30th Palm Springs International Film Festival
USA, January 3 - January 14 2019
“International Critics’ Prize (FIPRESCI Prize) for the Best Foreign Language Film of the Year (2018)”). Best film: “Shoplifters” (Manbiki kazoku) by Hirokazu Kore-eda. Best actress: Joanna Kulig, in “Cold War”. Best actor: Marcello Fonte in “Dogman” by Matteo Garrone.
The Palm Springs International Film Festival (PSIFF) celebrated its 30th anniversary this year. It kicked off with a portrait of William Shakespeare in the last act of his life, “All is True” directed by Kenneth Branagh on Friday, January 4. The festival closed with “Ladies in Black”, directed by Bruce Beresford on Sunday, January 13. It is set in the upscale department stores of 1959 Sydney, Australia.
The Festival screened 223 films from 78 countries, including 48 premieres. The line-up, commanded exceptionally by fine artistic director Michael Lerman, included a focus on cinema from France, India and Mexico, Premieres, Talking Pictures, Book to Screen, Special Presentations, Foreign Language Oscar Submissions, Gay!La, Local Spotlight, Modern Masters, True Stories, World Cinema Now, and two new programs this year, one focusing on Jewish cinema and the other on queer cinema. To celebrate its 30 years, PSIFF also presented a 30-film retrospective of selections from past festivals called the Palm Spring Canon, including such films as “Chocolat”, “Amelie”, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, “Ida”, and “Strictly Ballroom”, among others.
PSIFF has traditionally shone a spotlight on foreign-language Oscar submissions, and this year it screened 43 of the 87 official entries. The fest, handed out juried awards in five categories.
Hirokazu Kore-eda’s “Shoplifters”, Japan’s submission for the foreign-language film Oscar, was awarded the FIPRESCI Prize for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year. Marcello Fonte of “Dogman” and Joanna Kulig of “Cold War” took the top acting prizes in this category. The fest’s New Voice New Visions Award for unique viewpoints from first- and second-time directors, was given to “Sofia” (France/Qatar), Meryem Benm’Barek’s film about a young Moroccan woman who has a child out of wedlock, while “Saf” (Turkey), directed by Ali Vatansever, got an honorable mention.
The John Schlesinger Award for the director of a debut documentary feature was presented to Shannon Service and Jeffrey Waldron for “Ghost Fleet” (USA), which takes a look at enslaved men on Indonesian fishing vessels. “Bathtubs Over Broadway” (USA), directed by Dava Whisenant, got an honorable mention. “Carmen & Lola” (Spain), directed by Arantxa Echevarria, was honored with The CV Cine Award for the best Ibero-American film.
The fest’s new Ricky Jay Magic of Cinema Award, named after the late actor and magician (a master filmmaker that “exemplifies a pioneering spirit in furthering the language of storytelling and the magic of cinema”), went to the Chinese film “Dead Pigs”, directed by Chinese-American filmmaker Cathy Yan, an engaging comic debut about overlapping lives and misfortunes in modern China.
The GoE Bridging the Borders Award, honoring the film that is most successful in bringing the people of our world closer together, went to “Eldorado” by Swiss filmmaker Markus Imhoof while “What Will People Say” (Norway / Germany / Sweden), directed by Iram Haq, was honored with the Youth Jury Award.
The Palm Springs International Film Festival, one of the largest in North America, also plays a key role in attracting stars, distinguishing the festival from most other of its kind. The gala’s reputation as a foreboder of Academy Awards nominations has made it sensible for Oscar hopefuls to attend. And so some of this year’s awardees included: Timothée Chalamet, who was honored with the Spotlight Award, and most recently starred in “Beautiful Boy”, while Melissa McCarthy took home the Spotlight Award in the Best Actress category. Glenn Close received the Icon Award. English actress and Golden Globe winner Olivia Colman was honored with the Palm Achievement Award. Bradley Cooper went home with the Director of the Year Award. Regina King got the Chairman’s Award. Spike Lee was decorated with the Career Achievement Award. Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón won the Sonny Bonny Visionary Award. Rami Malek was honored with the Breakthrough Performance Award. The cast and director Peter Farelley of “Green Book” received the Vanguard Award, and the cast of “Mary Poppins Returns” did get the Ensemble Performance Award. (Marietta Steinhart)