Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Jason goes to Cinequest--Opening Night

I'm back, and so is my favorite drinking festival with movies, Cinequest!

I got there early, checked in, grabbed my media pass, and immediately got to my main task at the filmmakers--drinking in the Continental, where for festival guests the Tito's vodka flows freely along with the  PHP Honey Pale Ale from Umunhum brewing

Of course, it's not just about drinking for the sake of drinking, it's toasting my good returning friends--much hugs all around! And it's about making new friends in the film festival community. 

A notice to all the visiting filmmakers, if you have a drink with me, I will see your movie if at all possible, and I will write about it (probably poorly, but...whatever.) Your drink does not have to be alcoholic, but mine will be. There are, unfortunately, necessary constraints (stupid finite time and space, why can't I be everywhere at once?!) If someone else whose film is playing in the same time slot has already drunk with me, I will make all efforts to see both of them somehow, but if that's not possible it's a first-come, first-served system. To maximize the number of films I can see, I don't waste time travelling between San Jose and Redwood City in the same day. So if a drink has committed me to be in a location on a day, I stay in that location all day. Also, weekends (Fri-Sun) are all San Jose for me, since I get a suite at one of the magnificent downtown hotels to keep the party going as late as possible.

Anyway, with that out of the way, it was on to the glorious California Theatre for the opening night festivities. Cinequest CEO and co-founder Halfdan Hussey kicked things off with his opening remarks, something I've come to look forward to like an opening benediction (funny, since I'm not a religious man, but I suppose independent cinema is something like my religion.)

There were some brief words from Stand Up to Cancer, a humorous piece by Children's Musical Theater, and the first half of the big event--the Maverick Spirit Award given to Nandita Das. She was interviewed by my friend Sean McCarthy, a Guerilla Wanderer and part of the team behind the festival trailer (I've found no link to it? I guess you have to just...go to the movies to see it. Anyway, after several animations, this is their first live action festival trailer.) Nandita spoke eloquently...more eloquently than my meager words can convey. But she spoke about her career (over 40 films, in 10 different languages) and about the ability of stories--be they literature or cinema--to allow one to empathize with the other, and what exactly it means to be the "other." 

And then it was time for the feature film, MANTO. I confess to a great deal of cultural ignorance here. I had never heard of this author, and I know barely enough of the history of Indian independence and the subsequent partition into India and Pakistan to put this story in a bit of context. 
I have to assume that if I knew more about either the history or his work I would've enjoyed the movie more. As it was, I found him to be a great character (masterfully performed by Nawazuddin Siddiqui.) The storytelling is episodic, shifts seamlessly from his stories to his life--mostly focusing on his trial for obscenity. Ultimately, I found it drags on a little too long, which is very common for biopics made by true fans--they tend to not want to leave anything out. And in fairness, for someone who is familiar with his work it probably wouldn't feel as long. In the end, it left me with a desire to learn more about him, and read his work. Which is easy enough to accomplish.

Then there was the big after party at The Glass House with J. Lohr wine (I enjoyed their Cabernet,) Drake's brewing (I enjoyed their Pilsner,) more Tito's, and Hendrick's Gin (which makes a damn good martini.)

Here are the filmmakers who know (or learned) how to Cinequest right, and have secured my attendance by drinking with me (or at least, watching me drink):
SHORTS PROGRAM 2 (specifically, POZOLE)
SHORTS PROGRAM 1 (ummmm...I don't actually remember which filmmaker I drank with, but it's circled in my guide)

I'd say a pretty successful opening night!
Cheers! It's Cinequesting Time!

Running Time: 112 minutes
My Total Minutes: 497,859

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