Tag Archives: Cinequest

San Jose’s Virtual Cinequest 2021 Features Indian Origin Films

Every year around this time, the community of film lovers mingles with film creators, directors, and artists at the Cinequest Film Festival in San Jose downtown’s many theaters. Giving film artists and film lovers a rare opportunity to connect at nightly soirees, the fun part about attending the film festival is a chance to talk to other people about the experience.

However, Covid times call for a pivot, and though there won’t be any in-person screenings, Cinequest is coming back with a virtual edition. Cinejoy, as the online edition is being called, will run March 20-30, with more than 150 U.S. and world premiere movies featured in the Showcase lineup and several high-profile movies in the Spotlight portion. The Showcase films can be viewed anytime by passholders but the 12 Spotlight movies will be shown at specific times.

Zoom parties can never really replicate the magic of the nightly parties, where you converse with like-minded film lovers, filmmakers, and performers, but Cinejoy is attempting to create a sense of community with Zoom-hosted “screening parties.” Ticketholders can host one or join in someone else’s.

Here is a sneak peek into films of Indian origin:


A glorious love story about transformation and giving in to the things we want most. While on her journey to fetch medicine to treat her sick father, a woman falls in love, gets married, and hopes to lead the life she wanted. But, even the Gods of Nature disapprove. A journey that explores the unexplored and challenges what we view as “normal.”

Horse Tail 

An alcoholic bank employee from Chennai has to solve a strange mystery: why did he wake up one morning with a horse’s tail?

Ghastly Fowl 

A stark, beautifully animated short story that sheds light on what human destruction is doing to our beautiful planet.

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, her experience spans television, cable news, and magazines. An avid traveler and foodie, she loves artisan food and finding hidden gems: restaurants, recipes, destinations. She can be reached at: mona@indiacurrents.com

Indian Stars and Stunning Cinema at Cinequest

Cinequest Film & Creativity Festival (March 5-17) showcases emerging and legendary artists, in a dynamic 13-day event showcasing 132 World and U.S. premiere films and VR from 56 countries. Fusing the community of film lovers with film creators, the festival engages audiences in thought-provoking dialogue, giving film artists and film lovers a rare opportunity to connect. This year five films depicting Indian themes are showcased.  

The films are showing at California Theatre, Hammer Theatre Center, 3 Below (formerly Camera 3 Cinemas) and the Century Downtown 20 (Redwood City)

Film details are below.

Cinequest’s Opening Night is supercharged with Nandita Das presenting her powerhouse Manto, starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui (The Lunchbox), plus added entertainment.

Love Dev Patel? Showcased are his two latest hits:  

Hotel Mumbai, starring Patel & Armie Hammer. USA has 9/11. India has 26/11: The 26th of November 2008. The day that changed everything—when enemies attacked and attempted to break everything held dear. Everything except the spirit of the city.

The Wedding Guest, Directed by Michael Winterbottom (A Mighty Heart) and Patel. A wedding is supposed to be the happiest day of a girl’s life. This one turns out to be a nightmare. 

The U.S. Premiere of Widow of Silence: Seven years ago, in the middle of the night, Aasiya’s husband was picked up by army officers. Through her quiet strength, she carries her family, but she can’t keep juggling between her past and the present. 
Rising stars Indian – American star director Pari Mathur and actress Jaya Prasad present Lucky Fifty. Two struggling young actors, Jay and Monica, are brought together by happenstance, and after finding $50 on the street, they spend a day together loving life and forgetting their troubles.

Mona Shah is a multi-platform storyteller with expertise in digital communications, social media strategy, and content curation for Twitter, Facebook for C-suite executives. A journalist and editor, her experience spans television, cable news and magazines. 


Exclusive: Interview With Nandita Das


With more than forty films in her rich and lengthy resumé, Nandita Das can rightfully claim the status of a bona fide Indian and global film star and bask in the warm glow of klieg lights and the heady aura of celebrity. As the translation of her name from Hindi to English suggests, she could just be “happy.” But, despite her glamorous looks and storied career, Das has always used her talent and status to pursue higher ground, to strive toward making the world a better place through art.

San Jose’s  Cinequest Film Festival opens with Nandita Das receiving the prestigious Maverick Spirit Award and presenting her sweeping biopic, Manto.

Here is IndiaCurrents writer Mona Shah in conversation with Das about her inspiration and art.

IC: Manto is a moving and gorgeously crafted look at the work and life of India’s beloved and controversial writer, Saadat Hasan Manto. What was your inspiration for taking up this biographical project? Did you envision it unfolding the way it did?

