In 2017, a group of middle school students from Campbell Union School District’s Zero Robotics program worked in a nationwide contest to beam code to satellites onboard the International Space Station. Four years later, their story is being told in “Zero Gravity,” one of more than 100 films making its U.S. or world premiere at Cinequest, which kicks off a virtual edition this weekend.
The documentary by Thomas Verrette primarily follows the story of three students from the program — Makayla Engelder, Advik Gonugunta and Carol Gonzalez — plus their teacher, Tanner Marcoida. The film also catches up with them, via Zoom, of course, and what they’re doing these days.
“Zero Gravity” is part of Cinequest’s Showcase collection for the virtual festival, which runs March 20-30, and you can buy a ticket to see it anytime during the festival. Verrette, the director, said he was honored to be having the world premiere at Cinequest. “The students in ‘Zero Gravity’ not only took me with them on their journey to the stars, they left me with a renewed sense of hope for the future,” he said in a statement. “This film doesn’t exist without the incredible support we had from San Jose and its people, either.”
Of course, that local story isn’t the only big event going on at the festival, which will again have a lineup of spotlight events — timed to a specific time and day — that include Q&A sessions with filmmakers and performers such as Gabriel Byrne and Alec Baldwin. At least two Maverick Spirit Awards are being bestowed this year, to comedian/actor Eddie Izzard, whose film “Six Minutes to Midnight” shows Sunday at 10:15 a.m. and Sam Neill, star of the movie “Rams,” showing March 25 at 5:30 p.m.
You can check out the full lineup and ticket information — or make a $199 donation to Cinequest for an all-access pass — at creatics.org/cinejoy.
‘MARSHMALLOW’ INTERVIEWS: Playful People Productions, the South Bay-based children’s theater, will have live Zoom conversations with Judi and Ron Barrett, the creators of the children’s books “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” and “The Marshmallow Incident” as part of its “March Marshmallow Madness” weekend March 27-28.
That includes screenings of the company’s 2018 productions of “The Marshmallow Incident,” which were adapted for the stage by Playful People Productions co-founder Katie D’Arcey. For this “March Madness” you don’t even need to fill out a basketball bracket, but you should go to www.playfulpeople.org for more details and registration.
SERVICE RESOURCE GOES ONLINE: In 2008, Vikki Bowes-Mok and Alyssa Birkit of Compass Collective first published the “Field Guide to Community Service,” a starter kit for people in Silicon Valley who wanted to get more involved but didn’t know where to begin. The spiral-bound book, which went through revisions and new editions over the years, was a great resource for people looking for contacts at nonprofits and community-minded companies.
Fast forward a bit and the Field Guide — now with Alison Van Diggelen joining the Compass Collective team — has been updated and brought into the virtual world with an online edition. It’s still arranged by topics like animals, education, health care and youth, with a new addition, virtual volunteering.
Bowes-Mok says its an improvement over the original because while it’s still easy to navigate, it’s also easy to update as new organizations are formed and others go away, merge or change names or addresses. Check it out at compasscollective.org/field-guide.html.
BLOOMIN’ FUN: After seeing my column about Rich Santoro’s backyard bulb garden this week, Jan Stewart — now splitting her time in retirement between Monterey and Lake Tahoe after working for NetApp and Calpine — wrote to let me know that daffodils and tulips also are in peak form right now at Filoli in Woodside. Online reservations are required at www.filoli.org.
And if you can’t make it to see the flowers in person, the Los Altos History Museum’s new exhibit, “Beauty and the Beast: California Wildflowers and Climate Change,” could do the trick. On display through July 11, the show features photography by Rob Badger and Nita Winter.
A THOUSAND APOLOGIES: In an item last week, my fingers got the best of me and I misstated the amount of the grocery store gift cards that Shop With a Cop Silicon Valley Foundation would be distributing to low-income families later this month. It should have been $100 — not $1,000, which is what I wrote. But Executive Director Darrell Cortez says he wishes the group could raise enough to give a grand to every family that needed it. Go to www.shopwithacopsv.com/giving if you want to help.
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