If you're out and about around San Jose for the next couple weeks, anticipate making the acquaintance of some sleep-deprived movie fans.

That's because the independent-minded Cinequest Film Festival rolls out the red carpet beginning Tuesday. The popular annual film event, which showcases cutting-edge cinema, launches with the opening-night drama "The Grand Seduction," a remake starring Brendan Gleeson and Taylor Kitsch. It closes March 16 with "Small Time," starring Christopher Meloni of "Law & Order: SVU."

In between, there will be a flood of world and national premieres, notable events honoring influential artists, and films that celebrate ties to area filmmakers.

Patrick Stewart plays an uppity method actor who gets in trouble preparing for a role as a bank robber in "Hunting Elephants," an Israeli film
Patrick Stewart plays an uppity method actor who gets in trouble preparing for a role as a bank robber in "Hunting Elephants," an Israeli film that will be screened as part of the Cinequest Film Festival in San Jose. (United King Films)

What should you see? What should you avoid? Here are 10 films to consider. My absolute favorites are marked "best bet." Go to the event website, www.cinequest.org, for a complete schedule.

"Hunting Elephants": A big hit already in Israel, this crowd-pleasing diversion perks up whenever Patrick Stewart, in a supporting role, is on camera, hamming things up. As a vain method actor with questionable talent and an obsessive desire to master his "real" role of bank robber, the dashing "X-Men" star steals every scene from his able co-stars. Director/co-writer Reshef Levi's dramedy fumbles around in spots, and the comedy is played too broadly, but the antics of this "mature" band of wannabe robbers and their 12-year-old accomplice buoyantly scrubs away any cloudy day. Details: 7 p.m. March 5 at San Jose Repertory Theatre; 9 p.m. March 9 at the California Theatre.


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"Teenage": Matt Wolf re-energizes the documentary format with a refreshingly stylized and impressionistic overview of the birth and evolution of the teenager. With voice-over intimacy, actors including Jena Malone and Ben Whishaw give "voices" to these influential teens with diarylike intonations. That evocative point-of-view narration gets accompanied by a stream of stunning archival images, along with occasional re-enactments; each creates a distinctive era and mood. Wolf, a San Jose native, has transformed Jon Savage's book into a visionary cinematic statement. A best bet. Details: 7 p.m. March 9 at the California Theatre.

"Sold": Gripping and intense, this effective example of advocacy filmmaking, which receives its world premiere in San Jose, is designed to outrage. And it achieves that goal mightily, dramatizing how young girls are being sold into prostitution and slavery. Based on the award-winning novel of the same name, "Sold" chronicles the ordeal of a doe-eyed 12-year-old girl from Nepal who becomes the latest acquisition/attraction at a seedy brothel in India. Emma Thompson is an executive producer, while Gillian Anderson and David Arquette appear in supporting roles. Director Jeffrey Brown manifests these hellish horrors convincingly and appropriately; avoiding numbing explicitness while never blunting the harsh reality of the human cruelty on display. A best bet. Details: 7 p.m. March 7 at the California Theatre; 6:45 p.m. March 9 at the Camera 12.

"Life Is Love": This low-budget documentary makes a solid companion piece to "Sold." The no-frills venture -- it is mainly filmed with one camera locked on an interviewee -- focuses on female sex-trafficking survivors as each detail the rapes and other violent acts they endured. Don't dismiss this Cinequest Mavericks Studios production as overly bleak; it offers hope in the form of Somaly Mam, also a survivor, who has been a savior and friend of these incredible women and has provided them with a new start. Equally compelling is hearing from the men who have been part of this vicious circle of sexual violence. It's not overly polished, but it is effective. Details: 6:30 p.m. March 5 at the California Theatre; 2 p.m. March 9 at the Camera 12.

"A is for Alex": As his wife's pregnancy advances, a kooky inventor (Alex Orr), who also wrote, directed and produced) begins exhibiting his own equivalent of labor and growing-up pains. The quirky indie is enlivened by staccato bursts of funny situations, especially when Alex's mom unfortunately uploads a "sex" tape to social media -- an act that lands her in jail for child porn. With some tweaks and fewer scenes that too often echo each other, this example of mumblecore filmmaking could be a little sharper. Orr ("Blood Car") is a talent to watch. Details: 4:30 p.m. March 8 at Camera 12, 6:30 p.m. March 9 at Camera 12; 4:45 p.m. March 14 at Camera 12.

"The Rugby Player": The unconditional love between mother and son is touchingly portrayed in director Scott Gracheff's tribute to Mark Bingham, who died aboard United 93 on 9/11. Told in a traditional manner, through interviews, video and photos, it creates two distinctive, multidimensional portraits: one of the handsome UC Berkeley grad and gay athlete, and the other of tirelessly committed, highly courageous South Bay mom Alice Hoagland. Originally called "With You." Details: 6:45 p.m. March 6 at Camera 12; 12:30 p.m. March 8 at California Theatre; 4:45 p.m. March 15 at California Theatre.

"Blood Punch": Wicked and unhinged, this campy horror bonbon opens with a meth-making boy (Milo Cawthorne) meeting a seductive girl (Olivia Tennet) in rehab and ends in one blood-splattered mess, and I mean that in a good way. Director Madellaine Paxson and screenwriter Eddie Guzelian take a Frankenstein approach, patching together elements from "Groundhog Day," "Cabin Fever" and many more. Yet in the end, they've cooked up their own unique and tempting stew for horror connoisseurs who crave a heaping side dish of goofy humor. A best bet. Details: Midnight March 7 at Camera 12; 9:30 p.m. March 9 at San Jose Repertory Theatre; 11:45 a.m. March 15 at San Jose Repertory Theatre.

"White Rabbit": The Occupy Oakland protests make for an effective backdrop in this low-budget yet well-done thriller from filmmaker Bill Kinder, who works at Pixar. While dealing with combat fallout and living in the East Bay, a female Iraq War veteran (Carla Pauli) confronts a new squadron of clear and present dangers, including a dirty politician and a corrupt police officer. Kinder edits the action tightly and reveals he's a confident and ambitious storyteller. A best bet. Details: 9 p.m. March 8 at Camera 12; 9:15 p.m. March 10 at San Jose Repertory Theatre; 5 p.m. March 12 at Camera 12.

"Bite Size": A barrage of headlines shouts it out: Childhood obesity is out of control in the United States. But what can be done about it? Why is it happening? Corbin Billing's sensational new documentary might not have all the answers, but it does illuminate some of the "whys." "Bite Size" refuses to go for the obvious and ends up being an insightful glimpse into the lives of four overweight kids. Through these compelling stories, it's apparent that role models -- from parents to educators -- must play instrumental parts in stopping this destructive trend. A best bet. Details: 7 p.m. March 7 at Camera 12; 8:30 p.m. March 10 at Camera 12; 4:30 p.m. March 14 at Camera 12.

"Loaded": The overused "road trip" device is taken out for another spin in this potent comedy-drama about a trio of guys, all former high school buddies, traveling from San Diego to San Francisco in hopes that one of them gets the smarts to enter rehab. Director-screenwriter Chris Zonnas knows how to use his actors well, but he's challenged by the film's own abrupt shifts in tone. The real ace up this movie's sleeve is Patrick John Flueger (TV's "Chicago P.D.") as Ethan, a slob who's more stable, wise and talented than you'd suspect. Flueger's a charmer and has a great career in store for him. Details: 6:30 p.m. March 8 at Camera 12; 9:15 p.m. March 10 at Camera 12 and 4:45 p.m. March 14 at San Jose Repertory Theatre.