Cinequest 23 — A july playlist

25 02 2013

OK, so without a doubt one of my favorite Bay Area events is the Cinequest Film Festival held in the beautiful city of San Jose every year. I’ve had the good fortune of media access the last three year and 2013 will be my fourth time covering the awesomeness. And let me tell you, there is so much awesomeness it’s like, having your mind blown and before can be like, “oh shit, my mind just got blown” it gets blown again.


So yeah, 20 minutes ago, I submitted my recommendations for the Daily Journal and, because I want our readers not to hate me, I only picked 10 (OK, 11) films, features, whatever you want to call it (pieces of awesome? yeah, that works) to check out. Here you go, July-ers:



A powerful story of love, hope, and what it truly means to be American.

All Joe’s ever wanted is to achieve his dreams in the country he’s loved and known all his life. With a college education and a good job, he’s well on his way to living the American Dream. Yet, when his employer discovers his undocumented status, Joe’s life begins to crumble around him, and he must face the possibility of losing his livelihood, his family, and, even, himself.

Jesse Salmeron’s Dreamer opens a window into the reality of many who, because of one insurmountable obstacle, find it impossible to achieve their dreams. And by transcending racial lines, Joe’s story illuminates the immigration debate for what it is: a tragedy that affects all Americans.


La Camioneta: The Journey of One American School Bus

The inspiring journey of a bus fraught with danger.

Every day dozens of decommissioned school buses leave the United States on a southward migration that carries them to Guatemala, where they are repaired, colorfully re-painted and used as daily transportation by working class Guatemalans. La Camioneta is the enthralling story of the journey of one such bus and its owner, a man determined to survive as an entrepreneur despite overwhelming odds against his success.

In Guatemala, local gangs control the buses by extortion, violence, and even murder, which has become tragically commonplace among those who do not cooperate. Director Mark Kendall dramatically brings us into a world of dreams and ambition, fraught with terror and uncertainty. And in the end, we witness not only the rebirth of an abandoned bus, but the triumph of the human spirit.


The Almost Man

Immaturity versus Adulthood: two will enter, one will leave.

Uneasy feelings about becoming a father and adult cause Henrik to act out in hilariously inappropriate ways in this offbeat comedy. On one hand, he wants to ignore adulthood and spend time fooling around with his friends. On the other, he must grow up and make his relationship work with Tone, the mother of his unborn child. Henrik finds it nearly impossible to balance his immaturity with his responsibilities, as he lacks certain abilities needed to handle this conflict. Will Henrik be able to mature or will his relationship fall apart? The Almost Man comically tells a tale of one man’s long road towards maturity, and how hard it can be for some individuals to face the prospect of growing up.

Preceded by the short film: Where We Are Safe; PTP film; 6min; To escape the claws of the Bay Area’s underbelly, fear-stricken youths seek shelter away from dark corners.


Made in China (Hecho en China)

One would think that a simple road trip across Mexico would be less…complicated.

For his 50th birthday, Marcos receives an invitation to the wedding of the only woman he loved…30 years ago. To add to this, the Chinese Mafia is after his restaurant, and Marcos’ dream of becoming a writer seems very unattainable. So, wouldn’t the wedding be the perfect time to get away from it? One would think so. But when joined on the road trip by Fernando, an irresponsible delivery guy, the cross-country adventure becomes a bit more problematic than Marcos needs, and he can only hope he will make it to the wedding on time.

Director/writer Gabriel Guzman crafts a highly entertaining adventure that is both funny and affecting. Top that with stunning performances from Odiseo Bichir and Victor Hernandez, and you have a recipe for delight.


Goldfish Go Home (Akane Iro No Yakusoku)

Two kids. One mysterious blue goldfish. And a beautiful adventure.

Young Brazilian immigrant Ricardo is having real trouble settling into Japanese school, where he is bullied and can barely follow the classes. When Ricardo catches a blue goldfish that turns out to be the spirit of a Chinese Princess, the ensuing surge of interest in this rare creature forces him and his charming classmate, Hanako, to join forces to take on the mayor and the Yakuza to save their town and the livelihood of its people.

