Cinequest: The Coolest Thing You're Not Doing

Demone Carter writes on one of San Jose's biggest festivals that happens in the quietest theatres in downtown, the Cinequest Film Festival has been around for more than a decade now. Check out what your missing at this year's festival.

For a long time I thought I didn't like movies. Sure, as a child of the eighties I grew up watching classics like Goonies, Gremlins, Indiana Jones, and Rambo, but by the time I became a teenager I had grown tired of formulaic Hollywood movies. Guys walking away from explosions and ultra sappy love stories just weren't doing it anymore. It wasn't until the early 90’s that I discovered these things called indie films.

Soon, I began frequenting the Camera cinemas downtown and watching movies that were more inventive, uncompromising, and unique than the blockbusters being churned out of the Hollywood studio system. The grit and edge of indie films reminded me of what I loved about underground Hip Hop. Films like "Clerks," "Another Day In Paradise,” and “Run Lola Run” opened my mind to the possibilities of movies as vehicles for storytelling. 

Not being anything close to a film buff I didn’t realize until the late 90’s that San Jose actually had its own independent film festival called Cinequest. I was instantly hooked. Over the years I have blocked off the two weeks that Cinequest is in town and I try to take in as many movies as I can. Not all the movies are great. There's definitely a dud here or there but all in all the curated group of movies brought to this film festival are some of the most original you will ever see. A few of these flicks make it to a theater near you, but many don't which makes going to Cinequest even more urgent and special to me. It’s kind of like being able to listen to an incredible unreleased demo from a group you might never be able to hear again. 

Since 1990 Cinequest has grown to be one the most renowned film festivals in the country drawing an international audience, but to many San Jose residents this two week event remains somewhat of an unknown. I know for some the concept of going to a movie with actors you may have never heard of may be really foreign, but I really encourage you to give Cinequest a try. The Cinequest film festival is a direct challenge to the "there's nothing to do in San Jose" mantra. Take a break from Netflix and chill and experience something out of the ordinary.  

My Recommendations: 
See a shorts program: This is a 90-minute block of short films, usually seven to ten minutes each. Short films move fast and can be very inventive or even poetic in their approach. Plus, if you don't like a movie it will be over quick. It's the most bang for your buck. 

Stick around for Q&A: One of the cooler aspects of Cinequest is often the cast and filmmakers will come out for a Q&A after their film screens. It's a type of accessibility you never get at your local movie house. 

The Last Sunday: The last Sunday of the festival is typically reserved for re-screenings of the best/most popular films shown through the two week festival. If you can only go one day I would say block off the last Sunday of the festival.  

Cinequest, It's the coolest thing in San Jose you're not doing. Catch films through this Sunday March 13th.  For more info:

About Demone Carter

Demone Carter is the 2016 Silicon Valley Artist Laureate, Hip Hop Emcee, Community Organizer, and Social Entrepreneur from San Jose, California. Follow him on twitter: @lifeafterhiphop.

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