The Palm Springs International Film Festival
brings Hollywood to Palm Springs
The Palm Springs International Film Festival has grown into one of the world’s most popular — about 140,000 people attended last year, many from outside the area —as a showcase for international cinema. The festival essentially takes over the town for 10 days, with films on 15 screens in Palm Springs and the surrounding area.
The 25th festival, which kicks off Jan. 3 and runs through Jan. 12, features some of this award season’s brightest lights, including Sandra Bullock, Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, Bruce Dern, and director Steve McQueen. The members of U2, Bono, the Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr will be honored with the Sonny Bono Visionary Award on Jan. 4.
This year’s festival features 187 films from 60 countries, including 77 premieres. The 2014 lineup includes 45 of the foreign-language film submissions, including all nine titles that made the academy’s shortlist.
The festival combines elements of Sundance, Toronto and Cannes film festivals. It is also a rare chance to highlight foreign-language films in the U.S., where the audience for them has dwindled.
To celebrate its 25th anniversary, there are special screenings and events, including “Deja View: Past PSIFF Favorites,” which features films that have won the Audience Award and gone on to win the foreign-language Oscar. Also showing will be first films at PSIFF whose directors went on to major careers — Roberto Benigni’s “Life Is Beautiful” and Baz Luhrmann’s “Strictly Ballroom.”
The awards gala and the festival are part of the nonprofit Palm Springs International Film Society, which has member screenings and education programming throughout the year. Money is raised for the festival through the awards gala, which has revenues of about $2.3 million, and its sponsors Cartier, Mercedes-Benz and “Entertainment Tonight.” Festival sponsors include the city of Palm Springs, Wells Fargo, Wintec, Windermere Real Estate, Bank of America, Guthy-Renker and Diageo.
This year’s LGBT film choices.
Big Joy: The Adventures of James Broughton
USA – Directors: Stephen Silha, Eric Slade, Dawn Logsdon – 82 minutes
Celebrating the life and work of poet, experimental filmmaker and visionary James Broughton, Big Joy is an ode to liberation, bisexual desire, and artistic expression. As Broughton put it: “Follow your own weird.”
Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia
USA/Italy –Director: Nicholas Wrathall – 89 minutes
Gore Vidal, as you’ve always known him, only more so more acerbic, more insightful, more brilliant… and more sorely missed now than ever. A fascinating exploration of the life, times and work of the late, great American writer.
Ignasi M. – US Premiere
Spain – Director: Ventura Pons – 87 minutes
Meet Ignasi Millet, larger-than-life Catalan connoisseur, father of two, gay, HIV-positive and ebullient conversationalist. He shares provocative and inspirational thoughts on art, religion, sex, politics… and much more.
TWO: The Story of Roman and Nyro
USA – Director: Heather Winters – 72 minutes
Famed songwriter/producer Desmond Child (Livin’ La Vida Loca, Waking Up in Vegas) and his long-time partner Curtis fought the good fight for gay marriage and child rearing long before it was commonplace. This hugely engaging documentary, which won the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the Nashville Film Fest, traces the tale of their marriage and ‘modern family’.
Tattoo – US Premier
Brazil – Director: Hilton Lacerda – 110 minutes
A young soldier in the Brazilian military is drawn into the anarchic and uninhibited world of avant-garde cabaret in Hilton Lacerda’s award-winning debut, a lively period piece set in the mid-70s.
Cupcakes – US Premiere
Israel/France – Director: Eytan Fox – 90 minutes
A charming confection about six friends – gay, straight, successful, not so successful – whose jokily written song is chosen as Israel’s entry in a Eurovision-like song contest, Cupcakes features a who’s who in Israel’s film, television and music industries, and is unabashed fun.
Gerontophilia – US Premiere
Canada – Director: Bruce LaBruce – 90 minutes
An 18-year-old lad with a penchant for pensioners takes a job in a care home and falls for an 81-year-old man. Shocking? The big shock here is that director LaBruce eschews his usual hardcore style for a film that is positively gentle and pleasing.
