Bill Nighy is getting a Cinequest Maverick Spirit Award at a March 6 screening of “Sometimes Always Never.” (Courtesy photo)

Films and more at Cinequest creativity fest

Opening March 5, Cinequest is showcasing scores of independent and international titles. And, keeping in tune with its Silicon Valley setting, groundbreaking technology attractions also distinguish the festival.

Recently renamed the Cinequest Film & Creativity Festival, the nearly 30-year-old event runs through March 17 in San Jose and Redwood City. More than 110,000 people are expected to attend.

The amended name refers to Cinequest’s expansion of programming to include dance, music and other art forms. It also reflects Cinequest’s continued role as a leading showcase for virtual reality and other innovative technologies.

More than 130 of this year’s films are world or U.S. premieres. Spotlighted movies include Nandita Das’ “Manto” screening at 7:15 p.m. San Jose’s California Theatre as the opening-night feature and Terry Gilliam’s “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote,” the closing-night selection.

Gilliam combines Cervantes’ classic Don Quixote tale with contemporary themes in his decades-in-the-making realization of a seemingly impossible big-screen dream. Adam Driver and Jonathan Pryce star. The movie screens at the California Theatre at 6 p.m. March 17.

The remaining films make for a cinematic cornucopia. Here’s a brief glimpse of a few notable selections:

“The Social Ones,” a mockumentary starring Richard Kind, Debra Jo Rupp, Stephanie March, Jackie Hoffman and Peter Scolari parodying social media influencers screens at 8:30 p.m. March 9 at Hammer Theatre, and 9:30 p.m. March 11 and 12:45 p.m. March 13 in Redwood City.

“The Chaperone,” adapted by Oscar-winning screenwriter Julian Fellowes from Laura Moriarty’s novel, dramatizes fame-bound Kansas teenager Louise Brooks’ 1920s journey to New York City. Haley Lu Richardson portrays Brooks; Elizabeth McGovern plays her chaperone in the movie, showing at 2 p.m. March 10 at the California.

“Hotel Mumbai,” directed by Anthony Maras and featuring Dev Patel and Armie Hammer, is about the 2008 terrorist attack at Mumbai’s Taj Hotel and the heroic acts that occurred during the horror. It screens at 7 p.m. March 13 at the Hammer.

“Transit,” Christian Petzold’s complex German thriller [9:35 p.m. March 6, Hammer]; “Peterloo,” Mike Leigh’s British historical drama [6 p.m. March 11, Hammer] and “Shadow,” Zhang Yimou’s Chinese martial-arts epic [6:45 p.m. March 16, California], are among featured films by top international directors.

In “Bite Me,” a rom-com by Meredith Edwards, an IRS agent audits a community whose residents think they’re vampires (a real-life subculture). Screenings are at 9:45 p.m. March 9 at the California; 7:20 p.m. March 11 and 10:45 a.m. March 17 at Century 20 Redwood City; and 11:30 a.m. March 13 at 3Below.

The documentary “Behind the Bullet” explores the seldom-addressed issue of how shootings affect the shooter. Screenings are at 2:15 p.m. March 6 and 6 p.m. March 12 at 3Below; and at 6:10 p.m. March 7 and 7:45 p.m. March in 13 in Redwood City.

Buster Keaton, too, is on the bill. The silent-era comedy master’s “Steamboat Bill, Jr.” screens at 7 p.m. March 15 at the California with live organ accompaniment.

As for Cinequest’s substantial technology component, interactive experiences in virtual and augmented reality are a major draw.

Offerings include VR cinema, VR and AR workshops, and a VR lounge. VR titles, including “Forest,” “Love Note” and “Nosferatu VR,” screen in the VR Experience Lounge between 11 a.m. at 7 p.m. at 320 S. First St. in San Jose.

Attendees can also look for dance, music and fashion programs, a television and webisode section, a creativity summit and award presentations.

This year’s Maverick Spirit Award recipients include Bill Nighy, the British actor and screen treasure, appearing at 7:15 p.m. March 6 at the California Theatre, with the U.S. premiere of “Sometimes Always Never.” He stars in the offbeat dramedy about the relationship between a Scrabble-obsessed tailor and his son.

Visionary Bay Area educator Esther Wojcicki, whose new book is “How To Raise Successful People,” also will receive a Maverick Spirit Award in a closing night talk at 6 p.m. March 17 at the California.

Cinequest Film & Creativity Festival
Where: California Theatre, 345 South First St., Hammer Theatre Center, 101 Paseo De San Antonio, and 3Below, 288 South Second St. in San Jose; Century 20, 825 Middlefield Road in Redwood City
When: March 5 to March 17
Tickets: $8 to $55
Contact: (408) 295-3378 or

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