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January 10-16, 2007

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'Black Tape'

Up close and personal: A personal moment from 'Black Tape.'

Cinequest at Your Fingertips

A new online distribution deal allows film fans to download the best of the fest

By Richard von Busack


ONCE YOU'VE sunk the family fortune into an indie film about the secret life of the mean streets of (your suburb here), the only problem is how to get it out to the world. Starting this winter, the San Jose film festival Cinequest has the answer: its own DVD label and online, pay-per-view distribution system. Currently, Cinequest offers more than 35 maverick films, available either on DVD or downloadable to PCs for about $5 a shot. (Jaman.com provides a Mac option.) The Intel version is still in development, and I've got nowhere trying to download to my iBook, but parity with PCs is promised in the near future. Cinequest's system makes downloading possible, but, it says, illegal distribution will be impossible, fulfilling the dream of the indie filmmakers everywhere, who'd love to have their work seen, not pirated.

So far Cinquestonline.org has exclusive distribution of some of the best of the last 15 festivals and four volumes of short films. Among the most recommended films is Maverick Spirit Award winner Black Tape: A Tehran Diary, Iranian director Fariborz Kamkari's purported video diary of an abused wife, whose husband has unsavory connections with the secret police. Celesta Davis' Awful Normal is another film that gets mentioned when people talk about Cinequest. This handmade documentary concerns a pair of sisters confronting the man who molested them 25 years previously. The Loss of Nameless Things is Bill Rose's fine study about the disabled playwright Oakley Hall III. Amargosa is a much-recommended piece about the dancer Marta Becket, who has taken over an opera house in the heart of Death Valley and transformed it into her home and performance space.

Among these films available is Cinequest director and co-founder Halfdan Hussey's own Seizing Me. It is a popular download, possibly because of the undeniable appeal of a mash-up of hard-R skin flick and group-therapy session. The combination is perhaps justified by Lisa Keller and Howard Anthony's serious sexual chemistry, and by those lines of dialogue you can expect in which a therapist goes up against the more basic instincts. Says Keller, playing Rose, the femme-fatale captor of Anthony and two other victims: "Armchair psychology does not behoove an empirical behaviorist, Max." Hussey and producer Kathleen Powell call their outfit San Jose Films, and the local locations demonstrate that more films ought to be made here. A final scene in the municipal rose garden features an almost Lynchian use of fauna as a background for retrieved innocence.

As for some of the more flawed films: Fall to Grace has some acutely observed scenes of immigrant life mixed with some speculative ideas of the criminal life. More rehearsal and better fight choreography could have improved Flourish, a favorite at last year's Cinequest for its twists and turns. As the new Cinequest is coming up, offerings from Cinequest online are only going to increase, giving indie filmmakers, and their fans, a reason to browse.


Movie Times For details, see cinequestonline.org; this year's Cinequest runs Feb. 28-March 11.


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