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Cinequest Film & Creativity Festival facts for kids

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Cinequest Film & Creativity Festival
Location San Jose and Redwood City, California United States of America
Founded 1990
Language English

The Cinequest Film & Creativity Festival is an annual independent film festival held each March in San Jose, California and Redwood City, California. The international festival combines the cinematic arts with Silicon Valley’s innovation. 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 over 130 world or U.S. premieres from over 30 countries, the festival hosts writer's events including screenwriting competitions, a shorts program, technology and artistic forums and workshops, student programs, and a silent film accompanied on the theatre organ. Founded in 1990 as the Cinequest Film Festival, the festival was rebranded in 2017 as the Cinequest Film & VR Festival and expanded beyond downtown San Jose to Redwood City. It took its present name in 2019.


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. In 2014 the festival showed 84 world premieres, by film makers in 43 countries, including one filmed using an iPhone.

The festival expanded to ten days in 2000, Cinequest Online was launched in 2004 and Cinequest Mavericks Studio in 2010. and in 2017 changed its name to the Cinequest Film & VR Festival, to reflect the major role of Silicon Valley in developing virtual reality. In 2019, the festival was rebranded as Cinequest Film & Creativity Festival and occurred March 5 – 17, 2019. That year it held events at the California Theatre, Hammer Theatre Center, Camera 3 Cinemas, Redwood City Century Downtown 20, and Fairmont Hotel.

In 2019, the festival was again renamed to the Cinequest Film & Creativity Festival in recognition of the many creative experiences presented each year including film, virtual and augmented realities, comedy, television, fashion, art and design, dance, and more. The 30th-anniversary 2020 festival, scheduled for March 3 – 15, 2020 in San Jose and Redwood City, has Elation as its theme; the second week was postponed to August because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

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". USA Today readers voted Cinequest as the best Film Festival.


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 Awards

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
2018 Nicolas Cage

Tatiana Maslany

Andie MacDowell

2019 Bill Nighy

Elle Fanning

Esther Wojcicki

2020 ruth weiss

Hong Chau

Maverick Innovator Awards

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

Year Honoree
2014 Marty Cooper
Matthew Modine

Media Legacy Awards

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

Year Honoree
2014 Kenneth Turan
Harry Knowles
Eric Kohn
2015 Anne Thompson
Richard von Busack
2016 Owen Gleiberman
2018 Ben Mankiewicz

Film Awards

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.

Virtual and Augmented Reality Awards

  • Best Immersive
  • Best VR Film
  • Best AR Experience
  • Best Game
  • Best Mixed or Volumetric Reality

Notable debuts

Independent films that premiered at Cinequest and went on to further distribution by a major movie studio:

Year Films
2001 Maze
The Adventures of Barry Ween
2002 Blue Car
2003 Hukkle
Robot Stories
2004 I.P.O.
The Agronomist
The Praying Mantis
One Man Show
The Story of the Weeping Camel
2005 Accordion Tribe
The Civilization of Maxwell Bright
2006 Edmond
Thank You for Smoking
Midnight Clear
The Hamiltons
2007 The Namesake
A Dog's Breakfast
Blood Car
On the Doll
Monster Camp
2008 Dear Zachary
Sherman's Way
The Village Barbershop
The Sinking of Santa Isabel
The Art of Travel
Tokyo Sonata
El Camino
Critical Condition
Witch Hunt
Family Inc
2009 All About Dad
Billy Was a Deaf Kid
Blue Road
Heart of Stone
Historias Extraordinarias
The Nature of Existence
The Skeptic
2010 Anyone You Want
Cost of a Soul
The Desert of Forbidden Art
Gabi on the Roof in July
Hell is Other People
Kill the Habit
The Real Revolutionaries
Tercer Mundo
To Whom It May Concern: Ka Shen's Journey
Invisible Strings: The Talented Pusker Sisters
2011 Mimesis
I'm Yours
2012 The Village Barbershop
The Sinking of Santa Isabel
Portrait of a Zombie
The Ghastly Love of Johnny X
Forgetting the Girl
The Harsh Light of Day
Bel Borba Aqui
Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet
2020 Before the Fire

Oscar nominees

Cinequest is a qualifying festival, with the Best Narrative Short and Best Animated Short both being eligible for an Academy Award. 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)