ND: Thank you! What drew me to Manto was his free spirit and his courage to stand up to orthodoxy of all kinds. I was struck by his simple yet profound narratives and the way he insightfully captured the people, politics and times he lived in. He wrote as he saw, as he felt, without dilution, and with a rare sensitivity and empathy for his characters. I had read Manto in college but it was only in 2012, his centenary year, when so much was being written about him; that encouraged me to delve deeper. For the first time I read his essays, and that helped me hit upon the idea of expanding beyond his stories to telling his story, which was just as interesting and powerful. It took me 5 years to feel equipped, both emotionally and creatively, to tell this story that so needed to be told.

There are a hundred factors that impact the process of filmmaking so it can never be what one had envisioned. All I can say is that it was the most challenging thing I have ever done and I gave it all I had. It has been a huge learning experience and therefore I have no regrets.

IC: It took you over 4 years to research the film, what pitfalls did you encounter? How did you go about doing the research?

ND: Once I knew I wanted to make a film on the life and works of Manto, I began reading his works quite extensively and also read what others had to say about him. He was a very prolific writer, so it was not possible to be fully exhaustive. I did not grow up in an Urdu-speaking household, so it was harder for me to read him in the original language. I took the help of many, in particular, Mir Ali Hussain, who lives in New York and Saeed Ahmed, who lives in Lahore. I feel fortunate that I had the opportunity to meet and speak at length with Manto’s daughters and his grand-niece, the eminent historian Ayesha Jalal. Ayesha’s book, ‘Pity of Partition – Manto’s Life, Times, and Work across the India-Pakistan Divide’, and the one she wrote on Manto’s centenary along with Manto’s youngest daughter, Nusrat Jalal, were some of the first gifts I got from the family. Manto died young, at 42, so there are very few people that are living who actually met him. Manto’s sister-in-law, Zakia Jalal, who also features in the film, is in her late 70s and was a big help. She and his daughters told me things I could never have found in any book. Through the process of the film, I became very close to the family. Manto, the husband, the father, the friend – these relationships I could only understand through the important nuggets shared with me. The whole process of researching and writing the script was time consuming and hectic but that is what formed the backbone of the film. It took 4 long years of research, many books and others’ inputs, working through several drafts of the script, for me to tell this story.

IC: Manto is being showcased as the opening night film at Cinequest, do you consider it a mainstream movie? 

ND: I do not like to label films as mainstream or art. Every filmmaker wants their film to be viewed by the widest audience possible and every investor wants his or her money back. Having said that, some films like Manto, are not driven by commercial success and are independent in their thinking and in the telling of their stories. And therefore, they are termed niche, parallel, art-house and independent cinema. Also, the producers and distributors have pre-conceived notions about it and therefore often don’t give it a fair chance at the box office. When there is no level playing field, how will we know if the film failed because it was too niche or because it was badly marketed and distributed. This is clear to me – seeing the overwhelming feedback we have been getting from people who are watching it on Netflix. I think people in our country and globally, are connecting to the story because in the end, it is a human story of struggle and courage and the will to speak out and to be your own self – something we all struggle with.

IC: How do you think a diverse, non-Indian audience will relate to him and to the subject and will they walk away with something to think about?

ND: Many of the issues that Manto grappled with – freedom of expression and dangers of identity politics, the question of who belongs where and the need to be free-spirited,  are not limited to any region or language. When a film is true to its context, but universal in its emotion, it crosses national boundaries. The reaction to the film at the screenings at various film festivals, be it at Cannes, Busan, Toronto or Sydney has only strengthened my belief that Manto’s story resonates across countries and cultures.

IC: What do you want audiences to take away from the movie?

ND: For me, making Manto was not just about telling people about the man and his works but to invoke the Mantoiyat (‘Mantoness’) – the desire to be outspoken and free-spirited. I believe all of us have it, whether dormant or awakened. I think people will see themselves more honestly and ask questions about their own morality, fears, convictions and courage. It will make them uncomfortable in a way that hopefully they would want to do something about. After all we all want to be more truthful, courageous, empathetic and free-spirited. And Manto inspires us to be that, without being put on a pedestal.

IC: You wrote Manto keeping Nawazuddin Siddiqui in mind. What about him drew you to him?

