Friday, March 8, 2013

Phil attends CINEQUEST 23: Day Ten-March 7, 2013

We're getting down to the final days here folks so welcome back to Day Ten of my trip to the Cinequest Film Festival! Another five film reviews await for you to read.

The first film I saw today was MUST HAVE BEEN LOVE (EN SOM DEG). The film's about a young Finnish woman named Kasia (Pamela Tola) who meets a striking Norwegian man named Jacob (Espen Klouman-Høiner) while vacationing in Istanbul. The two hit it off and explore all the wonder and beauty of the city. Soon they part, with Kasia not knowing his last name. Sometime later while grocery shopping in a store in Oslo, she meets man named Oslo in a shop, who's a dead ringer for her love Jacob.They begin to date, but it's not the same. Just when Kasia thinks she will never find love again, guess who walks back into her life again?

This enchanting love story was directed by Eirik Svensson, who also wrote the screenplay along with writer Jyrki Väisänen. Pamela Tola is simply divine in the film. Her long beautiful hair, big beautiful eyes, and her soft, pale skin glows in the film. She conveys an array of emotions without being overly dramatic. She performance was fantastic. I simply could not look away from the screen when she was on. Today was the last screening for the film but you can visit the film's website at

The second film I saw was the political drama THE CITIZEN. The film focuses on the one Ibrahim Jarrah (Khaled Nabawy), an Arab immigrant who five years ago won the green card lottery which allows him to became an American citizen. He arrives in America on September 10th, 2001. On his first day he's held at the airport for security reasons, then he checks into hotel where the meets Diane (Agnes Bruckner), who hides her from her abusive boyfriend. The two strike up a friendship and she shows him around New York. Then the next day, the world changed. He is then detained for six months by the government for no reason other than he's from the Middle East. Once released he's faced with racism, his friends being beaten and nearly shot; in short he's forced to see the ugliness in America, the country that he still wishes to be a citizen of. Five years later, Ibrahim receives a letter that threatens to take away his dream of becoming an American citizen.

What I loved about the film that it doesn't shy away from the themes it's addressing: racism, fear, intolerance, injustice, and more importantly, never giving up on your dreams. It's very easy to take things in life for granted, especially if you were born here. Those who come here have to try so much harder than I do, and are faced with so many obstacles that it's staggering. This was the feature film debut by director Sam Kadi, who did a tremendous job of telling this story that was "inspired by many true stories." The entire cast turned in outstanding performances, making this film a must-see! The film is being shown again on Friday, March 8th at 7pm. Also visit the film's official Facebook page and follow the film on Twitter.

Film number three was the romantic comedy ONE SMALL HITCH. Childhood friends Josh Shiffman (Shane McRae) and Molly Mahoney (Aubrey Dollar) are flying from LA back home to Chicago for her mom's wedding. On the flight, they agree to pretend they're engaged to make his dying father happy. However, their fake engagement explodes into a comedic series of events that causes real feelings to arise. Now they must decide whether to tell everyone their lie and go back to their separate lives in LA or stay in Chicago and become a real couple.

Director John Burgess and writer Dode B. Levenson keep the film and laughter flowing throughout the film. Great on-screen chemistry from McRae and Dollar, which really makes the film in my opinion. They were both just so much fun to watch. And awesome shots of Chicago as well! The film made me miss being in love. And I want that kind of love! The love that's there right in front of you, and then one day you see it. Then you can't imagine it not being there for the rest of your life. Another winner in my book! Again, like a lot of the other films, this was it's last screening (booo!) so check out the film's official website at and look for the film on Facebook and Twitter as well.

For film number five I headed on over to the California Theatre for the screening of EDEN. Based on a true story, the film's about a young Korean-American girl named Eden (Jamie Chung), who was kidnapped from her home in New Mexico and then forced into prostitution by a domestic human traffickers, led by celebrated law officer Bob Gault (Beau Bridges) just outside of Las Vegas. For nearly to two years Eden was held there, until a series of events transpired that might just might give her back her freedom.

As I stated, the film is based on the true story of Chong Kim, who is now an legal advocate promoting both human and civil rights throughout the country. Director Megan Griffiths does a outstanding job of bringing Kim's story to the big screen. Jamie Chung turns in her best performance ever here. The film is beautifully directed and well acted that it will haunt you and make you think about the film (and its subject matter) long after the credits roll! Today was the only day that the film was screened, but you check out the film's official website at Also look for the film on Facebook and Twitter as well.

The fifth and final film of the day was AGNUS DEI back at the Camera 12. Based on a true story, the film takes place during the Kosovo war. Peter (Astrit Alihajdaraj) is a teacher, loves his mom very much, despises his drunken lush of a father, and refuses to fight in the war. However, he's forced to join against his will, and soon becomes one of the finest and respected soldiers ever. But the slaughtering of the innocent civilians has worn him down, and he risks his life saving an Albanian girl named Maria (the beautiful Dafina Berisha). They travel back to Peter's mom's house, only to discover a terrible family secret that will destroy Peter's entire world.

So this was based on a true story?!? Unbelievable as it may sound, but it is indeed all true. Director Agim Sopi wrote the screenplay after reading a article in the paper about a man who discovered a secret family lie that unfortunately killed him. Sopi's directing is brilliant, capturing the ugliness of war and the lost of one man's ability to cope with what he has done. Astrit Alihajdaraj was Peter, no question about it. When I was watching the film, all I saw was Peter, not an actor. Dafina Berisha (with her mouth dropping beauty) was amazing in the film, propelling Peter to finally do the right thing. This was the film's last screening, but you can check out the film's official website at

Another fun-filled day at Cinequest 23, which now brings my total to 44 films!  Remember the festival ends this Sunday, March 10th so make sure you come out here to San Jose! To view the festival's film schedule and purchase tickets and passes, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

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