POSTPONED: Now Playing! Cinequest Strikes a Match in South Bay

Still from Melody C. Miller's 'ruth weiss, the beat goddess.' (Courtesy of Cinequest)

The March 8–15 events have been postponed to Aug. 16–30 due to coronavirus concerns. For more, see here.

The watchword at the Cinequest Film & Creativity Festival (March 3–15 at several South Bay venues), from its inception 30 years ago up to and including this year’s quirky bash, is “independent.”

The vision’s the thing at Cinequest, and the artist, the author, the auteur is king/queen. That doesn’t mean a program of wall-to-wall art films, mind you, as one deduces from the picturesque titles Uncle Peckerhead (Matthew John Lawrence’s heartfelt saga of a punk band with a cannibal roadie) and Fried Barry (Ryan Kruger’s frantic Cape Town travelogue, as experienced by an extraterrestrial who takes a trip inside a drug addict).

Still from 'Fried Barry.' (Courtesy of Cinequest)

Where most programmers seek out the top films from the international festival circuit, Cinequest’s team beats the digital-video bushes for the most iconoclastic. That means an extraordinary number of world premieres, most of which will never screen again in the Bay Area. (Because they lack stars? Or aren’t commercial for other reasons? Or aren’t entirely successful? Yes.)

Cinequest’s generous audience, though, is on board for the risk and reward of checking out new, and often raw, talent. (The theme of this year’s Cinequest is “elation,” which includes the thrill of discovery.) Expect a crowd at the world premiere of Adam Mervis’ The Last Days of Capitalism, a no-holds-barred roundelay of class, power and passion between a wealthy man and a sex worker that unfolds in a Las Vegas penthouse suite. Ditto for Andre Welsh’s Disrupted (another world premiere), though moviegoers primed for an inspiring tech primer will be surprised by an Oakland parolee’s journey through the past on the trail of his wife’s killer.

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Cinequest has asserted its identity and spirit from the beginning through its unpredictable Maverick Spirit Awards. This year’s honorees include Asian-American actress Hong Chau, who has a key supporting role as the mother of a young boy who bonds with an elderly neighbor (Brian Dennehy) in Driveways, Andrew Ahn’s follow-up to his intimate debut Spa Night.

Jesse Eisenberg in 'Resistance.' (Courtesy of Cinequest)

Daring to infuse Beat Generation rhythms and dance into Silicon Valley “culture,” Cinequest salutes writer and poet ruth weiss with the Maverick Spirit Award before Melody C. Miller’s artful and revelatory documentary, ruth weiss, the beat goddess.

If it’s Hollywood star wattage you crave, Jesse Eisenberg treks to Northern California to accept his Maverick Spirit Award before the March 15 closing night screening of Resistance, a wartime thriller in which the honoree plays a young, pre-mime Marcel Marceau (with Ed Harris as Gen. George Patton!) striving to smuggle Jewish children from the clutches of the Nazis. Expect elation, and iconoclasm—from Eisenberg’s acceptance speech, certainly, and perhaps from the film.