Festival chairman Nachhattar Singh Chandi strikes a pose at Annenberg Theater.

Meet the New Palm Springs International Film Festival Chairman

Longtime festival board member Nachhattar Singh Chandi took the reins this year. We spoke with him about the new role and what's next for the festival.

Greg Archer Arts & Entertainment

Festival chairman Nachhattar Singh Chandi strikes a pose at Annenberg Theater.

Festival chairman Nachhattar Singh Chandi strikes a pose at Annenberg Theater.

It smacks of a big-screen fairy tale: Intrepid soul with big dreams lands the role of a lifetime and a chance to make a difference locally and globally. The protagonist: Nachhattar Singh Chandi, the new chairman of the Palm Springs International Film Festival. Chandi, a longtime board member, took on the role last April, when Harold Matzner stepped down after 20 years. Matzner propelled the festival into the world-class event that it is today, and Chandi hopes to maintain that momentum. For the festival’s 35th year, Jan. 4–15, he is particularly excited about the slate of international films and the Film Awards. 

If you could make a film, what kind of film would it be?

An action film packed with larger-than-life stunts. The film would be a narrative of multiple scenarios with amazing graphics and visuals that have never been done.

What stands out about the festival year? 

After COVID-19, I feel we can bring the festival back to full capacity, which is important to me. I’ve watched so many films over the last two months. A lot of selection went into the international films, which are up to 40.

What’s most exciting about being chairman? 

Having the opportunity to promote innovation and make a positive impact in the entertainment industry. This is very near and dear to my heart.

What is unique about the festival’s film selection process?

We have a great selection team, and we take comments from each other on the films. I still take a lot of [input] from Mr. Matzner because he’s a genius on everything. Planning has a lot to do with it — it’s usually six months of the year. It can be more than a full-time job. We have a full-time staff, and a hundred-plus temporary jobs. There’s a lot of guidance working with my team.

How long have you been in the desert and what area is home?

I’ve been in the valley for 33 years, and I currently live in Indian Wells. I always say in a fun way that I came from India to Indio, and now I live in Indian Wells.

What do you love most about living here?

We have everything. Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley are known worldwide. I love that we have the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and Stagecoach. Our tramway is known internationally. We have three private airports and one international airport, four hospitals, a tennis stadium, a polo club, a BMW track, and 140 golf courses. I can go on and on. This is paradise. I’m in love with the valley.

Where do you like to dine out?

Spencer’s Restaurant, Lulu, and LG’s Prime Steakhouse.

What are your favorite movies of all time?

The Taken trilogy. A father’s love for his family is one of the greatest forces in the universe. And Inception. I enjoy complex and mind-bending storylines that keep audiences engaged and at the edge of their seats.