USA – Directors: Allison Berg, Frank Keraudren – 100 minutes
We’ve all seen Dog Day Afternoon and marveled at Al Pacino’s portrait of the gay bank robber who wanted to fund his lover’s sex change. But Berg and Keraudren went further. They spent years getting to know the real, larger-than-life character behind the story.
Hidden Hills – World Premiere
USA – Director: Dan Steadman – 73 minutes
Mimicking the style of ‘60s Rock Hudson-Doris Day movies and turning societal convention on its ear, this deeply demented, straight-faced comedy asks the question: “Can true love between two white men survive in a time and place where societal norms only tolerate interracial romance, and straight people are the ones kept in the closet?”
It’s All So Quiet
Netherlands/Germany – Director: Nanouk Leopold – 93 minutes
This subtle portrait of rural loneliness follows a middle-aged farmer’s quest to cast off the shackles of closeted emotional repression he’s worn all his life. “A poignant reflection on solitude, homosexual repression and aging.” The Hollywood Reporter
Switzerland – Director: Marcel Gisler – 106 minutes
When Lorenz, a successful gay author suffering writer’s block, has to return to his small hometown in Switzerland to care for his aging mother long-buried family secrets and the chance for romance challenge his assumptions about himself.
USA – Director: Alan Brown – 83 minutes
A coming out tale of an extraordinarily gifted young dancer recently arrived in the big city (Broadway star Ryan Steele: Newsies, West Side Story), Five Dances is a sensual glimpse of life and first love in New York’s downtown contemporary dance world.
USA – Director: Malcolm Ingram – 94 minutes
Steve Ostrow and his legendary The Continental Baths – the gay hotspot in 60s and 70s New York where Bette Midler got her start – take center stage in this funny, moving documentary blending anecdotes and archival footage into a big-hearted celebration.
USA – Director: Chris Mason Johnson – 90 minutes
Set in San Francisco in 1985, Test follows Frankie, the newest member of a fast-rising contemporary dance company. When a troupe member falls ill Frankie is called upon to fill his role, and his relationship with a handsome veteran member of the company deepens in unexpected ways. Winner, Jury Award, Best Narrative Feature, L.A. Outfest.
Salvation Army – US Premiere /unconfirmed
This milestone in the depiction of homosexuality in the Arab world follows Abdellah from his teenage years of furtive sex in Morocco to his time as a graduate student in Geneva, where being a gay Moroccan comes with a different set of obstacles.
Open Up To Me – US Premiere
Finland/Sweden – Director: Simo Halinen – 95 minutes
Maarit is a beautiful, intelligent and sexy woman – who used to be a man. When she meets and falls in love with Sami, she finally feels like she can fit in somewhere. But Sami’s tolerance is soon put to the test.
Reaching for the Moon
Brazil – Director: Bruno Barreto – 118 minutes
Miranda Otto (The Lord of the Rings) and telenovela superstar Glória Pires deliver commanding, intensely emotional performances as timid American poet Elizabeth Bishop and fiery Brazilian architect Lota de Macedo Soares in the true love story.
Sarah Prefers to Run
Canada – Director: Chloé Robichaud – 96 minutes
Robichaud’s debut feature is a highly assured, subtle, observational film about a young middle-distance runner making the leap to a big city university team, but stumbling in the adult world of relationships and responsibilities.
Germany – Director: Anne Zohra Berrached – 75 minutes
The German system makes it very difficult for lesbian couples to have a child, a fact explored with intelligence and depth in this deeply moving docudrama that shows the increasing strain put on one relationship by this profoundly unfair practice.
Vic + Flo Saw a Bear
Canada – Director: Denis Côté – 95 minutes
Acclaimed Quebecois filmmaker Denis Côté picked up a Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival for this jaggy, ominous, hypnotic piece about two lesbian ex-cons cohabiting uneasily out in the woods.
For a complete list of films, show times and venues visit www.psfilmfest.org . See you at the movies.