Cinequest Film Festival 23 in San Jose: Best of the Fest

Cinequest 23 film festival is now a wrap. Here are a few personal favorites and the best of the fest. Photo: Sparks: Graphic Novel Thriller. Image: C Folino

SAN FRANCISCO, March 30, 2013 – For two weeks, with nearly 200 movies from 48 countries, 86 world, North American and U.S. premieres, and more than 700 artists, innovators and 100,000 fans all rubbing elbows in San Jose, there was much to celebrate at the 23rd Annual Cinequest Film Festival.  Cinequest’s mission is to create, innovate and empower people in the film industry.  And empower they did.

The festival kicked off February 26 at the California Theatre with Sally Potter’s latest film, Ginger & Rosa, starring Elle Fanning, Alice Englert and Annette Bening. Fanning had a breakout performance in her role as Ginger in this coming of age film. 


Sparks. Image: C Folino.


Here are a few personal favorites and the Best of the Fest:

Best Action Thriller: Sparks (world premiere)

Based on his own cult comic hit, writer/director Christopher Folino’s groundbreaking 1940’s superhero/noir thriller follows Ian Sparks (Chase Williamson), an average young man destined to protect others from the grips of evil. Sparks plunges into darkness after a traumatizing encounter with the villainous serial killer Matanza (William Katt). Overcome with defeat and self-doubt, will Sparks find his way back to the light, or betray all that he once stood for? 

 With a brilliant cast, including Ashley Bell, Clancy Brown (Shawshank Redemption), Jake Busey, Clint Howard, and Marina Squerciati (Gossip Girls), Sparks delivers high action, twists, excitement and brilliant, well thought out directing.

William Katt is creepy good as the evil Matanza, so creepy in fact that you’d be nervous to stand next to him in broad daylight in a public park. His performance could not have been further from his roots as the lovable Greatest American Hero.  Clancy Brown really pulls the audience into his character and delivers another knockout performance.  And let’s not forget the girls, Ashley and Marina. These girls both rocked their performances.

Sparks has already started pulling in the awards and accolades. With wins at The Omaha Film Festival for Best OFF the Edge Film, and an invite-only showing at The Chicago Critics’ Film Festival coming up in April, Sparks is one to put on your must-see list this spring (watch the trailer).


Best Drama-Thriller:  Aftermath (world premiere)

Aftermath, starring Anthony Michael Hall, Tony Danza and the late Chris Penn, is a powerhouse thriller wherein a successful man overreacts and plummets down a slippery slope of violence and hired hit men when one of his employees goes missing. This is Chris Penn’s last film, and includes outstanding performances by Anthony Michael Hall, Tony Danza and Chris Penn (watch the trailer).


Solace. Image: Cinequest.


Best Drama: Solace (Jury Award Winner 2013)

This is the complex story of six people, three stories and one truth. The marriage of socialite Kathryn and her politician husband is falling apart. They each struggle to keep their secret second lives concealed, while trying to restore their once love-filled relationship. Construction worker Ridley pushes Sofia (Dixie Light, Joyful Noise) to her physical and mental limits. Overall good acting and direction in Solace and worth the price of admission (watch the trailer).


Best Drama (based on a true story):  TIE – Eden and The Sapphires

Eden: Human trafficking is a very real issue, even here in the U.S.: 2.4 million people are trafficked and exploited worldwide each year. Eden is the arrestingly true story of a young girl who is turned into a sex slave and given a new name, Eden. See a stunning performance by Jamie Chung (Sucker PunchThe Hangover Part II) as Eden. Captive for two years, Eden learns the inner workings of the operation that holds her, and adapts to her environment to survive. Chung’s subtle, multi-layered performance gives the film its heart, while strong direction, supporting actor performances and dialogue create a haunting and suspenseful arc. Audience Award Winner, SXSW Film Festival 2012, Special Jury Recognition for Performance, Jamie Chung, SXSW Film Festival 2012 (watch the trailer).


Eden. Image: Cinequest.


The Sapphires: The Sapphires is pure delight! Set during the Vietnam War —and based on a true story — the tale focuses on four vibrant and talented young Aboriginal girls plucked from obscurity in Australia to entertain the troops. The film is brimming with Motown hits, love, humor, and spunk. 
  Brilliant performances are offered by all the main girls (Gail, Julie, Kay and Cynthia) and a real standout performance comes on with Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids). Winner of 11 Australian Academy Awards, and the Cinequest Knight Foundation Audience Favorite Narrative. Put this feel-good hit on your list (watch the trailer).


Best Documentary:  Wampler’s Ascent

The incredibly moving and inspiring story about Steve Wampler and his impossible dream to scale the monstrous El Capitan may not sound all that impressive, except that Wampler has severe cerebral palsy. No one with his condition has ever reached the top of the towering wall. In this documentary, Wampler sets out to do the undoable. Bring tissues (watch the trailer). Cinequest Knight Foundation Audience Favorite Documentary winner and Kaiser Thrive Award winner.


Wampler’s Ascent. Image: Cinequest.


Best Comedy (Romantic): One Small Hitch (Jury Award Winner 2013) 

This is a hilarious comedy where Murphy’s Law rules.  One little white lie spins into a complicated web of deceit that goes out of control.  Josh’s Jewish family wants their only son to settle down. Molly’s Irish-Catholic family wishes their last child to find the happiness she needs. This boisterous combination creates an active dynamic as the couple evades family probing and overzealous planning. Excellent acting, directing, production and storylines — no weak links in this one.  (Watch the trailer.)


People’s Choice Favorites: the last day of the festival, the people’s choice favorites were given encore performances. 

  • Somewhere Slow
  • Stable Life (Jury Award Winner, Best Feature Documentary)
  • Idomeneo
  • Dose of Reality
  • The Citizen
  • Sweet Talk
  • The Playback Singer (New Visions Award)
  • Loveless Zoritsa (Global Vision Award)

See all >

Learn more about Cinequest by watching their 10-minute video trailer.  You can check out the Cinequest website to view all the movie trailers from this year’s film selections. 

Read related article: Napa Valley Film Festival Hits

Read related article: Cinequest Film Festival 23 kicks off February 26 in San Jose


Read more of Sherrie’s work at Out And About San Francisco and Wine Country Weekly in the Communities at the Washington Times.  Follow Out and About on Twitter and on Facebook for even more inside scoop.  Follow her on Pinterest to follow the visual story.



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Sherrie Perkovich

Sherrie is a perky, music and wine-loving, Northern California local that seeks out and spreads the word about San Francisco experiences as well as unforgettable wine-related travel experiences.  She is CMO of The Grape Hunter USA, where they focus on helping artisan wineries and developing unique wine travel for consumers. Follow her on Twitter @BigNoseWino

Sherrie is a San Francisco local that fancies herself an extroverted fine dining, wine drinking, know-it-all.  If it’s happening near SF, Sherrie is in on it.  Follow her columns,  for the widest range of Out and About San Francisco ~ San Jose treats and Wine Country Weekly.  


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