As a kid, Halfdan Hussie used to dream about seeing his name on a movie screen. While sitting in the darkened arthouse theater where his father worked as a projectionist, he’d often picture it.
“I would see their names at the end there and think, ‘how did they do that?’”
He wrote his first script in the late ’80s while working as a cab driver in New York. The movie, 1989’s He’s Still Here, about a man who projects his problems onto his love interests, made it into that year’s Venice Film Festival. Having quickly achieved a goal from childhood, the experience immediately struck Hussey with a brand-new idea.
“We were so taken that these people cared about us and that there were people coming from all around the world to meet and talk about film. That part of it so floored us that we decided, ‘why don’t we give this experience back to others?’”
Hussey founded Cinequest with partner Kathleen Powell in 1990, the first festival premiering that year in theaters all across San Jose. Now, 32 years later, this year’s festival includes more than 200 films, roughly half of which are world premieres. There are thrillers and comedies, documentaries and mind-benders. Marquee films include the sci-fi dramedy Linoleum with Jim Gaffigan and Rhea Seehorn, and Spin Me Round with Alison Brie and Aubrey Plaza. For the first time, the festival also includes an outdoor beer and wine garden in front of the California Theatre.
“Coming back in person and getting folks together is amazing,” Hussey says. “We’re really excited about getting people together again.”
With so many films screening it is well-nigh impossible for a viewer to see everything during the festival’s two-week run (“Some say it’s the most complicated film festival in the world,” Hussey admits), but we’ve taken a look at some of the highlights for our faithful readers, a humble smattering of this year’s many big-name features, up-and-comers and local spotlights. After all, Cinequest is about helping out the film fan in all of us.
“Over time I’ve learned you get more satisfaction helping someone else do it,” Hussey says. “There’s a tremendous feeling when you help someone exhibit their movie and connect with audiences. There’s a power in that.”