By Heidi Simmons

Belgium, Iceland, Kazakhstan, Norway, Israel, Japan and Morocco were just a few of the countries around the globe filmgoers were able to visit during the 25th Annual Palm Spring International Film Festival. New cultures were discovered in the theater and new friends we made in line.

A quarter century ago, the charismatic Palm Springs Mayor Sonny Bono, had a vision: A festival that would draw international attention and bring people from around the world to our sunny, warm valley in the middle of winter. Even today, it is easy to imagine Bono’s bright eyes and wide, mustached smile. Certainly, he would be extremely pleased and proud of the Festival’s continued success.

The triumph of the PSIFF is the work and passion of many. There is an astonishing Board of Directors with an amazing array of members. The charming Chairman Harold Matzner, the diligent Festival Director Darryl Macdonald and the astounding Artistic Director Helen Du Toit, bring forth one of the best film festivals in the world.

With the help of local and international sponsors, along with a community of film industry advisors, Bono’s dream has been fully actualized. Behind the glamorous galas and fabulous films there is the non-profit Palm Springs International Film Society. The charitable organization’s mission is to cultivate and promote the art and science of film through education and cross-cultural awareness.

Over the years, Du Toit has worked for PSIFF as well as other film festivals. “I’m always astonished when I come down here. What a great value it is to have a membership with the Film Society,” said Du Toit. “They get so many films year round. It’s not just about supporting the festival; the benefits you get in return far out weigh the investment. It feels good to get so much in return.”

The vision of the Film Society is to strive for a world in which enlightenment, knowledge and tolerance prevail. They believe film is an art form and has the power to bridge cultures and illuminate the universality of the human experience.

According to their website: the PSIFF and the Palm Springs International ShortFest are presented under the auspices of the Film Society and manifest the organization’s mission by nurturing and encouraging new filmmaking talent, honoring the great masters of world cinema and providing audiences with a unique opportunity to engage in an appreciation of, and a dialogue about, the art of cinema as it is represented around the world.

A wonderful mission and a noble goal realized, the Film Society has not only made the incredible world of film available in our valley, but also through their education and community outreach. They have made their programs accessible through the Palm Springs Art Museum and Rancho Mirage Library.

“I think the educational outreach that the film Society does throughout the year and the short film festival is a beautiful package,” said Du Toit. “It always surprises and impresses me what we are able to deliver to the valley based on the support of the sponsors and the audiences that make it possible.”

Seventy percent of those attending the festival are from out-of-state. It has been estimated that those coming into town for the PSIFF will spend $100 to $320 a day during their stay in the Coachella Valley. It is a significant financial contribution to local communities.

With 130,000 tickets sold, box office revenue far exceeds a million dollars. However, the Festival itself will just break even. But the joy of discovering a film, entering its world and the fun of sharing, is priceless.

For information on how to become a member of the Palm Spring International Film Society, go to: