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


Campbell students’ space shot featured in Cinequest film
“Zero Gravity” documentary part of this year’s virtual festival running March 20-30