ND: I always had Nawaz in mind while writing Manto. Firaaq, my directorial debut was Nawaz’s first significant role in a feature film. It is said if you get the casting right, 70% of your job is done, and with Nawaz that’s exactly what happened. He looks and feels the part. He has an incredible range as an actor, but intrinsically Manto lies somewhere in his eyes – it was an obvious choice for me. I brought in my research and script and Nawaz brought with him his life experiences and his talent. Together, I think we managed to bring many subtleties and nuances to the character of Manto. Nawaz has many traits that are similar to Manto –  a deep sensitivity and intensity, vulnerability, and a dry, deadpan sense of humor. These innate qualities in Nawaz helped him transition into Manto on screen quite effortlessly. I feel that our actor-director relationship struck the right chord.

IC: Manto’s stories and the film’s narrative blend into each other’s worlds. Whose viewpoint are we seeing the movie from?

ND:  The film showcases Manto’s journey as well as a glimpse into some of his best fiction writing. The line between his fact and fiction are often blurred; and so, in the film too, his narrative is interspersed with stories that he wrote, almost seamlessly. This form allows the audience to enter his state of mind, both as a person and a writer. We will get to see, through his work, what makes him so uniquely empathetic and truthful. This was not easy to do, as selecting 5 stories from close to 300 was a mammoth task. But it was an idea I had right from the beginning of the project, even before I wrote a word of the script. Finally, the point of view of the film is always the writer’s and the filmmaker’s. So, while you see the story that I want to tell, I have tried to be as close to reality and as close to Manto’s being. As the film progresses, it gets more and more intimate.

IC: It’s a male-centric biopic, yet the women play nuanced roles in it. Is this a reflection of how Manto views women? His relationship with Ismat is of particular interest. Did you envision it playing out as it did?

ND:  Manto’s view of women is one of the most important aspects of his work. And that has definitely interested me. The women in his stories were complex and richly developed, but he reserved his most nuanced and sympathetic gaze for the marginalized, such as the sex workers. He turned them from objects of scorn to people that have agency and made them the protagonists of many of his stories. Whilst Manto didn’t want to be labeled as a feminist,’ he was, in more ways than one. He was surrounded by women he loved and cared for – his mother, sister, wife and three daughters. At home he ironed his wife’s sari, made pickle, cleaned the house, read stories to his wife and sister and was an engaged father. A rarity for South Asian men, even today!

I have always believed that gender sensitive films do not necessarily have to be women-centric.  It is more important that the representation of women reflects the diverse reality. I have often been asked that given all my engagement with issues of gender, why are Firaaq and Manto not women-centric? For one, women are impacted by all things in the world just as men are. And therefore, I have chosen to respond to issues that concern me. Secondly, in both films, the characters of women need to be judged not by their screen time but by their layered portrayals.

Ismat Chughtai, was a very important part of Manto life in Bombay and he missed her in Lahore. Seldom does one see such camaraderie, especially in those times. But as there were many threads to his life, I could not dedicate more time to Ismat. A whole film can be made just on their relationship.

IC: What about Manto resonated with you? What was the most challenging part about making the movie?

ND:  It is Manto’s fearlessness and deep concern for the human condition that I have always felt most deeply connected to. No part of human existence remained untouched or taboo for him no matter how controversial. For him, the only identity that mattered was that of being a human. Manto’s faith in the redemptive power of the written word, through the hardest times, resonates with my own passion to tell stories. In some mystical way, I feel I am part of that hopeful legacy! Through him, I feel I am able to kindle my own conviction for a more liberal and compassionate world. Every aspect of the journey was challenging but also provided a learning experience. I am not a trained filmmaker or haven’t worked from within the film industry, so while not knowing the grammar freed me, it also posed challenges that I struggled with; getting the right cast and crew, raising funds and finally marketing and distributing it.

IC: You’ve played all three roles, that of an actor, director, activist – do you find that they are intertwined? How so?

ND: Yes, for me, they are deeply intertwined. They are different means to express and share my concerns and interests. I wear different hats at different times, depending on what I want to convey and depending on which medium is the best for it. I also wrote a monthly column for 8 years in an Indian magazine, The Week, and from time to time, in other publications. That too gave me an opportunity to express myself and to connect with people. For me, art and social activism are not so different. I see myself more as a social advocate who at times uses art as a medium to reach out. Art has the ability to subtly enter the subconscious and impact how we feel, think and respond.

Both the films I directed, Firaaq and Manto, happened because I felt compelled to tell the story; because they provided me with a language to respond to what was of deep concern. Films and social advocacy are not that different for me, rather just different means to the same end.

