Cinequest: Silicon Valley's largest film fest is 'Energized'

Cinequest Film Festival is back in San Jose this week, showcasing independent films from around the world. Producers, writers and actors came out to support the film festival although the strikes in Hollywood continue.  

Every year, Cinequest brings a little bit Hollywood to San Jose and this year is no different. This year's theme is "Energized." Organizers say energy is heightened as people are heading back into movie theaters this summer.   

Cinequest Film Festival opened at the California Theater in San Jose’s Sofa District Tuesday night. Dozens of films will be shown until August 30th, giving independent artists an opportunity to showcase their work to new audiences.  

"As a director, this is magic to me. This is something I’ve been thinking about working on for a long time," said Jennifer Esposito, Director and Producer of film "Fresh Kills". 

Jennifer Esposito is known for her work as an actress, but at this year’s Cinequest, she’s participating as a producer and making her directorial debut with Fresh Kills, the featured film for opening night in San Jose. It’s a mob genre film that centers around the women who live that life.  

"I knew that this was a genre that focused on the men. I grew up around women in this culture and they had voices. They had powerful voices and they had stories. I thought this is something we need to tell. Why haven’t we seen this?" Esposito said. 

Silicon Valley’s largest film festival includes films from multiple categories including documentaries, short films, thrillers, comedy, and sci-fi. Actor Phillip Andre Botello is starring in the film Fallen Drive and says even as actors and writers strike, people’s passion for the industry remains. The Screen Actors Guild recently decided it will no longer offer interim agreements for independent filmmakers during negotiations with studios. 

"When I show up for these films as you will see, I hope you show up on Friday. I believe in these films, I give my craft my soul. So we just want everyone to be compensated fairly," Botello said.   

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As Cinequest filmmakers walked the red carpet, Fresh Kills Producer Leslie Owen says creating movies is rewarding but no easy task and spoke of some of the obstacles they face.    

"There’s always the challenge of budget that comes up and schedule. We were shooting in the dead of winter in New York during COVID. We were at the tail end of COVID, Staten Island, winter like you wouldn’t believe. So, it was not easy," Owen said.   

Cinequest is being held in two locations: San Jose and Mountain View so you should check the schedule for films. They’ll have a second opening night on August 24th in Mountain View at the Show Place Theater. 

KTVU asked people about writers and actors being on strike, but many of them said out of respect for negotiations, they weren’t going to comment.