By Robin E. Simmons

As you probably already know, PSIFF offers the widest selection of Oscar nominated submissions of any film festival.  As a reminder, movies are screening every day from 8 am to 10 pm until “Best of Fest” shows on Monday, January 13.  Many of the filmmakers are still in town and will appear after their films screen for a Q&A.

Below are a few films that are getting some nice buzz and are worth considering, even during the fest’s last days.

Check the PSIFF.org website for changes in time and location.  And remember, stand-by seating is often worth the gamble but the best way to see missed films is the “Best of Fest” showings.

37 SECONDS

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Mentioned in a previous column, I’m including it here again because it’s so good.

Yuma (Mei Kayama) is a talented 23-year-old artist with cerebral palsy who has always lived under the care (domination?) of her very protective mother. When her YouTube star friend begins taking credit for her work, Yuma decides to break free from her guarded life and make a name for herself.  She takes her portfolio to the editor of an erotic “manga” who tells her tells Yuma her work is technically good but lacks “real world authenticity” and to come back after she’s explored her sexuality. 

As luck would have it, in the hallway of a “love hotel” she meets Mai (Makiki Watanabe), a sympathetic sex worker who befriends Yuma and helps her “expand her horizons and gain confidence.”  This sensitive coming of age story is writer/director Hikari’s first feature film.

Thursday, January 9, 5:45 PM, Regal

THE SPY

Based on an incredible true story, this WW II thriller focuses on Sonja Wigert, a polar Scandinavian actress and singer who enlists as a spy after her father is arrested in Norway by the Germans.

Friday, January 10, 7PM, Annenberg

DOGS DON”T WEAR PANTS

Dark and poignant, J.P. Valkeapaa’s movie about Juha, a depressed surgeon and grieving widower’s unexpected connection with Mona, a dominatrix, avoids sensationalism and embraces a space for those who abandon the restraints and expectations of ordinary, mainstream society.

Saturday, January 11, 1:45 PM, Regal

RED PENGUINS

As chilling as it is entertaining, this dark comedy is about the clash of American marketing know-how coming up against the ruthless Russian mafia in the promotion and management of a revived Soviet hockey team.  This gripping tale that pits voracious American capitalism against lawless – and deadly — Russian corruption must be seen to be believed.   

Sunday, January 12, 6:45 PM, Camelot

THE TRAITOR

Set in the early 1980s, this compelling film is about the battle for control of the lucrative Brazilian heroin trade when Tommaso Buscetta, an Italian Mafioso soldier is captured by Brazilian authorities he’s extradited back to Italy where he becomes the first major Mafioso who — hoping to save his family — breaks the Sicilian code of silence.  His testimony shakes up the nation of Italy in this fact-based and bloody gangster epic.

Saturday, January 11, 7:00 PM, Camelot

robin@coachellavaleyweekly.com

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