Will AI transform filmmaking and creativity?

Following a sizzling virtual Cinejoy season this summer,  Cinequest Film & Creativity Festival returns in person August 15th–30th. The theme for this year’s in-person festival is Energized; it will showcase the latest among some of the world’s best films and technology, and conversations with the artists who made them. In keeping with its tech-meets-film vision, the Silicon Valley-based festival this year has added a conversation series that explores the buzzy topic of what happens when artificial intelligence intersects with human creativity. This thought leadership forum will bring together AI luminaries to examine how filmmakers in particular can prepare for the future of storytelling.

“After a fantastic, global Cinejoy Virtual Festival in March…it’s time to welcome back our previous community and welcome new film and event lovers to the beloved Cinequest experience,” said H Hussey, Cinequest Co-Founder & CEO.  “We’re going to gather to discover the latest and greatest films, tech, artists, and fans from Silicon Valley and around the world…”

 In addition to Cinequest’s usual San Jose venues, this year the state-of-the-art ShowPlace ICON Theatre in Mountain View will also host some of the events. 

The in-person summer festival lineup includes 253 films (82 of which are World or US Premieres) along with hundreds of presenting artists from over 50 countries, live spotlight events, and interactive Passport, Group Share, and Screening Party experiences.

This year’s South Asian spotlight films include:

Danny Goes Aum 

This is a scene from Danny Goes to Aum. A smiling woman in a green, knitted spaghetti top is sitting on a beach holding a fruit in her hand. (Image courtesy:Cinequest)
A scene from Danny Goes Aum. (Image courtesy: Cinequest)

Image courtesy: Cinequest

Director and Producer: Sandeep Mohan 

Cast: Andrew Sloman, Anjali Patil, Marianne Borgo, Avinash Kuri, Eunice Wlcek

A spiritual and emotional journey of a burned-out British video editor Danny, as he travels to the same beach town in Goa (India) where his hippie parents had met back in the 70’s during the heydays of hippiedom. There, he finds inspiration…and, could that be love, too?  

The Effects of Lying 

This is a scene from the film, Effects of Lying. It shows a man running 
 away from a house, with 2 women and another man running behind him. (Image courtesy: Cinequest)
A scene from Effects of Lying (Image courtesy: Cinequest)

Director: Isher Sahota

Cast: Ace Bhatti, Laila Rouass, Lauren Patel, Navin Chowdry, and Shaheen Khan; as well as the “Harry Potter” franchise’s Mark Williams (Arthur Weasley).

Dutiful Husband and loving father, Naveen’s life falls apart when decades of festering secrets are exposed, and he’s forced to face up to who he really is. A brilliant comedy with real heart that brings a new, urgent representation of contemporary South Asian families to our screens.

Land of Gold 

This is a scene from the film, Land of Gold. It shows a man with a girl holding his hand. Both look anguished. (Image courtesy: Cinequest)
A scene from Land of Gold. (Image courtesy: Cinequest)

Director: Nardeep Khurmi

Cast: Nardeep Khurmi, Caroline Valencia, Pallavi Sastry, Riti Sachdeva, Iqbal Theba

When Kiran Singh (Nardeep Khurmi), a first generation Punjabi-American truckdriver and expectant father, hears pounding coming from inside his truck’s trailer, he finds Elena (Caroline Valencia), a young Mexican-American girl towed away onboard. Kiran’s already tumultuous life takes a drastic turn as he seeks to reunite her with her family. As the pair ride across the changing American landscape, Kiran faces what it means to be a father while Elena learns how to trust again. They connect through family, dreams of the future, and a healthy debate over God’s existence, all while the ghosts of the past, racially charged encounters, and the threat of I.C.E. linger over their journey.


This is a  scene from the film Privacy. Two female cops are talking to each other in a police control room (Image courtesy: Cinequest)
A scene from Privacy. (Image courtesy: Cinequest)

Image courtesy: Cinequest

Director: Sudeep Kanwal

Cast: Rajshri Deshpande, Nishank Verma, Sandesh Kulkarni, Saurabh Goyal, Chhaya Kadam

A social thriller set in and out of Mumbai slums. It follows the story of Roopali, who works at the Mumbai surveillance command and control center as an operator. While being ambitious, she constantly fights her own guilt and resists her dark past. Things start to get complicated when Roopali ignores protocol and begins to investigate a robbery/murder that takes place on her watch.

