Cinequest stretches the limits of modern film


Aaron Penn

A poster advertises the Conquest Film and Creativity Festival at the Century 20 Theater in Downtown Redwood City.

Aaron Penn, Staff Writter

Cinequest Film and Creativity Festival has another huge audience this year as they continue to impress with their films’ “ingenuity” and “empowerment,” according to many Yelp reviews.

Cinequest has been a Silicon Valley tradition for 29 years now since its birth from the minds of founders Halfdan Hussey and Kathleen Powell in 1990. It was founded on the belief of pairing the art of modern technology with stimulating and innovating stories, creating a surplus of unique films in every genre.

This year, films have been raking in audiences. Hussey is already expecting more than 125,000 people to participate in the festival throughout its 13-day span from March 5 to March 17 with screenings at the Redwood City 20 Century Theater and San Jose Theater.

One of the many unique traits of Cinequest is its diversity. There are independent films from over 50 different countries playing at the festival, giving inside views of culture, race, poverty, and sexuality.

“It gives people the permission to feel into other peoples’ experiences,” said Mac Guerreiro, an actress from ‘The Fringe Class.”

“In showing what other people go through, we create empathy,” Guerreiro said. “We’re all just so separate in our own realities; most of us walk right past a homeless person who’s in pain and we don’t even see them. Films can help us see those people — not just as a number or a statistic or a person on the street — and that’s how we change the world.”

Aaron Penn
Flyers from Redwood City Century 20 Theater promote films featured by Cinequest.

With a staggering 259 films from 50 different countries, film lovers are able to choose from a variety of genres and perspectives that wouldn’t normally appear on-screen.

“They have comedies, they have drama’s, Sci-Fi, they have shorts. I could see four or five a day,” said Gladys Chandler. 

Chandler, a member of several film clubs, has been going to Cinequest for over a decade.

“The best part about Cinequest is the storytelling. There’s always an interesting approach on the way the plot is set up,” Chandler said.

Despite it already being an unmatched experience, Cinequest takes things a step further by allowing the audience to ask questions about the film after the showings. The Q&A session is hosted by either the filmmaker or one of the actors in the film, so the audience gets to actually meet the people behind its inspiration and execution.

While studio-backed films usually triumph over independent ones, Cinequest’s ability to give audiences films that engage emotions — along with past appearances from Nicolas Cage, Andie MacDowell, William H. Macy, Tatiana Maslany, Tom Cullen, and many more — might be more than enough to keep the festival fresh and exciting in years to come.

“Anything that depicts extreme situations that people in this country would never be shown, because we are privileged enough not to have to see, is worth seeing. Some people need a rude awakening,” Guerreiro said.

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