Saturday, March 2, 2013

Phil attends CINEQUEST 23: Day Three -February 28, 2013

Hello and welcome to Day Three of my trip to the 23 annual Cinequest Film Festival! Tonight I saw four more films, in my quest of seeing 60 films this year! So let's begin, shall we?

The first film I saw was THE DEAD MAN AND BEING HAPPY (EL MUERTO Y SER FELIZ). Directed by Javier Rebollo, the film's about a man named Santos, who's really hold hit, hooked on morphine and is on his last leg. He's hired to do a hit that he hasn't done yet, but he got paid for it upfront. Smart move! Then one day while at a gas station, a strange woman named Alejandra climbs into the back seat of his car. Soon this unlikely pair sets off on a road trip that takes them all over the place! From a German retirement town to a beach that looks beautiful and grotesque at the same time, the two form a tight bond but will it survive the whole trip?

This Argentinean film is unlike most films you've seen before. It's a road trip movie that contains a wickedly dry sense of humor, interesting characters and locations, combines Argentinean and European minimalism style filmmaking, and contains a female narrative (and at brief times a male voiced narrative) that makes the audience laugh a the sheer lunacy of the film. I went into the screening not sure if I was going to like this, and I came out very surprised. This is a terrific piece of cinema! The film will be shown again on Wednesday, March 6th at 9:15pm and on Saturday, March 9th at 1:30pm.

Next I headed over to the San Jose Rep to see AN INACCURATE MEMOIR, an action packed Chinese flicked that was just astounding! Set during the Japanese Occupation in China, the film's about a band of thieves led by Fang, who has just broken out of jail thanks to his sister and his gang. While making their escape, they meet and kidnap a man named Gao. However, Gao becomes the newest member of Fang's gang, with the help from his beautiful sister. Soon he convinces Fang and his bandits to help him complete his mission: kidnap the Japanese Emperor’s brother. and hold him for ransom.

Preceding the film, there was a short entitled KILL NO EVIL, which was quite humorous. It had it all: a sheriff, and villain, and a cellphone. Yes, it was humorous indeed.

The main movie was directed by Yang Shupeng, who does just a tremendous job of creating such an action packed flick! His directing style is the perfect blend of cool, old school Hong Kong films with the look of a Quentin Tarantino film (which Tarantino has professed his love of Hong Kong films). Everything about the film was awesome: great story, beautiful cinematography, well structured characters, excellent action scenes, humor, and amazing sets and locations! After the screening, Yang Shupeng came out and participated in great Q&A with the audience. The film will be shown again on Thursday, March 7th at 9:45pm.

For film number three, I made my way over to the California Theatre to see the very groovy HUNKY DORY, starring Minnie Driver. Set in 1976 Welsh, the film follows charismatic drama teacher Viv (Driver) as she attempts to stage a rock-opera version of Shakespeare's "The Tempest", set on Mars. Predictably, the play serves as a catalyst to examine and solve some of the students' problems, such as broken families, burgeoning homosexuality, and as a point of confrontation between liberal Viv and other sterner and more classically minded teachers.

So I'm going to date myself here. I was a young lad growing up in the lat 70's and I look back on that time with fond memories. The tacky colors, shag carpet, Pintos, and great rock 'n' roll music blaring out of my AM radio. The movie captures the look and feel of that era, while simultaneously, showing us what it was like growing up in a different country. Driver gives a great performance, as do the rest of the class. Think of the film as a 1970's version of Glee and you'll get the jest of it. Overall I liked the film and would watch it again. But, alas, today was the only screening of it. However it will be hitting theater screens again on March 22nd. In the meantime, check out the film's official Facbook page at

The last film I did was the SHORTS PROGRAM 1: THE BATTLES WE FOUGHT over at the Camera 12. These shorts pertain battles within ourselves and the ones around us. During this program I witnessed six extraordinary short films:

BUZKASHI BOYS (PESARAN-E-BUZKASHI): Nominated for an Academy Award, the film tells the coming of age story of two best friends (a blacksmith's son and a poor street kid) who struggle to realize their dreams in one of the most war-torn countries on Earth. The street boy has dreams of becoming a Buzkashi rider, while his friend is more level headed. But we see that the street boy's spirit influences his best friend in surprising ways. Amazing film!
MATRIARCHE: The film's about a mother, her son, a bank robbery, and what she will do for her son.
WHY ARE YOU HERE: Film's about a small group of Nazi soldiers in the who are pinned down by a sniper in the wilderness.
KOLONA: A family fleeing Kosovo in 1999 are stopped at a Serbian refugee checkpoint, where the father is forced to make a terrible life or death decision. Very intense short! This was a hard short to watch!
THE EXAMPLE: In this short, a business man and a teen are waiting at a train station when they discover an unattended briefcase. Soon the two banter back and forth, where liberal ideas, intolerance, racism, and humor collide! Excellent short film!
NO ONE PUKES IN HEAVEN: This short's about a mom and her daughter playing games that fulfills each others' wishes before the mother dies of cancer. This was the film's world premiere and the cast plus the director were there and participated in a Q&A session. This beautiful and heartbreaking short was my favorite one in the program.

Now originally there was supposed to have been a seventh short screened as part of the program. The short HALF-SHAPED and unfortunately, even though it's listed in this program, it's not being shown at all during the festival.

After the show, a bunch of us headed on over to the Maverick Meetup at Il Fornaio. I hung with friends, filmmakers, film buffs, and just talked about all the movies we all saw today. A nice way to end my evening!

So there you have it. Nine films in three days! My chances on me breaking last year's record looks very promising! Remember the festival will be running till March 10th so there's plenty of time for you to join in on the fun here in 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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