Open main menu

The Cinequest Film Festival is an annual independent film festival held each March in San Jose, California. The international festival combines the cinematic arts with Silicon Valley’s innovation. The prior festival was called Cinequest Film & Creativity Festival 2019 and occurred March 5 – 17, 2019. The 2018 festival was held February 27, 2018 – March 11, 2018. It is produced by Cinequest, a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization that is also responsible for Picture The Possibilities and the distribution label Cinequest Mavericks Studio LLC. Cinequest awards the annual Maverick Spirit Awards. In addition to the over 130 World or U.S. premieres from over 30 countries, it hosts writer's events which includes screenwriting competitions, a shorts programs, technology and artistic forums and workshops, student programs, and a theatre organ accompanied silent film. In 2017 the festival was rebranded as the Cinequest Film & VR Festival and expanded beyond downtown San Jose to Redwood City, California. It took place from February 28 to March 12, 2017.[1][2]

Cinequest Film Festival
LocationSan Jose and Redwood City, California United States of America



Filmmakers Halfdan Hussey and Kathleen Powell founded Cinequest in 1990. That year the festival showed 60 films in a single theater, the Camera 3 Cinemas in San Jose; 3,000 people attended. By 2013 there were 100,000 attendees.[3] In 2014 the festival showed 84 world premieres, by film makers in 43 countries, including one filmed using an iPhone.[4] For 2017, Cinequest holds events at the California Theatre, Hammer Theatre Center, Camera 3 Cinemas, Redwood City Century Downtown 20, and Fairmont Hotel.[5]

Cinequest Film Festival has gained a reputation as a discovery event: Chris Gore's Ultimate Film Festival Survival Guide recommends it as showing "the future of film".[3] USA Today readers voted Cinequest as the best Film Festival.[6]

The festival expanded to ten days in 2000.[7] Cinequest Online was launched in 2004[8] and Cinequest Mavericks Studio in 2010.[9] In 2017, the festival was rebranded as the Cinequest Film & VR Festival, to reflect the major role of Silicon Valley in developing virtual reality.[10]


Cinequest offers several awards during the festival season. The Maverick Spirit Awards, the Maverick Innovator Awards, and the Media Legacy Awards highlight notable individuals in film and technology. The Maverick Individual awards are given to films at the conclusion of the festival via jury and audience voting.

Maverick Spirit AwardsEdit

The Maverick Spirit Award is given to influential individuals who embody the independent and innovative mindset. It is the most prestigious award given at the Cinequest Film Festival. Over the past 27 years, Cinequest has honored the following artists:

Year Honoree
1990 Jon Jost
1992 Lena Stolze
1993 Paul Bartel
Carl Franklin
1994 Russ Meyer
Werner Herzog
John Waters
1996 Luis Valdez
1997 Jennifer Jason Leigh
1998 Kevin Spacey
Elmer Bernstein
Jackie Chan
Walter Murch
John Schlesinger
Barry Sonnenfeld
1999 Gabriel Byrne
Rod Steiger
2000 Robert M. Young
Dario Argento
Alec Baldwin
Wes Craven
Peter Fonda
2002 Lalo Schifrin
David Strathairn
Lili Taylor
Ian McKellen
2003 Stephen Frears
Lupe Ontiveros
William H. Macy
Val Kilmer
James Woods
2004 Arnold Schwarzenegger
Kurt Miller
2005 Blanchard Ryan
Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah
Ben Kingsley
Jon Polito
2006 Edward James Olmos
2007 Stewart Copeland
Minnie Driver
Christine Vachon
J.J. Abrams
Christopher McQuarrie
2008 Michael Keaton
Danny Glover
2009 Kevin Pollak
Louis Gossett Jr.
Diablo Cody
2010 Benjamin Bratt
Deepak Chopra
Terry Zwigoff
2011 Bethany Hamilton
John Turturro
Alyson Stoner
2012 Terence Davies
Philip Kaufman
Elliott Gould
2013 Harrison Ford
Salman Rushdie
Chuck Palahniuk
2014 Neil Gaiman
Christopher Meloni
2015 John Boorman
Rosario Dawson
2016 Rita Moreno
James Franco
2017 Fred Armisen
Jane Lynch
Jason Reitman

Maverick Innovator AwardsEdit

The Media Innovator Award honors technologists whose thoughts, methods and innovations have significantly advanced their industries, their careers, and the world.[11] Cinequest has honored the following people:

Year Honoree
2014 Marty Cooper
Matthew Modine

Media Legacy AwardsEdit

The Media Legacy Award, inaugurated in 2014, honors film journalists, "the champions who provide audiences and, thus, life blood for artists and films".[12] Cinequest has honored the following people:

