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Cinequest Brings Glamor and Substance to South Bay Theaters

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A marquee from a previous edition of Cinequest. The festival returns Feb. 27-March 11 at the California Theatre, Hammer Theatre in San Jose and Century 20 Theaters in Redwood City (Photo: Courtesy of CInequest)

For all the economic clout of its industries, San Jose is not a particularly glamorous place. That changes for two weeks soon, as Cinequest kicks off, bringing actors John Travolta, William Macy, Andie MacDowell and Nicholas Cage to the heart of Silicon Valley.

On opening night, Macy (Shameless) introduces Krystal, which he directed — it’s so new that there aren’t trailers online yet. Over the course of the festival, Travolta, Cage and MacDowell will receive Maverick spirit awards for their work in indie films, along with the much younger Tatiana Maslany for her work in the series Orphan Black. MacDowell also introduces her new film Love After Love, in which she plays a widow exploring her new life. 

In an appropriate nod to the region’s obsession with cutting-edge tech, the lineup also includes 29 virtual-reality films. But it’s the documentaries that caught our attention. My co-host this week, Nina Thorsen, was drawn to a number of films about sports — especially Purdah, about a young Indian woman from a traditional family pursuing her passion for cricket. Nina noted that it’s like a real-life Bend It Like Beckham.

I was interested in From Baghdad to the Bay, Erin Palmquist’s portrait of a gay Iraqi man, a translator for the U.S. Army, who was tortured by the U.S. and is now a U.S. Citizen here in the Bay Area. “I really started to wonder,” Palmquist told us, “what it would be like to rebuild your life in the very country whose war with your own country had forced you to flee your homeland.” 


Cinequest opens Feb. 27, and continues through March 11 at the California and Hammer Theatres in San Jose, and at the Century Downtown 20 theaters in Redwood City. Details here.

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