Cinequest's Mavericks Old and New
by Gina de Miranda
San Jose's film festival, Cinequest, labels itself as a gathering of
maverick filmmakers. In reality, it is a maverick way to gather filmmakers
together with an emphasis on throwing veterans and novices together in a
variety of ways with both groups appearing to benefit from the exposure.
This approach seems to work as Cinequest grows at a steady 30 percent each
year. Drawing 175 directors, actors, producers and over one hundred
features, documentaries and shorts, this year's festival was bigger than
ever. Cinequest gave awards to both veterans and entrants. Achievement
awards went to Walter Murch whose complex soundscapes lead audiences deeper
into such films as: "Apocalypse Now," "American Graffiti," "The English
Patient" among others. John Schlesinger received tribute for his films'
potent combinations of social commentary and drama ("Midnight Cowboy," "The
Falcon and The Snowman," "Marathon Man" and "Cold Comfort Farm"). Elmer
Bernstein was recognized for the grandeur of the compositions he wrote to
accompany such classics as "To Kill a Mockingbird," "The Magnificent
Seven," "Age of Innocence," "My Left Foot" and "The Rainmaker." Barry
Sonnenfeld was given the Maverick Film and Technology Lifetime Achievement
award for his ability to innovate with technology to enhance great stories
and characters. Kevin Spacey received a Maverick Tribute award for his
willingness to take risks with the characters that he chooses to portray.
Many films had personal undercurrents that motivated their completion.
Shiona McCubbin's "How High the Castle Walls," which was awarded the Best
Short Narrative Award, was about the director's fiancee's battle and
triumph over Hodgkin's Disease which is both a romance and a journey. Two
people met and he, Callum Cuthberton, talked for the first time about what
it feels like to stare death in the face and walk away. "I met Shiona when
I was working as a pantomime," Callum said, the soft Scottish sibilance
growing even softer at the mention of her name. "I was just at a point when
I was beginnin' to believe that it wouldn't come back. She got me to talk
about it and then she said, "Maybe, you should write about it and I did and
then we talked about a movie to help others going through cancer."
"It was a great script," said Shiona, "I just cut it down a bit and I made
him talk about it, the way it really was, at the bone." As they talked
about getting the money to make the film, about $8,000 US, both smiled at
each other with the sort of satisfied, but weary smile of those with a
dream made real through very hard work.
Anita McGee made "Seven Brides for Seven Soldiers," after getting "pissed
off" at the father that her stepsister never knew, an American serviceman
who left Newfoundland, never acknowledging his responsibility to his
daughter. "I decided to make the movie after I found a notepad in which my
sister had written and discarded about fifty letters," McGee said. "There
was a page that began Dear Mr. X, do you remember dating a young woman in
Newfoundland?; Dear Dad; Dear Phil, I don't know if you are aware... there
were fifty of them. The one my sister finally sent, he did not answer. So,
I decided to find out what happened and that became the movie."
[Gina de Miranda is a producer of a sitcom set to debut on the Internet and
has a Master's in Communications/Journalism from Cal State Fullerton.]