Year Honoree
2014 Kenneth Turan
Harry Knowles
Eric Kohn
2015 Anne Thompson[13]
Richard von Busack
2016 Owen Gleiberman

Film AwardsEdit

Several awards are given on the closing night of the festival to individual films selected either by a panel of judges or by audience surveys and votes. The most noteworthy awards are:

  • Top Film - Awarded to the best film in any category
  • Best Documentary Feature
  • Best First Feature - Awarded for a director's first feature-length film
  • Best Short Narrative Film
  • Audience Favorite Narrative - Awarded to the most popular narrative film based on audience surveys and screening attendance
  • Audience Favorite Documentary - Awarded to the most popular documentary film based om audience surveys and screening attendance

Listed below are all of Cinequest's awards:

Maverick Film Competition

  • Maverick Spirit Award (Feature Film)
  • Best First Feature
  • Best Documentary Feature
  • Best Short Narrative
  • Best Short Animation
  • Best Short Documentary
  • Best Student Short

New Visions Program

  • New Visions Award (Feature Film)

Global Landscapes

  • Global Vision Award (Feature Film)

Screenplay Competition

  • Screenplay Award (1st, 2nd, and 3rd places recognized)

Audience Award

  • Audience Award Narrative Feature
  • Audience Award Documentary Feature
  • Audience Award Short Film

Also awarded at Cinequest:

Kaiser Permanente Thrive Award

Kaiser Permanente Thrive Award is given to the most inspiring and life affirming film.

Notable debutsEdit

Oscar nomineesEdit

Cinequest is a qualifying festival, with the Best Narrative Short and Best Animated Short both being eligible for an Academy Award.[15] Short films shown at Cinequest that have received nominations for Academy Awards include:

Year Short Films
2001 Copy Shop

Gregor's Greatest Invention

2002 Das Rad
2003 The Weather Underground
2004 (A) Torzija
2005 Ryan (Won)
Little Terrorist
2006 Cashback
The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello
Our Time is Up

Binta and the Great Idea

2011 The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (Won)
Wild Life

Time Freak

2012 Buzkashi Boys
2013 Room on the Broom
2014 "Mr. Hublot (Won)"
2015 Bear Story (Won)
2016 Pearl


Films shown at Cinequest that have received nominations for Academy Awards include:

Year Films
2004 The Story of the Weeping Camel
2012 The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
2013 The Hunt
2014 Wild Tales

IDA (Won)


  1. ^ "Our Vision". Cinequest.
  2. ^ "Cinequest: We pick the top films at San Jose's famed fest".
  3. ^ a b Sebade, Brett; Burt, Kyle (February 28, 2014). "Festival Spotlight Friday: Onwards and Upwards with Cinequest 2014". MovieMaker.
  4. ^ Dawn, Randee (March 1, 2014). "Cinequest Fest Blends High Tech With Cinematic Arts". Variety.
  5. ^ "2017 Cinequest Festival Guide" (PDF).
  6. ^ "10Best Readers' Choice: Best Film Festival winners". USA TODAY.
  7. ^ Harvey, Dennis (February 17, 2000). "Cinequest expands". Variety.
  8. ^ Harvey, Dennis (March 10, 2004) [March 9, 2004]. "San Jose fest to fete Arnold". Variety.
  9. ^ McNary, Dave (September 10, 2010). "Fest-distrib Cinequest bows a prod'n shingle". Variety.
  10. ^ Veronin, Nick; Edalatpour, Jeffrey (February 22, 2017). "Being There: With new focus on VR, Cinequest aims to spark imagination and transport viewers". Metro Silicon Valley. pp. 10–11.
  11. ^ Burt, Kyle (March 2014). "Famed Author Neil Gaiman, Matthew Modine, & Father of Cell Phone Cinequest Maverick Spirit Award Recipients" (PDF) (press release). Cinequest. Retrieved February 26, 2017.
  12. ^ Burt, Kyle (March 2014). "Cinequest Debuts Media Legacy Award" (PDF) (press release). Cinequest. Retrieved February 26, 2017.
  13. ^ Hussey, Halfdan (March 2015). "Wild Tales: Media Legacy - Anne Thompson". Cinequest. Retrieved February 26, 2017.
  14. ^ "Cinequest Programming Highlights: Notable Films Receiving Distribution After Cinequest Premiere". Cinequest.
  15. ^ "90th Academy Awards Short Films Qualifying Festival List" (PDF).

Further readingEdit

  • Daily, G. (2004). "Cinequest's Maverick Approach to Streaming". Emedia. 17 (6): 10–12.

External linksEdit