Virtual reality

Cinequest returning with in-person festival this summer

Cinequest is returning to downtown San Jose in August, more than two years after the film festival was halted midway through its last in-person event at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think it will be a great experience,” co-founder and Festival Director Halfdan Hussey said. “The thing about Cinequest is you get people from all walks of life who get together to experience film. It’s going to be fun and joyous being together again.”

I’ve often said that going to Cinequest every year is like going to a family reunion of film nerds, and you’ve got to expect it’ll feel even more like that — even with some new twists. Featuring the event Aug. 16-29 make this the first time in Cinequest’s 32 years it’s been held in the summer, and the festival is taking advantage of the climate by adding an outdoor beer and wine garden.Cinequest founders Kathleen Powell and Halfdan Hussey at the festival’s last in-person event in March 2020. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group) 

The festival also will make use of familiar venues in downtown San Jose — the California Theatre, 3Below Theatres and the Hammer Theatre Center — but the final five days of screenings will be at the Pruneyard Cinemas in Campbell, providing an opportunity to catch encore shows and make the scene at the Cedar Room lounge.

But one thing staying the same is Cinequest’s core mission of introducing new films and filmmakers to Silicon Valley audiences. Hussey said the festival wants to really emphasize how special it is to see the 56 world and U.S. premieres this year. And there will be filmmakers and stars back in-person, too, including this year’s Maverick Spirit Award winners: Comedian and actor Jim Gaffigan will be honored following the opening night screening of his film, “Linoleum,” while actor Alison Brie will receive her award Aug. 17 along with the screening of “Spin Me Round,” which she co-wrote with director Jeff Baena.

Hussey says that COVID-19 is being managed well enough today that he doesn’t anticipate a repeat of 2020, when the festival pulled the plug after its first week — and well before Santa Clara County went into shutdown. For the past two years, audiences have remained engaged with Cinejoy — a virtual spinoff of Cinequest that Hussey says will continue as its own distinct online event. “I’m very proud that before it was mandated, we made the decision to protect our community,” he said. “It was the right thing to do.”

Tickets and passes for the festival are already on sale and the schedule is posted at

VEEP VISITS LOS GATOS: There was quite a commotion Thursday in the southeast hills of Los Gatos caused by a motorcade of police cars and motorcycles and SUVs sporting U.S. flags — followed by news reporters, naturally. That’s what happens when Vice President Kamala Harris comes through town. She was on her way to a big-ticket fundraiser hosted by Microsoft CTO Kevin Scott and his wife, Shannon.

Los Gatos resident Marguerite Padovani watched it all go by and waved at Harris, who waved right back at her. No doubt, the vice president probably feels much better in the friendly atmosphere of the Bay Area than Washington, D.C.

CELEBRATING IN THE MISSION CITY: Santa Clara’s All-City Picnic returns to Central Park this year for July 4, with food trucks, games and live entertainment from the Santa Clara Performance and Elite dance teams, as well as music by the Cocktail Monkeys and the Pop Rocks. The International Swim Center will be open if you want to buy a day pass to cool off, too. The fun starts at noon and runs until 5 p.m. And that early finish means no fireworks show this year, though there are plenty in the valley to choose from, including shows at California’s Great America, San Jose’s Almaden Lake Park and Discovery Meadow.

COMMON MISSION: Via Services, headquartered in Santa Clara, is joining up with Peninsula-based AbilityPath to make a new, combined nonprofit to provide services for people with developmental disabilities. The new organization will be based in Redwood City but have 15 locations throughout the Peninsula and the South Bay.AbilityPath CEO Bryan Neider will be at the helm of the combined group, and Via Services CEO Matt Bell says he will remain on the leadership team, concentrating his work on bringing back the Via West campus in Cupertino. You can dive into the details of the merger at

TRIBUTE TO A VIRTUAL ICON: People of a certain age remember when Elvis Presley, John Lennon, Kurt Cobain or Whitney Houston died. They may not have known these celebrities, but they were such a part of their lives that it was devastating nonetheless.

That’s how my kids — and probably thousands of other members of Generation Z in the Bay Area — felt Thursday night when they heard that a young YouTuber who went by Technoblade had lost his battle with sarcoma.  In a final message for his fans read by his father on his YouTube channel, which had 11 million followers, we learned his name was Alex and he was 23 when he died, but otherwise his full identity remains a mystery. I’ve read he lived — at least for a time — in San Francisco, but YouTube seemed to be his real home. He was known for his humor and his expert Minecraft play, and in an era of online bullying and toxicity, he seems to have been one of the good guys.

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