Thursday, March 1, 2018

Phil attends Cinequest 28: Day 2 - February 28, 2018

Hello again everyone and welcome to Day Two of my trip to the Cinequest 28 Film Festival! Today I had the pleasure of seeing five diverse films, and all five films were foreign films; all ranging from the emotional to the thrilling! So let's not waste any time and get on with the show!

I headed over to the newly renovated 3 Below Theaters, formally known as the Camera 3 Entertainment. The first screening had a short film screened before it entitled LEMONADE. The short focuses on Kristin Farrell (Katie Kerr) who is having a hard time in her life, but has an incredible girlfriend Liz (Sujata Day).  However, life throws her a curve ball when her mom (Dawn Alden) calls and tells her who her father is. Directed by Troy Price, the short was simple, sweet and funny. I liked it a lot and was a great way to start off my day!

After that I saw the Finland export STAR BOYS (Kaiken se Kestaa). Written and directed by Visa Koiso-Kanttila, the movie focuses on the relationships between parents and their kids. Best friends Vess and Karrlo must contend with their parents' hang ups, swinging parties and their mistakes that affect them each differently, but the results are still the same. Soon , they begin to rebel and defy their parents as they grow in their identities and learn that being a parent doesn't mean you know what your doing.

This was a very deep and moving film. Its theme is quite simple: what parents do, regardless if it's good and bad, it will always affect the children. Set against the simple ways of life and the serene beauty of Finland, the movie proves that even though there is a language barrier, we all feel the same, we all make the same mistakes, and no matter how hard we try, we're still only human. A really powerful film to start my day off with! 4 out of five stars!

I made my way over to the Hammer Theatre Center for my next screening. Set in China during the summer of 1988, END OF SUMMER tells the story of fifth grader Xiaoyang, who is a major soccer fan and wants to try-out for the soccer team at his school. Alas, it is a reality that might not come true when his dad, who just happens to be the academic director of his school, looks down on sports and wants him to excel in his studies. But things become complicated his dad becomes infatuated with the school's new English teacher, which causes an even bigger riff between them. However, the young boy finds a friendship with his neighbor, who is a huge soccer fanatic.

Director Zhou Quan really brings on screen and pure and loving friendship between Xiaoyang and his elderly neighbor he calls Mr. Grandpa Zheng. They both wear their emotions on their sleeve as they both have issues they need to work out. Despite that they come from different generations, their is a mutual respect and love that radiates on-screen. Pao-Ming Ku (Grandpa) and Zishan Rong (Xiaoyang) are simply fantastic and play off one another beautifully. It was very reminiscent of the relationship I had with my Papa when I was that young. Again, language barriers do not exist because love is the universal language. Another powerful and emotionally charged film! 5 out of 5 stars!!

I stayed at the Hammer Theatre Center for my third film of the day. Taking place in Central Eurpoe,  THE LINE (CIARA) follows Adam as he is struggling to find the balance family and his work, which just happens to be as an international cigarette smuggler (Smoking is bad kids. Don't smoke!) He's the man in charge, but when the border of the Schengen area is secured, he begins to lose his cool and the line between his personal and professional lives become more complicated than even he could ever imagine.

Wow, was this movie amazing!! Director Peter Bebjak is one damn fine director! His compositions, set-ups, and camera panning are really polished and extremely stylized. Not only was this a beautifully shot movie, Bebjack also wrote the screenplay, which if filled with themes of family, loyalty, life, love and death. It was thrilling and moving, funny and sad, there's something for everyone to love. Imagine THE GODFATHER was made in Slovakia/Ukraine. This era's version of a crime family! 5 out of 5 stars!!

After the screening, I went back to the 3 Below Theaters to see my fourth film for the day. MANY HEAVENS (Vele Hemels Boven de Zevende) is about family with some serious drama. Eva is the person that everyone in her family counts on, but she is only one person and that is too much too handle. Her sister is in an unhappy marriage so she begins to have an affair with a dark and handsome artist, her niece is constantly being picked on and school and has no real friends, her mother comlains about everything because she has nothing better to do, and her father is carrying a deep and dark secret that he's been carrying for years. Her job as a social worker is starting to take ts toll on her, and she's single with no boyfriend in sight and a weight problem, this according to her mother. Eventually, Eva's silent pain begins to take a hold of her, forcing her to make a decision that will affect her family forever.

Again, another powerful, emotionally charged film that looks at family dynamics, the secrets that we withhold from one another, and how we can overlook the pain in others while trying to work on our own. Eva's condition is something we can all relate to, thanks in large part to Brit Van Hoof's acting! Her performance was absolutely phenomenal! Add director's Jan Matthys visually stunning, dream-like reality and this was a film that will stay with you long after the credits end!! My favorite film of the day!! 5 out of 5 Stars!!

The fifth and final film was at the 3 Below Theaters as well. AMATEUR begins with poor Martin (Esteban Lamothe), who works at a television station. Having been just dumped by his ex-girlfriend, his manager contacts the station's owner Battaglia (Alejandro Awada), who puts him up in an apartment that he owns. Thing look up, but when his manager asks him to look for an old horror film (BLOOD OF THE VIRGINS in case you were wondering) on U-Matic, he reluctantly agrees and begins to look for it. But when he an amateur pornographic film, he soon realizes that it's his his neighbor, Isabel (Jazmin Stuart). Add some healthy doses of sex, murder, and blackmail, and you have a film that is full of surprises.

The film is filled with references to the past: Alfred Hitchcock, old horror films, New Wave Films from the 1960's, Dario Argento style lighting, and sexually provocative movies. This was a fun movie to watch, as it entertained the hell out of me! Sebastian Perillo directed the film, while he and Lucila Ruíz co-wrote the script. Together, they made a smart, funny, sexy, and thrilling movie that spoke to my inner film nerd! 5 out of 5 stars!!

And folks, there you have Day Two of Cinequest 28! What an amazing array of films I saw today! All together I've seen 6 films in 2 days. So far I'm right on track to reaching 60 films! Remember the festival ends on Sunday, March 11th 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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