Notable among the 180 films from 40 countries screening in San Jose at Cinequest Film Festival 23 is the world premiere of director Thomas Farone’s “Aftermath” starring the late Chris Penn — it was the last film Penn made before he died in 2006.
“Chris was just tremendous in this film. I learned a lot from him about character development and how filmmaking works and how things should flow,” says Farone, one of hundreds of participants in this year’s festival, which opens at 7 p.m. today at the California Theatre with Sally Potter’s 1960s London-set coming-of-age tale “Ginger & Rosa” starring Elle Fanning and Alice Englert.
A suspenseful thriller, “Aftermath” also features Tony Danza, Anthony Michael Hall and Frank Whaley in key roles. Hall plays Tom Fiorini, a construction company owner who finds himself in dire straits, in an underworld of crime and violence, as he looks for his longtime foreman who has gone missing.
Farone started filming “Aftermath” in 2005. The movie wrapped shortly before Penn (brother of musician Michael and actor Sean) died at age 40 in January 2006, causing Farone to delay editing, postproduction work and submitting the film to festivals.
Farone emphasizes Penn’s depth as a performer and lover of his craft: “He really brought the acting up to a certain level. You could tell Chris, ‘I’m going to set you on fire, I’m gonna do this and that,’ and he’d say ‘all right.’ Like no sweat. He was that good.”
Co-founded by film and technology entrepreneurs Halfdan Hussey and Kathleen Powell, Cinequest is famed for innovation; this year its highest honor, the Maverick Spirit Award, has particularly illustrious recipients, including Harrison Ford, Chuck Palahniuk and Salmon Rushdie, slated to appear at special events.
Noted actor Andy Garcia, the San Francisco Ballet’s Lorena Feijoo and local interior designer Orlando Diaz-Azcuy are some of the spirited narrators contributing their stories to an oral history of Cuban exiles in America since Castro, directed by Jose Enrique Pardo. [7 p.m. Saturday at the California Theatre, 1:15 p.m. Sunday at San Jose Rep, 6:30 p.m. March 9 at Camera 12]
Plimpton! Starring George Plimpton as Himself
Best known as the co-founder of The Paris Review, the late Plimpton was a near-prep-school dropout who was a professional sportsman, participatory journalist, Playboy photographer, friend to the Kennedys, Hollywood actor and whiskey-swilling editor. The biographical tribute is narrated with Plimpton recordings. [9 p.m. Sunday, 12:30 p.m. Monday, 7:30 p.m. March 8 at the Camera 12]
Running Wild: The Life of Dayton O. Hyde
The film by director Suzanne Mitchell explores the compelling life of the cowboy, conservationist and award-
winning writer who is dedicated to protecting threatened wild horses and the land of the American West. [6:45 p.m. Wednesday, 12:30 p.m. Saturday and 4 p.m. March 6 at the Camera 12]