Today, March 1, San Jose temporarily turns into one of the nation’s movie capitals as Cinequest arrives. In the first edition of Today at Cinequest, Richard von Busack, film critic for Metro Silicon Valley, previews the festival

Check back here every day during Cinequest for the Smith Brothers interviews with filmmakers, directors and writers, and Richard von Busack’s Best Bets. And check out this Cinequest Guide, with capsule reviews of many of the films being shown at Cinequest. 

The festival is now 21 year old. A generation ago, it was a meeting place for film fanciers gathering to see movies that flew under the radar. It was an important local stage for the beginning of the 1990s rise of the independent film.

Today, Cinequest is a nexus of experiences: a teaching facility on the newest methods for filmmakers and distributors;
a showcase for up and coming filmmakers; and a 13 day long social event for partygoers and serious networkers alike.

Opening night is being held at the California Theater at
345 S. First Street; if you’ve never seen this palace, here’s your chance. It’s a 1927 monument built by Weeks and Day, the firm that designed the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco, revitalized by the city of San Jose and local philanthropist David Packard…whose Stanford Theatre foundation operates another beautiful antique theater in Palo Alto.

The opening night film, unfortunately unpreviewed, is Passione by John Turturro. Most people know of Turturro as the pesky comic relief in The Transformer movies, a role he’s returning to this summer; but Turturro is also a seasoned director of alternative films, going back all the way to his 1992, Mac. His interest in musicals led him to make the cult movie Romance and Cigarettes with Kate Winslett of Titanic and James Gandolfini, the star of The Sopranos.

Here, he guides us through the street scene in Naples, Italy: a poor, teeming ancient city alive with music. The after party is at Eulipia and The Swinging Hookah in San Jose’s South First Street District. When partying down afterward, save your energy: there’s 12 days to go.