The 22nd Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival announced this year’s award winners at a luncheon at Spencer’s Restaurant on Jan. 16.
The Festival, held from Jan. 6 to 17, screened 205 films from 69 countries, including 41 of the 65 foreign language entries for this year’s Academy Awards®. Palm Springs’ increasingly popular Festival continues to expand its diverse programming of quality independent and foreign films, setting the stage for the year’s film festival circuit.
Festival Director Darryl Macdonald said, “It’s been a hugely successful year for the Festival, with record attendance, incredibly smooth operations, and much higher numbers of filmmakers and industry guests attending, with a marked jump in film sales activities as a result. Everything, from our film line-up to the stellar Awards Gala honorees, to our Talking Pictures events and our tribute to Michael Douglas, have been warmly embraced by audiences and industry alike, marking this as a banner year for us. This year’s success bodes extremely well for the future of the event.”
Director of Programming Helen du Toit added, “Audience excitement is fanning the flames of buyer interest. Various distributors, including our New Voices/New Visions jury, are circling films and we expect to announce some sales in the coming days – which is fantastic news! I also delighted to see that Xavier Beauvois’ Of Gods and Men has not only won over audiences but also our FIPRESCI jury, and feel this bodes very well for the Oscar run. Our Bridging the Borders Award singles out another very strong contender in Iciar Bollain’s Even the Rain. In addition, the spotlight is being shone on outstanding new directors by the Schlesinger jury’s choice of Summer Pasture and the New Voices/New Visions’ jury’s choice of Mikkel Munch-Fals’s audacious debut Nothing’s All Bad from Denmark. In terms of audience and industry feedback, it has been our best year ever.”
This year’s Festival attendees selected The Whistleblower (Canada) directed by Larysa Kondracki, as the Mercedes-Benz Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature. Based on a true story, this tough-minded and unsparing conspiracy thriller follows an American cop to Bosnia, where her job as a peacekeeper leads her to uncover a ring of human traffickers that includes fellow U.N. workers. The film stars Rachel Weisz, Vanessa Redgrave, Monica Bellucci, and David Strathairn.
The runner-up narrative films in alphabetical order include Aftershock (China), Goethe (Germany), The Hedgehog (France), Paper Birds (Spain) and Simple Simon (Sweden).
Louder Than a Bomb (USA) directed by Greg Jacobs and Jon Siskel received the Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature. The filmtells the story of the world’s largest youth poetry slam competition held annually in Chicago. The vividly drawn, richly complex cast of characters makes this gripping documentary one of the most inspirational films of the year.
The runner-up documentary films in alphabetical order include Bill Cunningham New York (USA), Jane’s Journey (Germany), A Not So Still Life (USA), Waste Land (Brazil) and Wild Horse, Wild Ride (USA).
Both winners will receive the John Kennedy Statue (“The Entertainer”) specially designed for the Festival.
A special jury of international film critics reviewed the official Foreign Language submissions to the Academy Awards® screened at this year’s Festival to award the FIPRESCI Award for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year. The jury selected Of Gods and Men, France’s official entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, directed by Xavier Beauvois. Rising fundamentalist violence in Algeria forces a band of French monks to decide whether to flee or remain at the monastery where they have been for many years. The jury selected the film, “for its incisive, restrained, and deeply moving depiction of religious faith tested by political strife.”
Lars Rosing received the FIPRESCI Award for Best Actor “for his affecting portrayal of a young man facing death against the stark landscape of Greenland,” in Nuummioq (Greenland) directed by Otto Rosing & Torben Bech. Anne Coesens received the FIPRESCI Award for Best Actress “for her intense and uncompromising performance as an immigrant facing an inhumane legal system” in Illegal (Belgium) directed by Olivier Masset-Depasse. This year’s FIPRESCI jury members were Élie Castiel, Godfrey Cheshire and Mihai Chirilov.
NEW VOICES/NEW VISIONS AWARD
The New Voices/New Visions competition includes 13 new international talents making their feature film debut at the Festival, with the additional criteria that the films selected are currently without U.S. distribution. The jury selected Nothing’s All Bad (Denmark) stating “writer-director Mikkel Munch-Fals’ debut feature skillfully combines black humor with humanity in this expert depiction of alienation in modern society. Nothing’s All Bad allows the audience to empathize with its deeply troubled characters and builds to a dénouement which is both startling and deeply fulfilling.” The winner receives a Kennedy statue (“The Entertainer”) and a $60,000 Panavision camera package.
The New Voices/New Visions jury also announced Special Mentions to Sound of Noise (Sweden/France) “for its highly original concept, whimsical charm and masterful execution” and 40 (Turkey) “for its energy and stylish direction.” The films were juried by Marc Mauceri, vice president of First Run Features; Farhad Arshad, president and CEO of Olive Films; and Frederic Demey, senior vice president, international sales and acquisitions, Neoclassics Films.
THE JOHN SCHLESINGER AWARD
Summer Pasture (China/Tibet/USA), directed by Lynn True and Nelson Walker, received The John Schlesinger Award for Outstanding First Documentary which acknowledges the work of a first-time filmmaker. The jury commented on the award saying, “Summer Pasture provides profound insight into the very nature of what it means to be human. An outstanding debut, and we applaud the filmmakers’ achievement.” The winner receives a sculpture designed by famed glass artist Dale Chihuly. The films were juried by Diane Baker, actress and Executive Director of the School of Motion Pictures & Television and Acting at the Academy of Art University; Robert Koehler, film critic; and Teri Schwartz, Dean of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television.
BRIDGING THE BORDERS AWARD
Even the Rain (Spain/France/Mexico), directed by Iciar Bollain, received the Bridging the Borders Award presented by Cinema Without Borders to the film that best exemplifies the cinema’s ability to bring the people of our world closer together. In Spain’s Best Foreign Language Film Oscar submission, an idealistic young director has to move production of his period piece to Bolivia so as to save on labor costs. There he encounters a population in civic upheaval. This powerful and layered film lays bare the hypocrisies of a post-colonial world where injustices to the dispossessed continue unchecked.
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