A combination of fantasy and comedy, director Shohei Shiozaki’s debut film is a youthful tale portraying the importance of friendship through the struggles of an immigrant family, while offering a beautiful celebration of Japanese culture.


I Am A Director

Authenticity is not his strong suit.

In a mockumentary-style comedy in the vein of Christopher Guest’s Best In Show, there is one goal: make the BEST HOLLYWOOD FILM EVER! Carlos is a Puerto Rican filmmaker – one of many – aiming to make a “Hollywood” film. It has to be extravagant, dramatic, and MUST be in English. Otherwise, he says it cannot be exported. Joa, his best friend and film’s producer, tries to help him stay on track and achieve his goal. But even she did not expect him to become a puppy at one of their actresses’ feet. Jealousy will both tear these friends apart and pull Carlos further from his dream of being a master at his art. The question for Carlos is how many bad judgment calls he has to make on and off set before he realizes what he really needs to pursue.



From Castro’s Cuba to America… Remarkable stories of immigration and success.

When Fidel Castro revealed the true nature of his dicatorship, thousands of Cubans, including many who had supported him, escaped to the U.S. seeking freedom and a better life. Cubamerican weaves a mosaic of Cuban history, beginning in 1952 until present day, through the recollections and experiences of Cuban exiles who fled Communism. Cuban-Americans were brought to freedom in the United States by a generation that left everything they owned behind. Once in the United States, they started from scratch and remade themselves.

A testament to the human will and spirit, as well as to immigrants of all nationalities, director Jose Enrique Pardo artistically illustrates how hard work, sacrifice and a determination to succeed are traits which cannot be denied.


The Only Real Game

They are fighters and dreamers who connect to the world through the magic of baseball.

Manipuri, India is a remote city that has been under martial law for 60 years, and where outsiders are rarely given entry. Violence, poverty, drugs, and high civilian death and HIV/AIDS rates have taken their toll on this once flourishing kingdom of artists and warriors. But the men, women, and children who live there have embraced the sport of baseball as a source of hope and connection to the world—and their shared enthusiasm for the sport has helped heal, rejuvenate, and strengthen their culture.

Mirra Bank is the first American director to make a movie in Manipur, and she beautifully captures the spirit of an amazing people full of dreams, passion, and courage.

Preceded by the short films: Curiosity; dir. Nicholas Lipari; U.S.A.; 3min; A 12-year-old gives her view of the force that motivates is to investigate the Universe’s great mysteries.


Chaos (Desordes)

Be careful whom you let into your home.

Escaping the madness of city life in Paris, a teacher, Vincent, and his wife, Marie, move to a farm in the south of France with their son in hopes of a quieter life. But the craziness they have left behind may be more welcome once one of Vincent’s students, Thibault, intrudes upon the family’s life, begins an affair with Vincent’s wife, and becomes the catalyst in a failing marriage. And once Thibault’s true intentions are discovered, it becomes clear he will do anything he can to achieve his goals.

With incredible performances from Isaach De Bankolé (Battle in Seattle, 24), Sonia Rolland (Midnight in Paris), and Niels Schneider (Heartbeats), director Etienne Faure brilliantly crafts an emotionally-taut psychological thriller that surprises until the very last scene.


Maverick’s Spirit Award — Chuck Palahniuk

Palahniuk wrote the script for the short film Romance, based on his short story of the same name. Capturing the strange and slightly disturbing atmosphere of his story, Romance tells a tell as old as time: the story of a schlub in love with Britney Spears.

Cinequest is proud to present Chuck Palahniuk with our Writer Maverick Spirit Award as a part of the Writers Celebration. Join us on March 2, 2013 at 1:30 p.m. at the San Jose Rep, along with a screening of Romance.

For more information, visit

Chuck’s Maverick Award is actually part of a bigger, even more awesome, workshop day for writers which I wish I could go to but probably can’t because it’s a Saturday and other duties will await and shit, I’m bummed about that. Look at the lineup! Oh, and click on the picture for more information on that.





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