IC: You resent being called “dusky,” and have been a champion for women to “Stay Unfair, Stay Beautiful.” Tell us more about why your skin tone should not define who you are.

ND: While I was aware of the prejudice against dark skin and spoke about it in some of my talks, I never thought of it as a stand-alone issue. It was only in 2013 when the NGO Women of Worth approached me to support their campaign that I got more involved with the issue. I became the face of the campaign by default as most “dusky” actresses progressively were getting lighter and lighter! The “Dark is Beautiful” campaign urges you to be comfortable in your skin. I am so glad that such a campaign was launched and that I was able to add my voice to it. The issue impacts so many people, young girls in particular.

The response to Dark is Beautiful has been truly overwhelming. I think the time had come to react to this fairness obsession. When I had supported this campaign, I didn’t realize that it would resonate with so many and touch a raw nerve. I continue to receive so many emails, from mostly women, who share their stories of discrimination and feel more empowered by this campaign.

Cinequest Opening Night Film and Maverick Spirit Award


Tue, Mar 5 7:15 PM, California Theatre, 345 S 1st St, San Jose, CA 95113.

Mona Shah is a multi-platform storyteller with expertise in digital communications, social media strategy, and content curation for Twitter, Facebook for C-suite executives. A journalist and editor, her experience spans television, cable news and magazines. 



Love and Shukla: a Worthwhile Ride

Love and Shukla (2017) Directed by: Siddhartha Jatla. Written and Produced by: Siddartha Jatla and Amanda Mooney. Music by: Karl Heortweard. Players: Saharsh Kumar Shukla, Taneea Rajawat, Hima Singh, Aparna Upadhyay and Loknath Tiwari.

In a scene in Love and Shukla, the protagonist, Shukla (Saharsh Kumar Shukla), an autorikshawalla, watches his sister place a coin on a railway track that will soon be crushed. So, it appears, is the human spirit in danger in a city where too many struggle for too little.

This engaging indie film invites us into the inner life of Shukla, a surprisingly tender-hearted autorikshawallah who ferries his fellow humans around the City and who is in love with his new wife. He smiles as he thinks of her, as he speeds along the roads. He is protective towards her. He buys her bangles on his way home.

Yet there are some impediments in this after-marriage love story. His home is a claustrophobic room in the chawl.

Birds’ eye shot of the Shukla family

In a recurring birds’ eye view shot that looks like that of an open sardine can, we see that the sleeping adults in the communal room can lay claim to no personal space. A line of suitcases is the unironic boundary to his “honeymoon suite.” Even conversation with his beloved is hard to manage in his chaotic household, leave alone any romantic overtures.

An Everyman in a Mahanagar (city), reminiscent of Satyajit Ray’s film by that name, Shukla forces us to challenge some notions. While we might remember the auto guy who won’t take us to our destination because he can’t get a savari (ride) back, Shukla is the bhaiya who agrees to do so out of the kindness of his heart. The film takes us on a ride with this autorikshawallah who keeps getting ripped off. The police preys on and antagonizes Shukla rather than protecting whatever dignity he can preserve.

A montage of the passengers who populate Shukla’s backseat is an introduction to the denizens of the city that teems with free riders, goondas, fare dodgers and chatterboxes. An upper class young woman en route to see her boyfriend is as callous as the thugs who rob and beat him.

His home life is no better, full of bitter arguments with his parents and their choices. When will things finally begin to go his way? Much as in Love Per Square Foot (2018), the yearning for an independent living situation is powerful, but the cinematography in Love and Shukla (2017) is realist and gritty.

In the end, the film celebrates the victory of the human spirit over the many humiliations and debasements that are thrown its way.

Geetika Pathania Jain is Culture and Film Critic at India Currents. She is glad to live in a city where film festivals like Cinequest bring independent cinema to theaters.

India Currents is a media partner for Cinequest 2018.


Cinequest Represents the Culture and Community of Silicon Valley with Selection of Indian Films

Taking place in Silicon Valley, the country’s hub of innovation and technology, the Cinequest Film & VR Festival 2018 (CQ2018) returns for its 28th season, February 27th – March 11th, 2018. Representing the vibrant culture of the Valley as well as India’s outstanding cinematic stature and tradition, CQ2018 presents an incredible selection of work from the Indian community.

