Cinequest 21 Film Festival Review

03|20|2011

It began with passion (Passione), progressed with true inner beauty (Desert Flower) and humorous inspiration (Dying to do Letterman), and ended with a soul of triumph (Soul Surfer). These were just a handful of remarkable films that made their debut at this year’s Cinequest 21 film festival.

In its 21st year of featuring magnificent films, profiling exceptional filmmakers, and hosting one-of-a-kind events, Cinequest 21 delivered a film experience that will stay with all film-lovers who participated in this year’s leading film event.

Among the film screenings, after-parties and film forums, Cinequest 21 also offered a unique opportunity for the movie-loving public to meet the filmmakers, directors and actors of many of the films that premiered at this year’s festival. At the Maverick MeetUps, which took place every night during the two-week event at different downtown San Jose hot-spots, film enthusiasts who possessed special film screening passes had the chance to have a drink and discuss the films with the creative and innovative people who produced them. This exclusive opportunity allotted those outside the film industry to get a true insider’s look into the film-making process and all that goes into getting a story idea from paper to the big screen.

The Cinequest film festival is also exceptional because of its passionate mission to profile current and emerging Mavericks of film. This year, the recipients included: actor, director and screenwriter, John Turturro (Passione), who was presented with the Maverick Spirit Award; actresses, Alyson Stoner (Camp Rock) and AnnaSophia Robb (Soul Surfer), who both received the Emerging Maverick Award; and the truly inspirational, professional surfer, Bethany Hamilton, who received the Life of a Maverick Award, after her life-story was told on screen with the premiere of the soul-grasping film, “Soul Surfer.”

Bethany Hamilton, director Sean McNamara, and AnnaSophia Robb.

“Soul Surfer,” an adaptation of Bethany’s biography about her experience with the shark attack that took her left arm while she was surfing with friends in Hawaii in 2003, was one of the most inspirational true-life stories that premiered at this year’s film festival. A scene in the film that revealed Bethany’s true character was when she was presented with a prosthetic arm. Instead of wanting the arm for aesthetic purposes, she wanted an arm that could help her grasp her surf board. However, after the prosthetic proved to be futile in helping her with her goal, Bethany decided to ditch the arm and develop her upper-body strength so she could surf with her remaining arm. Also as shown in the film, and in her daily life, Bethany does not try to hide what remains of her missing arm. She proudly wears tank-tops and short-sleeve tops that reveal her badge of survival and bravery.

AnnaSophia Robb, who portrayed Bethany in the film, along with Bethany Hamilton and director Sean McNamara, were in attendance for the premiere of the film.

AnnaSophia Robb with Bethany Hamilton

AnnaSophia Robb (Tim Burton’s adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), gave an extraordinary and emotional performance as the courageous and resilient Bethany Hamilton. Her enthusiasm, professionalism, and true passion for the role were evident in her performance. Only 17, AnnaSophia Robb is surely a talent to look out for, as she may just be the next great actress of her generation.

Upon the screening of the film, AnnaSophia Robb and Bethany Hamilton were invited on to the stage to receive their distinguished Maverick Awards, and to take questions about the film and about their professional lives by Cinequest co-founder, Kathleen Powell.

When asked about whether she was afraid to get back in the water after the attack, Bethany stated, “Over time, I wanted to try surfing again. Rather than being afraid of the sharks, I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to do it [surf]…Now I’m competing as a professional surfer around the world…I leave tomorrow for Australia for my first competition of the year.”

Through her humor, charm, and natural charisma, it was obvious that the audience was falling for Bethany with every question she answered.

When asked about what message she wants to share through her story, Bethany explained, “I want to encourage people in their lives and to show that God loves them and He loves me. And even though it seems like such a horrible thing to happen [shark attack], look at all the good that has come out of it–being able to just inspire people when they are having a hard time. Even to inspire young girls who may be having self-conscious, body issues…I think the message in this film can reach every age-range in the audience.”

Through her conversation with Kathleen, and also in the film, it was evident that Bethany and her family are devoutly religious and have a strong relationship with Jesus Christ. It was through her faith that Bethany had the inner strength that helped her not only overcome her challenging ordeal, but she was able to turn a negative occurrence into a positive one. Also, her commitment and love for Jesus Christ allowed her to accept her destiny, and with time, Bethany realized that what happened to her was for a reason and for a greater purpose–she was meant to be more than a surfer. She was meant to touch lives with her inspirational, undying courage and inner strength.

As she ended her conversation with Kathleen, Bethany stated that, “I just try to take it one day at a time. I’m just going to continue with my passion and love for surfing. I love competing, traveling, exploring new things, and also encouraging other people through my life, and just sharing the love with Jesus Christ.”

“Soul Surfer” opens in theaters on April 8, 2011.

After 21 years of soul-stirring films, memorable events, and extraordinarily talented people, Cinequest 21 has once again delivered an exceptional film experience.

For more information about this year’s film festival and about the films that premiered, please visit:

http://www.cinequest.org/indexCQ.php

For more information about Bethany Hamilton and her film “Soul Surfer,” please visit:

http://bethanyhamilton.com/

http://www.soulsurferthemovie.com/

For more information about John Turturro and his film “Passione,” please visit:

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001806/bio

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1407085/

For more information about comedian, Steve Mazan and his film “Dying to do Letterman,” please visit:

http://www.stevemazan.com/

http://www.dyingtodoletterman.com/

For more information about Waris Dirie and her film “Desert Flower,” please visit:

http://www.desertflowerfoundation.org/en/about-waris-dirie/

http://www.desertflower-movie.com/

Film Festival Review and Event Photos by Sophia M. Papadopoulos

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