Shadow of the Night 

This is a scene from Shadow of the Night. It shows the side profile of a seated man in a bowler hat holding a gun (Image courtesy: Cinequest)
A scene from Shadow of the Night (Image courtesy: Cinequest)

Director: Radhakrishnan Parthiban

Cast: Radhakrishnan Parthiban

Nandhu, a wealthy, film financier is absconding from the media and the police, wanted in connection with a death for which he may be responsible. With his wife and child gone, he finds no will to stick around. Trying to get away from everything and everyone, he journeys through the struggles of his internal guilt, whiles searching for the man responsible for it all. It is a tale about a man, searching for a tiny speck of light, ignoring the shadow that walks behind him; not realizing that the shadow is evidence of light’s existence.

 A visually-powerful cinematic experience with a beautiful score by the legendary A.R. Rahman, this is the first film to tell a non-linear story with a single shot. Ten years of writing, two years of production design, ninety days of rehearsals, and almost 350 crew members contributed to bringing this stunning movie to the screen.

Tabula Rasa  (Kora Kagazz)

This is a scene from Tabula Rasa. It shows a smiling girl holding a book, and leaning against a book shelf (Image courtesy: Cinequest)
A scene from Tabula Rasa (Image courtesy: Cinequest)

Director: Nawneet Ranjan

Cast: Rajat Kapoor, Swastika Mukherjee, Aishani Yadav

Three lost souls in India find a home away from home. Divya, a juvenile home warden, and Vivek, an actor struggling to create art, meet Sandhya, a 14-year old girl with a dark past. Together, they rise above their circumstances. When both of Sandhya’s parents fall victim to crop failure, she is forced to live with her abusive uncle in Mumbai. Through the strength instilled in her by her mother, Sandhya will not put up with her uncle’s actions. But when she takes a stand, it lands her in a juvenile reform home, directed by Warden Divya, where she will live until she turns eighteen.

Meanwhile, Vivek, a man in his early forties, struggles to come to terms with an unfulfilled acting career. One of Vivek’s saving graces is his ability to use his performance training during workshop sessions in the juvenile home, where he helps the children understand their emotional cores. It is through these sessions that all of their lives will change, and Sandhya, Vivek, and Divya, will fight their demons. But, will they emerge unscathed?

Before Dawn, Kabul Time (short film)

This is a scene from Before Dawn: Kabul Time. It shows a woman on the phone with a worried look on her face (Image courtesy: Cinequest)
A scene from Before Dawn: Kabul Time (Image courtesy: Cinequest)

Director: Tara Motamedi

Cast: Wida Karim, Neagheen Homaifar

On the final day of the American withdrawal from Afghanistan, a prosecutor in Kabul seeks the help of a journalist in California to get evacuated before the Taliban takes full control of the country and captures her.

Since Cinequest has expanded into Mountain View; there will be two opening nights:

Tuesday, August 15th, San Jose: Cinequest kicks off at the California Theatre and includes a star-studded red carpet, the screening of the drama Fresh Kills (featuring a Q&A with Jennifer Esposito), and an after party.

Thursday, August 24th, Mountain View: Cinequest’s second opening night occurs at the ShowPlace ICON Theatre and also includes a red carpet, a screening of the drama Sometimes I Think About Dying starring Daisy Ridley (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”), and a swanky meetup after.

Closing Night: On Wednesday, August 30th, Cinequest’s closing night film, Story Ave, starring Luis Guzmán screens at the ICON in Mountain View followed by an after-party celebrating the works of this year’s visionaries and rising stars.

Tickets and Info here.

Mona Shah is a multi-platform storyteller with expertise in digital communications, social media strategy, and content curation for Twitter and LinkedIn for C-suite executives. A journalist and editor,...