Renowned for the exceptional quality and diversity of its program, CQ2018 will screen 258 film and virtual reality works from 45 countries, and invite attendees to immerse themselves in a new storytelling medium at its curated VR Cinema and VR Experience Lounge.  52 celebrations and special events round out the offerings amounting to 510 screenings, events, parties and experiences. Over the 13-day program, Silicon Valley becomes the epicenter of tech and entertainment as filmmakers, futurists, writers, technologists, actors and artists from around the world converge to celebrate their work in one of the most diverse metros in the world.

To learn more about the full festival lineup, and to purchase festival passes, tickets to screenings and special events, visit www.cinequest.org.

Highlights of Indian Cinema at CQ2018:


Love and Shukla (Directed by Siddartha Jatla; Bay Area Premiere)

Shukla, a rickshaw driver, deals with a multitude of passengers on the roads of Mumbai. Some of them take advantage of him, but they can’t rob him of his prized possession – his decency. A new marriage and a pretty bride bring up many unanticipated challenges. Before Shukla can get lucky, he has to grab life by the horns.

From Baghdad to the Bay (Directed by Erin Palmquist; World Premiere)

Ghazwan Alshari had his dream job – translating for the U.S. forces in Iraq.  But when he was accused of being a double agent by the same people he was aiding, with his life and the safety of his family in jeopardy, Ghazwan fled Iraq and settled in San Francisco to begin anew. Struggling and alone, Ghazwan reveals another secret in his life– he is gay.  Ghawan’s turbulent and ultimately joyous journey is nothing less than a testament to the human spirit.

N of 1 (Directed by Bernard Friedman; World Premiere)

An appliance repairman from Canada, an immunologist from Israel, and a transplant surgeon from England meet in a hospital in India. This might sound like the start of an elaborate joke, but it is actually a remarkable collaboration established in an effort to save the life of a young woman dying of liver cancer. As they invent and then carry out an experimental procedure through a journey that spans five countries, this unconventional team recognizes that what they are attempting could have broad implications for currently untreatable cancers.

Purdah (Directed by Jeremy Guy; World Premiere)

Being in a Muslim family in modern day India can sometimes be a struggle for 20-year-old Kaikasha and her two sisters. Their father wants them to wear burkas and to have arranged marriages, but these determined young women have dreams of their own. This beautiful and rousing story follows Kaikasha in her quest to be the first Muslim on the Mumbai women’s cricket team and then follows her into a corridor of uncertainty after a shocking turn of events changes the fate of her family.

The Ashram (Directed by Ben Rekhi; World Premiere)

Shot on location in India, Academy Award-winner Melissa Leo (The Fighter) stars in the story of a Jamie, an American skeptic, following the trail of his lost girlfriend to a mystical Himalayan community. His quest to find Sophie leads him to an ashram where an evocative cast of characters, including Kal Penn (Harold & Kumar), awaits. He has reason to suspect everyone but needs to trust each to help him. Will their universal consciousness bind them in nurturing relationships, or will the evil, lurking beneath the calm, destroy them all?

Venus (Directed by Eisha Marjara; US Premiere)

When Ralph skates into Sid’s life claiming to be his biological son, life has already thrown a curve ball at Sid, a woman trapped inside a man’s body. As the woman inside bursts forth brandishing a red stiletto, Sid is wise enough to let her dance. But to navigate the labyrinth of relationships with her traditional Indian parents, a closeted gay boyfriend unsure of himself, and the son who she didn’t even know existed, she will need more than a stiletto. The film takes you up close to the journey of a transgender person and is guaranteed to keep you transfixed.


Paggi (Directed by Nardeep Khurmi; World Premiere)

When a hate crime clouds the 4th of July, Mandeep, a Sikh-American, must grapple with his anxieties and fears as he attempts to celebrate the holiday with his wife and infant son. Feeling lost, alone, and fearful for his wife and child’s safety, Mandeep makes a tragic decision and irreversibly changes his identity.

Fanny Pack (an official selection of the LUNAFEST program)

From director Uttera Singh, also co-director of CQ2018 feature film selection, The Mad Whale, this relatable comedy follows a young Indian-American woman who wants to follow her dreams, and her fanny pack-clad Indian father who chases her through an airport, hoping that she will follow his.

