Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Phil attends the Opening Night of the 29th Annual Cinequest Film & Creativity Festival - March 5, 2019

It's that most amazing time of the year!! That's right folks!! Tonight was the opening night of the 29th Annual Cinequest Film & Creativity Festival!! I am expecting to see some of the very best in independent, foreign, and documentaries here for the next thirteen days! Once again I got to see some of my old friends like Jason Wiener from Jason Watches Movies as well as my old buddy Roy from the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Terra Wood-Taylor, Michael Rabehl, and a few others. At this year's festival I hope to once again make new friends and as well as new memories. Back in 2014, I set an all-time personal record by attending 60 screenings in 13 days! Let's see if I can even bet that record this year!!

The opening night was held once again at the beautiful California Theatre on South First Street. There was the traditional red carpet with numerous filmmakers talking about their films to the press and posing for the cameras. Soon I found my way towards the front of the stage, bouncing in my seat with excitement. Then at 7:15pm, the lights slowly dimmed and the show began!

Cinequest director and co-founder and Halfdan Hussey came out and greeted everyone and thanked all our sponsors. He then had the theatre screen this year's festival trailer, which was done once again by SF Bay Area production company Guerrilla Wanders. The audience were then treated to a amazing a hilarious singing number from three young, talented singers from the Children's Musical Theater,  an informative speech from Stand Up to Cancer (which was founded by Laura Ziskin, who passed away from breast cancer in 2011). After, Halfdan introduced Cinequest co-founder Kathleen Powell, who then presented the Maverick Spirit Award to tonight's opening film director Nandita Das! She was interviewed by Sean McCarthy from Guerilla Wanderer. She spoke of her acting career,  her thoughts on religion, what drives her to create art, and what the process of making tonight's film. I found her to be absolutely astounding, funny, charming and wise woman, Her words are powerful tools to make change, to counter hate, and she processes a pose and class that I fell in love with this woman! After the festival's conclusion, I'll be making a effort to track down and watch her films! After the the interview, she posed with her award for the photographers and fans, and then it was time to watch the opening night's film MANTO.
MANTO actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui and writer/director Nandita Das.
The film's official synopsis: The film follows the most tumultuous four years in the life of Manto and that of the two countries he inhabits - India and Pakistan. In Bombay's seedy-shiny film world, Manto and his stories are widely read and accepted. But as sectarian violence engulfs the nation, he makes the difficult choice of leaving his beloved Bombay. In Lahore, he finds himself bereft of friends and unable to find takers for his writings. His increasing alcoholism leads him into a downward spiral. Through all of this, he continues to write prolifically, without dilution. This is the tale of two emerging nations, two faltering cities, and one man who tries to make sense of it all.

This was an extraordinary, emotionally charged film about an individual I never knew existed, nor heard of his work! Not only did he fight against the system that deemed his literature obscene to society at that time, he was also battling his own demons that, eventually, took its toll on his lifem his work, and his family. His story almost parallels the story of Ellen Ginsberg, in that their stories and words shocked people and society as well as challenged the status quo of what was acceptable and what wasn't. Lead actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui was just outstanding as Manto; bringing to life a very revered artists and tragic human being! This was the third film that Nandita Das directed and it was flawless! I was completely emerged withing the frames of the film that I just sat in my chair motionless for the film's two hour running time!! A tour-de-force masterpiece of a film that everyone should see!!

After the screening, everybody headed over to the lavish after party, which was held over at The Glass House on 12 South Market Street, where there was plenty to eat, drink, and music to dance to shack our bootties to all night long! Drinks were once again provided by Tito's Vodka, as well as by  Hendrick's GinDrake's Brewing, and J. Lohr Winery!!

MANTO was the perfect film to kick off Cinequest 29! And there's still 12 days of movie watching left! So what are you waiting for? Now you can partake in this very important downtown event. The 29th Annual Cinequest Film & Creativity Festival runs from March 5th to March 17th!! To view film schedules, information about the festival, and to purchase tickets and passes, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show! 

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