Pass the Remote: South Bay’s Poppy Jasper film fest

L-R, Eli Owens and Chesney Mitchell and play high school besties and musical drama kids in "Booked," an utter delight from start to finish. (Courtesy Poppy Jasper International Film Festival)

In its 18th year, the South Bay’s Poppy Jasper International Film Festival from April 10-17 features a staggering array of films, 267 to be exact, screening in Morgan Hill, San Martin, Gilroy, Hollister, and San Juan Bautista. 

To make room for them all, some will be shown in the morning. In addition to feature-length narratives, documentaries, cartoons and music videos, the program includes student-made shorts, many with Bay Area connections, and panel discussions. 

Special events include “México y Tú” on April 15, showcasing Mexican artists and culture and an awards ceremony at the performing arts center El Teatro Campesino in San Juan Batista; an LGBTQ+ Day on April 16, with screenings, discussions and filmmakers; and 19 films from Iran that will include Q&As with filmmakers on April 17.  

With a pileup of festivals vying for your time this month (San Francisco Silent Film Festival, International Ocean Film Festival, Berlin & Beyond Film Festival and SFFILM festival, to name a few), here’s an early highlight on Poppy Jasper and tips on a handful of its goodies. 

For a full program and to order tickets, visit 

Drama kids will identify with the anxious plight of two besties in director Cassie Maurer’s hilarious “Booked.” Kenny (Chesney Mitchell) and Owen (Eli Owens), bonded since they were toddlers, share an intense passion for musical theater, which their families and school counselors don’t quite understand. Their senior year, they try to table a production of “Les Miz” but their overtures don’t work, and they eventually journey to audition for a spot in a prestigious college drama program—their toughest act yet. “Booked” bounces from one hysterically funny scenario to another, featuring charming lead actors with impeccable comedic timing. It may sound like the cousin of last year’s “Theater Camp,” and in a way it is, but it deserves a big curtain call of its own. (1 p.m. April 13, Granada Theater, Hollister

“Bored Games” finds fans of board games stuck in a bunker after the apocalypse. (Courtesy Poppy Jasper International Film Festival)

Other recommendations:  

Joel Stern’s inventive post-Armageddon trickster “Bored Games” tightens the comedic and dramatic screws as board-gamers (one played by Stern) hole up in a bunker and resort to dangerous games of another kind for survival. (7 p.m. April 13, Granada Theater, Hollister)  

Brian Clarke and Sheryl Stark’s “Roy Murphy: Private Eye” pays tribute to Bay Area-set noir classics, with Sunnyvale’s Clarke co-directing, writing and starring as the titular character in a black-and-white detective story set in 1941 San Francisco revolving around a corrupt industrialist. (6 p.m. April 11, Morgan Hill Community Playhouse

Tyler Eaton’s “Mysterious Ways” taps into the resurgence of the demonic possession thriller. In this horror comedy, youth pastors commit a big no-no: putting a devilish spirit into the soul of someone from their youth group. Now it’s their turn to put a leash on that beast on Halloween, or else. (2 p.m. April 11, District Theater, Gilroy

Michael Taylor Jackson’s “Underground Orange” is a trippy film about a California backpacker embarking on a novel quest to Buenos Aires who gets caught up in a plan to kidnap a U.S official while becoming better acquainted with a pack of polyamorous actors. It’s a lot to digest! (3 p.m. April 15, Barn at Mission Farm, San Juan Batista

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