garbo, projected in a period movie palace, the California Theatre, accompanied by its mighty Wurlitzer organ.
  • Ten programs of virtual reality cinema, accessible in nearly a hundred screenings.

This year, Cinequest presents the world or US premieres of sixty-two features. And of the feature and short films in the Cinequest program, films, 75 were directed by women!

I’m going to be strongly recommending at least two of these first features, the family dramedies For Grace and Quality Problems, along with the brilliant Czech drama The Teacher and the forehead-slapping documentary The Twinning Reaction.  More on those to come.

Indeed, the real treasure at Cinequest 2017 is likely to be found among the hitherto less well-known films. In the past three years, the Cinequest gems Eye in the Sky, Wild Tales, Ida, The Hunt, ’71, Corn Island, The Memory of Water, Magallanes and Lost Solace Class Enemy, Heavenly Shift, Oh Boy/A Coffee in Berlin and The Grand Seduction all made my Best of the Year lists.

Cinequest is on my list of Silicon Valley’s Best Movie Deals. You can get a pass for as little as $165, and you can get individual tickets as well. The express pass for an additional tax-deductible $100 is a fantastic deal – you get to skip to the front of the lines!

Take a look at the entire program, the schedule and the passes and tickets. (If you want to support Silicon Valley’s most important cinema event while skipping the lines, the tax-deductible $100 donation for Express Line Access is an awesome deal.)

As usual, I’ll be covering Cinequest rigorously with features and movie recommendations. I usually screen (and write about) over thirty films from around the world. Bookmark my Cinequest 2017 page, with links to all my coverage (links on the individual movies will start to go live on Sunday). Follow me on Twitter for the latest.