Turn off the Lights

Cinequest 2016 Bird’s Eye View

"The Quest Continues, 26 Years and Counting"

Christmas comes but once a year. As a matter of fact, so do film festivals, which can certainly feel like a kind of Christmas. Especially for the cinephile. Tuesday March 1st marked the official kickoff of the 26th Cinequest Film Festival and things got off to a strong, rolling start.

Opening festivities were complete with red carpet treatment, media mania, interviews and photographs with people so handsome they seemed to step out of a dream. All of this, set against the backdrop of the bright lights and designated people-wranglers keeping everyone in line. If you have never attended a film festival, as a member of the media or otherwise, it is quite a show. “We’ve got the best seat in the house,” one observer noted. “Just sit back and watch the circus go by.”


Preceding the opening premiere of the film, Eye in the Sky, the review for which you can find here, was a special conversation with the jovial and genuine actor, writer, and Academy-Award winning director Gavin Hood of X-Men Origins: Wolverine  and Ender’s Game fame, who spoke about his rise as a director, offered advice to would-be filmmakers, and shared moving thoughts on the late, great Alan Rickman, who makes his final appearance in Hood’s latest film.

“I wish Alan was here tonight to speak about the film, the themes of the film,” Hood said. “Because he had a lot of thoughts on them and he would say it in ways with his beautiful voice that would sound a lot better than me. We miss him.”


Rickman, who punctuates the film throughout, drew thunderous applause from admirers in the audience as he delivered his final lines, the sort of cherry on top to an exciting and thrilling film experience. The film closed to even greater applause, signifying the electric start indeed to what promised to be a great festival.

After a busy week of interviews, film and discussion, moving into the first weekend of the Quest, that was definitely kept.

Day of the Writer

The first weekend began with a two-part Writer’s Celebration event, an experience unique to the world of film festivals, primarily because typically the directors of films presented at festivals are the people who are usually highlighted. Cinequest however, is apparently the only film festival to have an event focused solely on the craft of writing in the business of movies where a panel of industry insiders from screenwriters to producers to agents for screenwriters to individuals who do a bit of everything, share their experiences and offer frank advice on the do’s and don’t of screenwriting in the industry.

A second, rather insightful discussion on the art of crafting the true story proved another highlight. Screenwriters Bettina Gilois and Dana Nachman, both of whom with strong credits attached to their names, like the acclaimed Queen Latifah vehicle from HBO, Bessie, and the celebrated Batkid Begins between the two of them, they shared experiences of finding stories worth telling and adventures in the life of a writer. When asked about the notion of telling their own stories, moderator and writer James Dalessandro responded with, “Life is just so full of wonderful stories, we’d just as soon tell somebody else’s and not have to be haunted about what people think about us”.

(R) Dana Nachman (L) Bettina Gilois
(R) Dana Nachman (L) Bettina Gilois

Then it was on to the business of watching some flicks. The tricky part about film festivals is that there are an overwhelming number of options to choose from. One would have to be in many places at once to see everything. What to see? There are some real gems out there and as Entertainment Fuse continues its coverage of the Quest, you will be able to catch some short reviews right back here very soon. Until then, carry on cinephiles.

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About / Bio
Steven Armstrong is an editor and staff writer for Entertainment Fuse's Movie Department. He also is a creative writer of fiction and poetry, an occasional filmmaker and electronic musician who enjoys reading, writing, video games, movies and any good story.

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