San Jose fest honoring thesp

SAN JOSE — Ben Kingsley will receive the Maverick Spirit Award at this year’s Cinequest Film Festival.

English thesp, who went from a stage career to an international film one via Oscar win for 1982’s “Gandhi,” recently won another Academy nom for the 2003 “House of Sand and Fog.” He’ll appear for an afternoon of moderated conversation at San Jose’s newly restored classic movie palace the California Theatre.

Kingsley joins a long, eclectic line of past “Mavericks” including Gus Van Sant, Kevin Spacey, Spike Lee, Ian McKellen, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Val Kilmer and, last year, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Announcement of other ’05 Maverick honorees is expected within the next two weeks.

Upcoming March 2-13 sked reps Cinequest’s 15th edition and finds the fest’s usual programming focuses on overdrive. Determined to become the “top discovery festival” in the U.S., current roster boasts 26 world premieres among 78 features showing overall, drawn from a record-setting 1,777 titles (including shorts) submitted.

Official opening night selection is U.S. debut of Jose Roberto Torero’s Brazilian farce “Manual for Love Stories”; closer is Annette Sjursen’s Norwegian comedy “My Jealous Barber.”

World preems, nearly all U.S. indies, include Philip Baker Hall drama “Duck” and spoof “My Big Fat Independent Movie,” as well as docs about the expanding “working poor” class (“Waging a Living”), Cuban hip-hop units (“Young Rebels”) and Latino immigrants (“Maid in America,” “Wetback: The Undocumented Documentary”).

Other highlights include a trio of silent classics; sidebars focusing on new Latino and Pacific Basin cinema; a five-part “Digital by Digital” forum on new moviemaking technologies; plus two daylong seminars with industry experts discussing the nuts and bolts of producing and screenplay writing.

Cinequest’s online component has become a year-round affair, with over 29,000 DVD-quality movie downloads (chosen from program submissions) logged over the past 12 months. It’s the only fest at present making full-length features available for free download over the Internet. New addition of a Viewer’s Voice Contest will offer titles in ’05 competition slots, with patrons deciding which favorites get extra public screening slots toward festival’s close.

For first time in several years, fest venues will be entirely within San Jose–and within a four-block radius to boot. Re-opened multiplex Camera 12 and single-screen California Theatre will join familiar venues at nearby San Jose Repertory Theatre and on the San Jose State University campus. Attendance is expected to top last year’s estimated 54,000.

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