Cinequest: An 8-Bit, ‘Grand’ Journey in to Creativity and Connection


It’s story time kids!

I want to tell you a tale of three adventurers who fought against metal monsters in an epic battle known as “Rush Hour”

29sprawl2.spanto place themselves in the kingdom of “Cinequest”. Yes, their battle was fierce, and many obstacles were thrown in their direction, but through sheer will and determination these three brave souls, from different walks of life, found one another, safe and ready for entertainment.

Have I hooked you yet?

Yes it’s true. Bryan, Sarah and myself, were able to attend the opening night of Cinequest and boy howdy was it, as Christina Loren exclaimed repeatedly, fantastic! For those outside the bay area, Cinequest is a two week film festival that gives local and global filmmakers a platform to present their movies. The films vary from shoe string budget and up and coming actors, to larger scale films with familiar faces. It’s a celebration of creativity and ingenuity.

The festival began at the California Theater , an old movie palace (to hear more about movie palaces, check out Bryan and Eric’s discussion here). The ornate theater held an audience for a night of film (one short film and one feature) and a presentation of awards to individuals who exhibited creativity in the world.

sddefaultAs the audience hushed, and the lights dimmed, we found ourselves watching 8-bit characters chat with one another. While confusing at first, since we just jumped right in, it didn’t take long until this film showed why it was being played here. Written, animated, and directed by Emily CarmichaelRPG OKC  (which can be found in two parts on YouTube: part 1 & part 2) is the story of two star crossed lovers as they converse on the internet. While playful and running only around 10 mins, the message of the film is profound; love knows no bounds. This film uses well timed comedic dialogue to convey one man’s journey for true love, even though his methods aren’t conventional. It’s cute, hilarious, and unique – a combination that’s a winner in the indie world.

With the audience still laughing, the lights came up and co-founder and executive director of Cinequest, Halfdan Hussey took the stage to present the Maverick Award to IndieWire film critic, Eric Kohn for bringing creativity to the world (he personally selected RPG OKC to show during the grand opening). As Hussey and Kohn chatted, one thing he said struck me, something I thought only I had thought of; films are meant to surprise in their storytelling. Retelling the story of his first viewing of Citizen Kane, Kohn exuded passion as he spoke about the mysticism of film and it’s ability to transport a viewer with just the simplicity of a surprise. For any film buffs out there, his speech was invigorating as it echoed the change in Hollywood that is brewing and what the future of film might hold if we keep surprising the audience with great stories. Check out his latest review here!

Then we were introduced to the Marty Cooper. For those that don’t know who that is, I instruct you to place your hand in your pocket (or purse) and pull out your cell phone. The reason you have that is because of this man. Yep. He invented the freakin cell phone. Accepting an award of achievement in creation, Marty took this moment touch on how technology should be, and will be, better used. Instead of using technology to update your book of face and emails, it should/will be used to advance healthcare for everyone, enhance education around the world, and help end poverty. Not what you expected to hear at a film festival, but necessary. His message was weighted as many critics, and internet fanboys, listened on, absorbed, and considered how they could be a part of this fight (this writer specifically).

Finally it was time to see the opening feature, The Grand Seductionl_2319580_1375ccffa film about an impoverished harbor-town that dried up in fishing and jobs. Murray French (Brendan Gleeson) was born and raised in the harbor of Tickle Head and watched as it became a town lost in the world. In order to procure an oil-based refinery, they must have a full time doctor on call… except they don’t have a doctor (who saw that coming). Fate intervenes and presents them with Dr. Paul Lewis (Taylor Kitsch of Friday Night Lights and John Carter). Murray hopes to make the town desirable by peppering it with things that Paul likes and needs, even if the townsfolk has to lie about it.

Genuinely funny and charming, The Grand Seduction will surely give many belly laughs and smiles. While there are some flaws to the story, the performances are top-notch include Mr. Kitsch as he shows that he can be in a movie and no longer be labeled box-office poison. At the time of this article’s conception, the film has not found a distributor, however I don’t think it will be hard pressed to find one. With a likable supporting cast and a witty script, the film will find it’s legs and hopefully walk into a theater near you. If it should be playing, go see it. It’s well worth it. 

Only one day in and already it shows promise as being the most excitement this report has ever had while at the movies.

Cinequest runs March 4th – 16th in San Jose, CA. List of movie times made available on the official Cinequest website.

Until next time…

David C. McGuire