By Robin E. Simmons
The 25th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival (PSIFF) announces 187 films from 60 countries, including 77 premieres — 8 world, 22 North American and 47 U.S. — that will unspool January 3-13.
This year’s movies are more diverse in theme with a trend towards more personal, character-driven stories that defy easy genre labels. For movie buffs, this promises to be a rich and satisfying cinematic experience.
“The New Voices/New Visions Award” will honor one of 12 films from top emerging international directors marking their feature film debut at the Festival, with the additional criteria that the films selected are currently without US distribution. The exceptional films selected for this year include:
ABOVE DARK WATERS (Finland) – Told through the eyes of a sensitive young boy, this sensitive, tragicomedy is about growing up in southwestern Lapland in the 1970s with authenticity and hilarity. Director: Peter Franzén. Cast: Olavi Angervo, Samuli Edelmann, Matleena Kuusniemi, Ismo Kallio, Marja Packalén. Peter Franzen. US Premiere.
BRISTOL GOODMAN (USA) – This uniquely stylish thriller traces the story of a traumatized Iraq War veteran who meets his dream girl in an internet chat room, only to have his dream turn into a nightmare when he witnesses what appears to be her murder live online. Director: Dan Harnden. Cast: John Golaszewski, Natalia Volkodaeva, Kate Gorney, Ezra Saint James, Lucas Van Engen, Jessica Myhr, Joe Varca. World Premiere
CLASS ENEMY (Slovenia) – In this compelling Slovenian drama, a group of teens blame their demanding new German teacher and his demeaning methods when one of their classmates commits suicide, and a colossal battle of wills ensues. Director: Rok Bicek. Cast: Igor Samobor, Nataša Barbara Gracner, Tjaša Železnik, Maša Derganc, Robert Prebil, Voranc Boh, Jan Zupancic, Daša Cupevski. North American Premier
EVERYTHING WE LOVED (New Zealand) – Charlie once made a living as a traveling magician. His picture-perfect marriage and family, though, has been torn asunder by a crippling loss. What will Charlie do to save the family he loves? Behold, a grand illusion! Director: Max Currie. Cast: Brett Stewart, Sia Trokenheim, Ben Clarkson. World Premiere.
HAN GONG-JU (South Korea) – A teenager is abruptly transferred to a new school and placed in a stranger’s care – for reasons too terrible to guess. An amazing first feature, it won two awards at the Busan International Film Festival. Director: Lee Su-jin. Cast: Chun Woo-hee, Jeong In-sun, Lee Young-ran, Kim So-young. North America Premiere.
LEFT FOOT RIGHT FOOT (Switzerland) – A pair of young hard-partying lovers are forced to grow up fast in photographer Germinal Roux’s first feature, a beautiful elegy on the loss of innocence elevated by stunning black-and-white cinematography and mesmerizing music. Director: Germinal Roaux. Cast: Nahuel Perez Biscayart, Agathe Schlencker, Mathilde Bisson, Dimitri Stapfer, Stanislas Merhar. US Premiere.
MEDEAS (USA) – An archetypal tale of adultery is rendered with exquisite strokes in this slow burning rural psychodrama, the first feature from an Italian-born filmmaker working in the US. “A rare piece of pure cinema.” Twitch. Director: Andrea Pallaoro. Cast: Catalina Sandino Moreno, Brian F. O’Byrne, Kevin Alejandro, Ian Nelson, Mary Mouser. North America Premiere.
THE MAGNETIC TREE (Spain) – A young man returns to Chile from Germany after many years. In a series of probing, freeform conversations, his colorful, multigenerational family explores the safety and connectedness and the feelings of confinement that come from family relationships. Director: Isabel de Ayguavives. Cast: Andrés Gertrúdix, Catalina Saavedra, Manuela Martelli, Gonzalo Robles, Juan Pablo Larenas, Daniel Alcaíno, Edgardo Bruna. North America Premiere.
OF HORSES AND MEN (Iceland) – This very dry, very Icelandic comedy is a North Country romance about the human streak in the horse and the horse in the human. Director: Benedikt Erlingsson. Cast: Ingvar E. Sigurdsson, Steinn Armann Magnusson, Helgi Björnsson, Charlotte Bøving, Atli Rafn Sigurdarson, Halldora Geirhardsdottir, Kjartan Ragnarsson. US Premiere.
Other PSIFF films with notable talent and directors include: AGE OF UPRISING: THE LEGEND OF MICHAEL KOHLHAAS (France) starring Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Partridge;
ALPHA PAPA (UK) starring Steve Coogan and Colm Meaney; LE CHEF (France) starring Jean Reno; ELAINE STRITCH: SHOOT ME (USA) featuring Elaine Stritch, Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Nathan Lane.
THE GALAPAGOS AFFAIR: SATAN CAME TO EDEN (USA) featuring the voices of Cate Blanchett, Diana Kruger and Josh Radnor; THE INVISIBLE WOMAN (UK) directed by and starring Ralph Fiennes; MYSTERY ROAD (Australia) starring Aaron Pedersen, Hugo Weaving, Ryan Kwanten; REACHING FOR THE MOON (Brazil) starring Miranda Otto; TIM’S VERMEER (USA) directed by Teller and featuring Penn Jilette; TWO LIVES (Germany) starring Liv Ullman; UNFORGIVEN (Japan) starring Ken Watanabe; WALKING WITH THE ENEMY (USA) starring Ben Kingsley.
Space does not allow a full list of the most talked about films. With 135,000 expected attendees, the seats go fast. For more information, call 760-322-2930 or 800-898-7256 or visit www.psfilmfest.org to see an on-line catalog. This year’s fest offers a wonderful feast of film. The titles here are only a sampler of the treasure trove of cool movies. Indulge your passion for films. We are so lucky.