More than 105,000 attendees will experience the work of internationally renowned and emerging artists and technologists, representing a spectrum of genres, genders, ethnicities, orientations, and viewpoints. Honoring the careers of icons, legends and risk takers in film, Cinequest will present its coveted Maverick Spirit Award to Nicolas Cage (Leaving Las Vegas, Raising Arizona), Andie MacDowell (Sex, Lies & Videotape, Four Weddings and a Funeral), Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black, Stronger) and Tom Cullen (Downtown Abbey, Black Mirror). Director, producer, tech entrepreneur Travis Cloyd will be honored with this year’s VR Visionary Award, recognizing his work in immersive entertainment. Additionally, this year’s Media Legacy Award will be presented to Ben Mankiewicz, Primetime Host Turner Classic Movies (TCM) celebrating his incredible life and impact on the industry, as a writer, journalist and co-founder of The Young Turks.

This year’s program includes 75 World and 55 U.S. premiering films, starring award winning actors including past Maverick Spirit Award winners William H. Macy, Rosario Dawson and Peter Fonda, as well as Kal Penn, Michelle Pfeiffer, James McAvoy, Hilary Swank and Stanley Tucci.

Visit www.cinequest.org for the full program of Cinequest Film & VR Festival 2018, and to purchase passes and tickets to screenings and events.

Cinequest San Jose Awards The Maverick Award to James Franco


Cinequest  Film Festival March 1-13, 2016, set in the home of the world’s most influential media technology companies (Apple, Cisco, Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, LinkedIn etc.) showcases premier films, renowned and emerging artists, and breakthrough technology—empowering global connectivity between creators, innovators and audiences. Cinequest has led the world in its showcase and implementation of the innovations that have revolutionized film making, exhibition and distribution.

CQFF’s highest honor, the Maverick Award, recognizes bold, visionary and creative forces—exemplary in the worlds of Silicon Valley innovation and the film arts. A Maverick stands apart from the crowd willing to create and innovate from a place of personal yet global vision.This year, on February 28th, in a pre-festival special event, the award was given to James Franco. Actor, director, producer, writer, author, performance artist, meta-explorer, and teacher Franco went to school at Palo Alto High School. His teacher Esther Wojcicki was present at the award ceremony.

Franco, who was nominated for a best actor Oscar in 2011 for 127 Hours — and co-hosted the ceremony with Anne Hathaway, grew up in Palo Alto and is now working with Wojcicki on a film workshop for students from his alma mater.


Following high school graduation, Franco headed south to UCLA and took a theater class to overcome shyness. Bitten by the bug, he committed completely to becoming an actor, dropping out of college, and enrolling in the intense and rigorous program at the renowned Studio 4 Playhouse West. In 1999, he was fatefully cast by director Judd Apatow in the short-lived, but critically acclaimed—and eventual cult hit— television series Freaks and Geeks. Co-stars included Seth Rogen and Jason Segel.

Franco’s breakout role came in the 2001 TNT biopic James Dean for which he received a Golden Globe Award. Robert De Niro was so impressed with Franco’s performance that he personally cast him as the junkie son, Joey, in City by the Sea. Since then, Franco has amassed well over 100 acting credits, including 127 Hours, (Best Actor Academy Award nomination), MilkSpider-Man trilogyPineapple ExpressOz the Great and PowerfulRise of the Planet of the Apes, and Eat, Pray, Love.

One of his strangest, most interesting gigs was a self-initiated, 54-episode stint (2009-2012) on the soap opera General Hospital, as a crazy artist and serial killer named…Franco. With enthusiastic endorsement from the show’s producers, actor Franco’s idea was to create a new way of watching the long-running program, where the Franco character almost knows he’s an actor on a soap opera. The result was the creation of a bizarre meta vortex of images that, as performance art, examined the very nature of the viewing experience.

Eager to continue the education he’d abandoned earlier, Franco, at age 28 (then a steadily employed actor), returned to UCLA for a BA in Creative Writing. Concerned that other students would think he was being given a pass because of his celebrity and acting credentials, he took on additional mega units to demonstrate the seriousness of his intentions. He loved the course work so much that after UCLA, he immediately entered graduate degree programs in filmmaking (NYU), English/fiction writing (Columbia, Brooklyn College, Yale), and poetry (Warren Wilson College in North Carolina). One of the products of his studies is the short story collection, Palo Alto, published in 2010.

Apart from teaching film at Palo Alto High School, he teaches classes at NYU, USC, and UCLA.

Now, at 37, Franco has also donned the instructor’s mantel at NYU, USC, and UCLA. “I’ve been very fortunate. I had to work hard but had opportunities to do everything that I wanted. That’s one of the reasons I’m teaching. I’m trying to give back to other people. That’s what I guess I want to do now—continue to be creative in a way that I can give back.” – P.D. Crane

Watch movies at Cinequest.