A Cinequest 35

Susan Gerhard November 17, 2006

“They see the same future that we see, “ Clayton Allis, director of the film “Falling,” told me at the press conference for Cinequest of San Jose’s new distribution label this past Tuesday at the St. Francis Hotel. His film, he said, had won awards at a number of film festivals, but there were no distributors. “The digital world has figured out production — we now know how to make a high quality film cheaply. But distribution,” he noted, “is the missing link.”

For decades, film festivals have reliably delivered films to audiences seated in theaters. Now at least two — Sundance, included — are bringing them to audiences in their own homes. Cinequest’s plan is to distribute via DVD, the Internet, TV, and some traditional theatrical sales. They opened DVD sales on Nov. 14 with a slate of 35 films they’ve chosen, ranging from documentaries like “Awful Normal,” which one the Best Documentary Award at Cinequest and was featured on Oprah, to independent features, shorts, and international titles. The new initiative partners the Cinequest festival and film institute with the region’s high-tech partners and/or soon-to-be-players: Intel by using its Viiv system for managing digital rights, Jaman (a company launching in January), to build world-cinema-watching communities online, and Netflix, for its DVD-buying audience.

Halfdan Hussey, Cinequest director and co-founder, was eager to connect the new initiative with other technological innovations the Silicon Valley-based group has instituted, including its DVD and HD downloads with Kontiki technologies, which were introduced two years ago. Hussey also emphasized the curatorial focus of Cinequest’s slate. “We love the challenge of a great film that a festival favorite, but that requires more marketing effort,” he told me. “They lack name actors and they’re not genre films.”

Where independent films would frequently be given five weeks or more to develop their audience in the single-screen hey day, Hussey said, the market demands immediate returns now. Hussey is interested in taking advantage of the increasing niche micro market audiences, the proverbial “long tail,” with this project, which, he hopes, will be both profitable, and, compared with most distribution plans, more equitable to the filmmakers involved.

Below, is an opportunity to find your own viewing niche among the titles included in Cinequest Distribution’s launch.

1. “Addison’s Wall”
2. “Amargosa”
3. “Awful Normal”
4. “Black Tape: A Tehran Diary”
5. “Chlorox, Ammonia and Coffee!”
6. “Coma Girl: The State of Grace”
7. “Cry Funny Happy”
8. “Duffy’s Irish Circus”
9. “Fall to Grace”
10. “Falling”
11. “Fandom”
12. “Flourish”
13. “Going Nomad”
14. “Green Chimneys”
15. “Invisible”
16. “Kukumi”
17. “Last of the Spanish Mustangs”
18. “Lustre”
19. “Monkeys and Robots”
20. “Rock and Roll Superhero”
21. “Second Sight: Cinequest Short Films, Volume 1”
22. “Second Sight: Cinequest Short Films, Volume 2”
23. “Second Sight: Cinequest Short Films, Volume 3”
24. “Second Sight: Cinequest Short Films, Volume 4”
25. “Seizing Me”
26. “Set Point”
27. “Shelf Life”
28. “Shelter”
29. “Territory”
30. “Terrorists”
31. “The Forbidden Chapter”
32. “The Last Zapatistas”
33. “The Loss of Nameless Things”
34. “The Poet and the Con”
35. “Villa Paranoia”