Cinequest 2016: Ten Suggestions

Cinequest, San Jose’s annual film festival, may have already kicked off. But there’s time over the next ten days (including tonight) to catch these ten intriguing offerings among the many independent and foreign films coming in from around the world for the festival. The films listed below include everything from offbeat political documentaries to an anime feature film mixing zombies and steampunk.

The Brainwashing Of My Dad

Filmmaker Jen Senko wants to understand how her formerly apolitical father turned into a raging right-wing conservative. Her search for answers leads her to such folks as FAIR’s Jeff Cohen and noted linguist George Lakoff. At the center of Senko’s search lies the right-wing media machine, which constantly cranks out misinformation aimed more at making right-wing interests popular than by discussing the truth.

Screens March 5, 6 and 9 at the Camera 12 Cinemas, with a discussion after the March 9 screening

Chuck Norris vs. Communism

In 1980s Communist-controlled Romania, watching Hollywood films was an activity banned by the government. That didn’t stop Irina Nistor from dubbing Chuck Norris films into Romanian and secretly making the dubbed tapes available for neighbors-only screenings. Nistor’s bootleg films made heroes of both her and Norris. Could they also have inspired the overthrow of the Ceausescu regime?

Screens March 4 and 9 at the Hammer Theater Center and March 5 at the California Theater


Claire Carre’s haunting debut feature is set in a world where the survivors of a worldwide plague must function despite having short-term memory loss. The dramatic ensemble include an angry demented man running through ruined streets, a wealthy father and daughter cooped up in an underground disease-free bunker, a scientist constantly solving and forgetting to solve a problem, and a disoriented young couple who spend each day trying to rebuild their romantic relationship. But how can you live when you forget everything you did or know from the previous day?

Screens March 3 and 5 at Camera 12 Cinemas

The Empire Of Corpses

What if reanimated corpses provided the labor backbone of the British Empire? Director Ryotaro Makihara tells this tale set in an alternate Victorian world where corpse reanimation becomes commonplace. However, a secret society’s hunt to find the memoirs of Victor Frankenstein leads brilliant doctor John Watson to discover the dark heart of this supposedly prosperous world.

Screens March 10, 11, and 12 at the Camera 12 Cinemas

Film Hawk

Cinequest Maverick Spirit Award recipient Robert Hawk is probably an unfamiliar name to the average cinemagoer. But Hawk had very important hands in such things as The Times Of Harvey Milk, the Sundance Film Festival, and championing Kevin Smith’s Clerks. Now JJ Garvine and Tal Parquet’s documentary, fresh from the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, introduces this influential cinematic consultant and his marvelous anecdotes to general audiences.

Screens March 4 at the Camera 12 Cinemas with post-screening conversation with Robert Hawk

Here Come The Videofreex

What do you get when you mix early video technology with political activism? The answer is the Videofreex, radical guerilla filmmakers who used the then-new technology of home video equipment to record hundreds of street-level views of 1960s and 1970s American political activism. Jon Nealon and Jenny Raskin’s documentary recounts the precursors to YouTube and camera phone politics.

Screens March 7, 9, and 10 at the Camera 12 Cinemas

Lost In Munich

Petr Zelenka’s weirdo comedy begins simply enough with one reporter, a 90-year-old parrot, and a press conference where the parrot sings Hitler’s praises. What happens next will leave viewers puzzled in the best Czech Republic tradition, as reality becomes a very fungible concept.

Screens March 11 and 12 at the Camera 12 Cinemas

The Memory Of Water

Matias Bice (director of the amazing The Life Of Fish) returns to Cinequest with a drama dealing with the aftermath of every parent’s worst fear. It was only a small act, but the lives of Amanda and her husband changed forever from the result. Now these two former parents are haunted by the ghosts of what they have lost. A painful yet deeply poetic film about living with grief.

Screens March 10 at the Camera 12 Cinemas and March 12 at the Hammer Theatre Center

My Golden Days

Veteran French filmmaker Arnaud Desplechin comes to Cinequest with a film which won the Directors’ Fortnight award at the Cannes Film Festival. Paul Dedalus is coming home. But his physical journey is accompanied by memories of his less than tranquil youthful days. There are memories of his relationship with his parents, but there are also the sweeter memories of his time with his unforgettable first love Esther.

Screens March 3 at the California Theatre


News of social unrest spurs an assorted group of people to decamp by bus for the delta jungle. Why these people have taken this radical step is not explained. Yet as this mysterious film goes on, more and more seriously off-kilter events take place. What these unusual incidents lead up to is the focus of this unforgettable and unusual film.

Screens on March 10 and 12 at the Camera 12 Cinemas

For advance tickets, further information about the films, and screening times, go here to the official Cinequest festival guide.

About the Author

I'm a film reviewer for the Beyond Chron blog. Agnes Varda and Hirokazu Kore-eda are among my favorite filmmakers. I occasionally break down and watch a good action film...but don't tell anyone.

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