palm springs international film festival

Binge Worthy

It’s showtime for the annual Palm Springs International Film Festival.

Raoul Hausmann Arts & Entertainment

palm springs international film festival
Nicole Kidman glows as she sails across the carpet at the 2017 Palm Springs International Film Festival Gala Awards — one of the industry's most important stops en route to the Oscars.

Thirty years ago the Palm Springs International Film Festival was reportedly just another one of then-Mayor Sonny Bono’s schemes to goose business during the slump that used to follow the holiday season in Greater Palm Springs. The idea was to use Bono’s Hollywood connections (though possibly a bit threadbare at that point in his career) to talk a few producers into loaning their films for the event in return for a little free publicity and possible pre-Oscar buzz.

It was not an immediate success. Almost anyone who attended in the early days will attest to the fact that for every bona fide hit, there were several indies and student works that should never have seen the light of a projector. Still, the organizers pressed on as a few more films and a few more film buffs (or possible insomniacs) added to the momentum.

It is indelibly part of the festival legend that a dissatisfied festival director prior to 2001 almost put the final kaibosh on the event when he walked out. With his departure, almost none of the promised stars attended. Philanthropist and now festival CEO Harold Matzner was stuck trying to figure out how to escape disaster when he was informed that at least one celebrity had decided to attend: Sean Connery.



Benedict Cumberbatch, Allen Leech, Matthew Goode and Matthew Beard enter the stage for the ensemble award presentation.

Matzner needed Connery to fill in wherever they required star power to boost interest and attendance. Connery agreed as long as Matzner could get him a round of golf on any course in the valley. Done (that’s like asking Mickelson to hit the fairway. OK, maybe even more certain than that). Connery and Matzner put on a festival that people still talk about.

In the 16 years since that near-debacle, the PSIFF has become one of the most important film festivals of the year. Whether it was Bono’s prescience or Matzner’s cunning, PSIFF is an absolute must on the calendar leading up to the Oscars.

More important to area residents, it’s a great time to indulge one’s love of film. More than 135,000 people attend the screenings, and the demand to get into some of the 150 films presented over 14 days is so great that the festival is now booking screens in Cathedral City. What’s next? Thermal? Barstow?


Dec. 14 / Kramer vs. Kramer. 2-4 p.m. Rancho Mirage Public Library

Jan. 2–15 / Palm Springs International Film Festival. Multiple venues.

Jan. 25 / Public Art Documentary Film Series. 
6 p.m. UCR Palm Desert

Feb. 15 / Public Art Documentary Film Series.
 6 p.m. UCR Palm Desert


Diane Lane with Richard Gere.


Sean Connery

March TBD / Native Film Fest. Camelot Theatres.

March 15 / Public Art Documentary Film Series.
 6 p.m. UCR Palm Desert

March 19–21 / Jewish Film Festival. Camelot Theatres.

April 6–12 / American Documentary Film Festival. Multiple venues. americandocumentary

April 19 / Public Art Documentary Film Series.
 6 p.m. UCR Palm Desert

April 20–22 / Palm Springs Cannabis Film Festival and Summit. Camelot Theatres

May 10–13 / Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival. Camelot Theatres,


(From left) Jimmy Stewart, Frank Sinatra, and Robert Wagner.

June TBD / Palm Springs International ShortFest.

Sept. TBD / Cinema Diverse: The Palm Springs LGBTQ Film

Nov. TBD / Palm Springs International Animation Festival.