Palm Springs International Film Festival: Find the Fun!

By | December 30, 2015 at 6:56 pm | No comments | Columns, Feature Stories, Film

By Heidi Simmons

With the arrival of 2016, the PSIFF kicks-off its 27th year of celebrating international filmmaking and world cinema.  What a wonderful way to begin the New Year!

Starting January 1 and running through January 11, brings a week and a half packed with exciting screenings, world premieres, live interviews, movie stars, galas and parties.

This event draws over 130,000 visitors to the valley.  The star-studded Awards Gala generates $2.4 million in revenue for the education driven, not-for-profit organization and festival host, Palm Springs International Film Society.  The money festival visitors spend in the valley is conservatively estimated at $10 million.

However, this festival is not about the money, but the love of movies and Palm Springs’ long relationship with the filmmaking industry.

In Darryl Macdonald’s welcome he said: “The 27th incarnation of our festival is an event that’s come to define Palm Springs’ love affair with the cinematic arts within the film industry and among filmgoers from coast to coast.”

This year 176 films will screen from over 60 countries.  Here is a look at some of the outstanding and fun-filled events.

The Awards Gala is Saturday, January 2.  Actors attending are Cate Blanchett, Johnny Depp, Matt Damon, Brie Larson, Tom McCarthy, Saoirse Ronan, Alicia Vikander, Michael Fassbender and Rooney Mara.   If you don’t have a ticket, you can get of glimpse of these beautiful and talented people behind the ropes outside the Palm Springs Convention Center as they go into the Gala.  Over 2,300 people are expected to attend.

A favorite of the festival scene is the Talking Pictures events where filmmakers discuss their films and answer audience questions after the movie’s been screened.  Films include:   “Amy” (UK, 128 min) about the late singer Amy Winehouse, “Grandma” (USA, 79 min) starring Lily Tomlin, “The Martian” (USA, 174 min) starring Matt Damon and “Concussion” (USA, 153 min) starring Will Smith.  Check the PSIFF schedule or web site for screening locations and times.

The always popular and mysterious Secret Screening is Wednesday, January 6, 4:30 at the Camelot Theater.  This is an exciting event because filmgoers trust the talented PSIFF programmers to thrill and surprise them.   Even the wait-line is fun as people share the films they have most enjoyed.

Wednesday, January 6, 4:30 at the Annenberg Theater is Dinner and a Movie which includes the documentary film “Cooking Up a Tribute” (Spain, 87 minutes) followed by a meal at Palm Springs steakhouse and landmark restaurant Mr. Lyons.

Eyes on the Prize: Foreign Language Oscar Directors in Discussion, moderated by Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Feinberg talks about the competition over the nine nominations for Academy Foreign Language Film.  This year, eighty nations have submitted films for Oscar consideration.   This event is Wednesday, January 6, 6:00pm at the Palm Canyon theater.

With their US Premieres, twelve first-time filmmakers are heard in New Voices/New Visions.   This is an exciting category filled with rising talent from Italy, Belgium, Germany, Czech Republic, Greece, Algeria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, India, Canada, United Kingdom and the US.   These films offer a view into worlds we do not often see.

With a sold out crowd last year, the Book to Screen event is back again and looks to become a festival favorite.   Thursday, January 7, beginning 9:00 am there are five, one-hour, sessions throughout the day until 7:00 pm.   “The Power of Words: Book to Screen Symposium” is held at the Hilton Palm Springs Resort’s Horizon Ballroom.

Each session is moderated by an industry professional and includes authors, screenwriters or producers.   Participating this year are CNN analyst and author Jeffrey Toobin;  Journalist Dick Lehr who co-authored “Black Mass: Whitey Bulger, the FBI and a Devil’s Deal.”   The film adaptation stars Johnny Depp.   Phyllis Nagy, the screenwriter of “Carol” is attending to talk about the process of adapting Patricia Highsmith’s story; and screenwriter David Nicholls participates in session five about adapting Thomas Hardy’s “Far From the Madding Crowd.”  Check the website for the Book to Screen film screening details.

Sponsored by Desert Regional Medical Center is the film “Searchdog” (USA, 88 minutes).  This is a Free Community Screening, Saturday, January 9, 1:30pm at the Annenberg Theater.  This documentary is about a dog whisperer who rescues and trains pound animals to work as Search and Rescue/Recovery dogs.

Over the years, PSIFF has made an impact on the valley kids with Student Screening Day.  Monday, January 11, at the Rancho Mirage High School Auditorium, filmmakers discuss their films with students.   The event is a favorite for teachers as it provides a powerful tool for sharing ideas and culture.   The screening includes a documentary and “Jeremy” (Mexico, 99 min).

Check the schedule for Special Presentations that include the films: “The Revenant,” “The Brand New Testament,” “Hello My Name is Doris,” and “Eye in the Sky.”  These are major films that will likely get a lot of award attention.

There are festival parties nearly every night.  Some are invitation only, while others require a ticket, but some are spontaneous so keep a local look out.  This year PSIFF parties include a “Brit Bash,” “Canada Party,” “The Gay!la Party,” “The Cine Latino Party,” “Palm Springs Speaks French! Party,” and “Garden Collage Party.”

Other fun programs to experience are “Modern Masters,” “After Dark,” “True Stories,” “World Cinema,” “Gay! La His/Hers” and “Award Buzz.”  These programs can help you make the most of the screenings for a satisfying festival experience.

Opening Night Gala begins Friday, January 1 with “The Fencer” (Finland, 98 min) and Sunday, January 10, is the Closing Night Gala with the US Premiere of “Last Cab to Darwin” (Australia, 123 min).  Check with the box office or the website for details.

Festival theaters this year are Regal Palm Springs 9, Camelot Theatre, Mary Pickford, Annenberg and Palm Canyon.  (The Palm Springs High School Theater is under renovation.)  Free shuttle service to all venues runs every 30 minutes.  Check the guide for pickup locations.

Festival Tickets can be purchased online, by phone or at any festival box office.  Box office opens one hour before screenings.  The festival ticket and information center is located at 777 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, Suite 113 in the Courtyard Plaza.  Plan on waiting in a friendly line of movie fans before each screening.

The PSIFF is a great event and the people attending are some of the most interesting and charming people you will meet in Palm Springs.   Have fun and enjoy the movies!

For more information check online at www.psfilmfest.org or call 800 898-PALM

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