Cinequest centers on new tech

Fest features 245 screenings, 160 features, shorts

Taking as its 2007 theme “Revolution,” San Jose’s Cinequest is ramping up a longtime focus on new technologies and diverse outreach in its 17th edition. To be sure, the main event will be traditional film festival fare –245 public screenings of 160 features and shorts from 34 countries — but new online and other elements are making the org a year-round resource for both viewers and filmmakers.

Running Feb. 28-March 11 at venues within a three-block downtown radius, the festival anticipates 70,000 patrons and guests this year. Among those who’ll be getting their own tributes as Maverick Spirit Award winners are thesp Minnie Driver, producer Christine Vachon and musician-turned-filmmaker Stewart Copeland, latter presenting docu “Everyone Stares” about his days with The Police.

Opening night film is Mira Nair’s adaptation of the Pulitzer-winning novel “The Namesake,” while closer is Stephane Gauger’s U.S.-Vietnam coprod “Owl and the Sparrow.” More than 20 of the 80-odd features in the 12-day program are world premieres, including outre Canadian play adaptation “Hitler Meets Christ” with Michael Moriarty; “Trained in the Ways of Men,” Shelley Prevost’s docu about a notorious 2002 North California murder case; and “Blood Car,” a horror satire about a future in which gas is $40 per gallon. Other highlights include a Focus on the Balkans sidebar, as well as the return of a Latino Film Showcase and silent film programs (this year Buster Keaton’s “The General” and Louise Brooks “Pandora’s Box”) at the restored art deco California Theater.

Filmmakers themselves are the target audience four days of forums on distribution, the writer, sight and sound, and the producer.

Among industry personnel participating are writer-director-producer J.J. Abrams; Beacon Pictures VP of Production Nancy Rae Stone, who’ll trace one recent feature project’s development from story idea to playdates; Scott Hancock of Palm, who’ll discuss new distribution frontiers of PDAs and other hand-held devices; and Guarav Dhillon, founder of online feature/docu distribber Jaman.

In Nov., Cinequest launched a DVD catalog with 35 titles also available on demand from Jaman.

Cinequest Online recently debuted a pay-per-view download component offering features at $4.99 and shorts at $1.99 each.

Other outlets for aspiring-filmmaker exposure include a Screenplay Competition that attracted over 450 entries this year; the public-vote “Viewer’s Voice” contest in which 31 features and 124 shorts now available online compete for bigscreen festival slots; plus long-running juried Maverick Narrative Feature, Documentary and Short prizes to be awarded at fest’s close.

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