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Cinequest Film Fest is Back This Year as Cinejoy and it’s All Online

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Cinequest is back!  The South Bay-based film festival had to stop its 2020 edition halfway through because of coronavirus lockdowns.  (The remaining Cinequest 2020 films were screened later in the year as the Cinejoy online film festival.)  

Now, from March 20-30, 2021, Cinequest returns in its online version as Cinejoy, hosted once again on the Creatics platform.  While there won’t be in-person VR screenings or parties with fellow film lovers, this year’s festival features a mix of films from local filmmakers, previous film festivals, and such countries as South Korea, Germany, Israel, and South Africa.  Individual Showcase films can be streamed for $3.99 each while Spotlight films will set you back $11.99 per stream.  For the broke-ass viewer, the Showcase films can be an amazing bargain.

You don’t even have to live in the S.F. Bay Area to enjoy Cinejoy.  If you live anywhere in the U.S., you can have access to any stream you buy a ticket for.  If you live outside the U.S., something like 5% of the films are geoblocked from access, but otherwise you’re good.

Women Is Losers

Here are some suggestions for Cinejoy 2021 films to catch:  

American Thief–A couple of hackers and other people become pawns in a conspiracy to derail the 2016 US presidential election in this fast-paced political thriller based around actual events.  Teenage hacker Toncruz just wants to avenge his father’s murder while fellow hacker Diop just wants to fight for justice.  Throw into the mix a troubled artificial intelligence programmer, a highly disgruntled vlogger, and a mysterious User on the deep web who might be playing Toncruz, and you might not know who is and isn’t a part of the conspiracy.

Anchor Point–Did you know that women have been fighting fires on American public lands since 1942?  However, despite that long history, sexism and even sexual assault are still very significant problems among America’s wilderness firefighting forces.  Meet firefighters Kelly Martin and Lacey England, who are deeply connected to the land they’re protecting.  The duo are strongly determined to make their work environment more equitable for future female firefighters.

Atomic Cover-Up–Get inside a 7 ½ decades-long historical cover-up.  After American forces dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, Japanese and American camera crews risked fatal irradiation to film the aftermath of the bombings.  Rather than let the footage be publicly seen, the American government seized both crews’ films and declared them top secret.  In light of the subsequent nuclear arms race and the Cold War, would the world have been better off had the footage been released?

Between Waves–Would you love someone so deeply you’d travel through parallel dimensions to find out what happened to them?  Jamie travels to the island of Siio Miguel to unravel the truth behind her lover Isaac’s disappearance.  There, she starts traveling through other dimensions to piece together the clues Isaac left behind.  But is there a hidden price Jamie will pay for searching through alternate realities?

Death Of A Ladies’ Man–Yes, the Leonard Cohen reference is definitely intentional.  Samuel O’Shea (Gabriel Byrne) has been diagnosed with a brain tumor.  That factor explains why he’s been getting all these musical performance hallucinations using the music of Leonard Cohen.  Fearful he’s going crazy, O’Shea retreats to a rural Irish village where he meets his ideal woman Charlotte. But can their growing relationship win out over O’Shea’s fears of losing his mind?

Death Of A Ladies’ Man

Everything In The End–Paulo’s travelled to Iceland to make the trip that he and his mother had  planned on taking before she died.  However, while in a small Icelandic village, he (and everyone else around the world) learns Earth will cease to exist in a few days.  With no way to get home to his native Portugal, he’s left spending his last days trying to make human connections in a village full of strangers. 

Go To Kill–A woman might have a way out of both her dead end job (cutting off chickens’ heads) and life (husband a vegetable thanks to both bankruptcy and getting badly scammed, mother-in-law an utter ogre).  Former classmate Mi-yun wants to have a rich chairwoman killed, and whoever does the job will be 40 million won richer.  But can our hard-luck heroine pull off this challenging job?

A Handful Of Water–85-year-old Konrad (Jurgen Prochnow) and 12-year-old Thurba wind up helping each other in unexpected ways.  Perpetually grumpy Konrad is still grieving for his dead wife, while his daughter wants to adopt her girlfriend’s kids.  Thurba’s trying to stay one step ahead of the authorities until she can make it to England.  What deal can the girl propose that might solve both their problems?

Horse Tail–Why has middle-aged bank worker Freud woken up with a horse’s tail?  Is he transforming into a horse or is he slowly growing impotent?  That mystery contends with other problems in the confused man’s life, such as music suddenly playing in bursts in his ears and a murder that’s a combination of whodunnit and who-got-toasted.  Perhaps the mysterious woman named Van Gogh knows where Freud can find his answers. 

I’m An Electric Lampshade–For most of his life, Doug McCorkle has been the stereotypical corporate accountant: mild-mannered and tres buttoned-up.  Now that he’s retired at age 60, he feels it’s time to chase his wildest dream.  McCorkle will gamble his marriage and his life savings to become…a rock star.

Love And Stuff–Documentary filmmaker Judith Helfand once again mixes the personal with the political in this sort-of sequel to her earlier films “A Healthy Baby Girl” and “Blue Vinyl.”  Having had a radical hysterectomy (as seen in “A Healthy Baby Girl”), the filmmaker has answered her maternal urges by adopting a baby girl.  The big problem, though, is that making space for the new child means also dealing with her still sharp grief over her mother’s death.  For Helfand, that means building up the willpower to throw out of her apartment her dead mother’s nail files, partial denture, or even an old bar mitzvah dress.   But there’s a big difference between implementation and a willingness to act. 

Lune–Ready for an unusual drama that mixes politics with the bipolar condition?  It’s 1994, and Nelson Mandela’s running for the South African presidency.  The bipolar South African-born Jew Miriam has fought apartheid for years.  But the news of Mandela’s presidential run triggers a manic episode.  Worsening the episode’s effects are such factors as Miriam’s seventeen-year-old daughter Eliza with her new black boyfriend Mike, religion, and trying to navigate Canada’s mental health system.

The Magnitude Of All Things

The Magnitude Of All Things–Filmmaker Jennifer Abbott’s new documentary manages to be simultaneously personal and planetary.  Dealing with her sister’s death from cancer prods the filmmaker to recall her childhood on Ontario’s Georgian Bay.  What links these two threads is grief: for a lost sibling and for a way of life now very visibly endangered by climate change. 

A Sexplanation–San Francisco-based filmmaker Alex Liu’s school sex education happened to be of the “premarital sex is evil” and “abortion is a sin” school of non-enlightenment. Liu’s budding homosexuality as well as his general sexual feelings got squashed by that sexual miseducation.  Now that he’s come out of the closet, Liu figures it’s time to get the straight dope on sex, no matter how awkward the discussion gets with sex researchers or even a Jesuit priest.

Women Is Losers–Fresh from South By Southwest comes this indie drama set in 1960s San Francisco.  The film’s title comes from a Janis Joplin song.  In this drama loosely based on the life of writer-director Lisette Feliciano’s mother, pregnant teen Catholic schoolgirl Celina Guerrera decides to keep her baby after her friend dies during an attempted abortion.  Being a young and alone single mother of color in this period might mean Celina’s life is screwed.  But her determination to rise out of poverty and create a future for herself is helped by the presence of allies and mentors. 

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Peter Wong

Peter Wong

I've been reviewing films for quite a few years now, principally for the online publication Beyond Chron. My search for unique cinematic experiences and genre dips have taken me everywhere from old S.F. Chinatown movie theaters showing first-run Jackie Chan movies to the chilly slopes of Park City. Movies having cat pron instantly ping my radar.