Musing – Final Thoughts on Cinequest Film Festival 25

I’ve mentioned before how film has followed me and intersected my living, but this year’s Cinequest stirred up a lot of emotions and while it’s always a bit sad at the end of the festival, 25 is going to be a particularly hard one to let go of. I experienced 21 films or screenings during a 2 week period that was, outside of the festival, a particularly exhausting marathon of emotional ups and down for me. It was a seemingly deeper festival this year that mirrored life with its art and made unanticipated waves.  I found myself wanting so many more hours than there were on too many occasions to count. Granted, that’s not a particularly unique request during Cinequest. In fact you hear it in line all the time, Cinequesters agonizing,” I can’t SEE everything I want to see!” and you can’t. That’s the nature of the beast. That’s the game you play and it’s a known gamble. You can’t do it all and you can’t be everywhere, things change and you have to stay flexible. There no schedule, graph, app or calendar that doesn’t get altered. Plan all you want, but you won’t keep to it 100%, because there just isn’t enough time. I suppose my quest for more time somehow just felt more frantic this year.

The larger definition of time aside, it was my own life “reel” that I guess ultimately interfered with my ability to completely embrace the immersive festival life I so look forward to each year. Yes, my own timing, my pacing felt; it felt utterly off to be honest. Perhaps a personal life editor to help strengthen my through lines and tighten up my delivery would have been helpful? A cinematographer to guide my vision a bit more?  It’s odd, I’m not normally prone to such obsessive, sentimental fluctuations. Over thinking, yes, but, I’m steadier and more logical in my life on the whole than the last 2 weeks proved. Whatever the cause, full moons, perfect storms, the significance of milestones, or just really diverse, interesting film, my unusually vulnerable state certainly complicated my festival experience;  a festival which felt very much like one large film to me this go around. Or a song, as if each film was a single lyric, poetry on their own, linking together larger concepts into melodies and ultimately harmonies. There was more connection, more continuity somehow between films this year, my state maybe playing catalyst to such a perspective? With elements surreal and uncontrolled, that led to genuine surprises, swells of pride, tears, painful disappointments, dashed expectations, intellectual flirtations, genuine apathy, a few unexpected moments of courageous joy and even a flash of uncharacteristic abandon; this was a festival that seemed to access my complete catalog.

There were films full of desperation and struggle with a contrasting, comic veneer, like Booze, Boys and Brownies, and troubling tales of co-dependency, destructive depictions, thick with meta pretension like Dirty Beautiful, and there were sparks of refreshing wit in short form like firstworldproblems and Leonard in Slow Motion. There was hidden music and beauty in nature in Unplugged and harsh, pointless, and predictable cruelty in nature in Corn Island. I saw people trying so desperately to connect it took a year of utter disconnection in order to reconnect in The Anniversary. I saw immature displays, triumphant endeavors, superficial undertakings and powerful stories all make an appearance at the festival this year and the rollercoaster took its emotional toll.

Unable to attend as many soirees and meet-ups this year, I was left craving more of the crucial conversation which flows so freely about the city during the festival. Discussion, so vital in coaxing films’ subconscious messages to the skin’s surface, seemed illusive, muted and even entirely missing at points. I craved the words to supplement the language of film, the more familiar to smooth the canyons of understanding left by the more mysterious celluloid whispers. Like inhaling and savoring wine on the tongue, films sometimes are best paired with specific people, moods and knowledge. I was thirsty for more.

This was the festival of anomalous trends. There appeared on my dance card films I thought were totally off the table, and yet they were somehow converted to priorities. There were films I thought I couldn’t live without seeing that were easily abandoned.  I found myself ridiculously swayed as easily by a casual remark as I was by a heavily gesticulated, impassioned defense for a film. I resisted writing the full reviews of the films that failed to utterly break or woo me. I shied away from being respectfully honest and free with my opinions (as is my trademark default) and acquiesced more often than not to being nice or noticeably absent from a conversation (virtual or real) that came too close to dislike or disagreement. And, I guess that’s the key here. Film has, perhaps more for me than any art form, a power to elevate or exacerbate your state of mind and you never quite know which road it will end up taking. It can just as easily cheer you up as it can bring you down.  I found myself wanting to, maybe even needing to agree more than to debate, aiming for elevated heights over the all-consuming, incommensurable lows; as if conversation that was lighter would help to tip the scale. But, film is a chemical reaction and while even the smallest change in conditions can potentially influence the outcome, suppressing your thoughts won’t change the reaction after the reaction has occurred.

Indeed, I finally hit a groove for a couple of days there, the kind of stride you never want to lose; one you never want to tire of, one that sees you choosing your films “correctly,” happily feeding off others, basking and breathing in the comfortable, collective fuel of the Cinequest haze’s influence. Through all the bumps, I was briefly reminded how good it is to just feel. To let things in. To release your grip on judgment and just experience if only for a bit.

Yes a really hard one to see go. It’s going to be a long, long year between now and next festival. I’m blue at the moment and it’s tough to look at next 350+ days as an opportunity to refresh, recharge, and plan in order to approach Cinequest 26 with renewed enthusiasm, just yet. We don’t get a do over though do we? We don’t get a director’s cut. We can’t pick up the pieces on the cutting room floor and make much sense out of them can we? How 1/26th of a year can so completely move and alter you, I’ll never understand, but there you have it. I lost some of myself at this year’s Cinequest, and I guess that’s not an impossibly horrible thing now, is it? 😉

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