As the 90th Academy Awards broadcast approaches on March 4, many of the films that were part of the Palm Springs International Film Festival are still gaining traction.
Films from outside the U.S. in particular get a major boost from the festival, which this year screened 45 of the 92 official submissions for the Academy Award for best foreign language film. Films from 77 countries were represented, with 441 screenings in total shown at six theaters. Offerings expanded to Cathedral City to include showings at Mary Pickford 14.
“The festival is pretty much maxed out,” festival chairman Harold Matzner tells Palm Springs Life. “At prime times, it sold out on all of our screens. We really extended [this year], using screens outside of Palm Springs, because we need them — there’s no question about it.”
At the crux of the festival is the discovery and discussion of the year’s cinematic feats. Blockbusters screen alongside independent and international films, from South Korean stunner A Taxi Driver, depicting the Gwangju Uprising of 1980, to France’s spellbinding coming-of-age drama Ava to the Focus on Argentina series, highlighting seven films from the country.
“She’s a wonderful, wonderful woman,” festival chairman Harold Matzner says of Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot, seen here at the Awards Gala. “She’s Israeli with two years of combat experience in the armed forces. I mean she couldn’t be smarter, nicer, or more beautiful. Has great energy. Easy to work with.”
“It’s a festival founded on the love of cinema and the love of show business and the celebration of it, in a city that is steeped in great lore for American entertainment,” says director Guillermo del Toro, whose film The Shape of Water received the festival’s Vanguard Award.
PSIFF’s relationship with del Toro began with his first international film. “He has an incredible imagination,” Matzner says. “Not only is [The Shape of Water] remarkable in terms of the level of its creativity, but it’s also commercial. And that’s unusual.”
Curating the lineup is a group helmed by artistic director Michael Lerman, who joined last year. “I always admired what the program looked like and the shape of the festival’s brand,” he says. “We’re showcasing the best of the year, whether it be films that premiered at other festivals that haven’t been seen by many people yet, or big Hollywood movies that have just come out and are making a splash, like The Post.
“The exciting part is just watching stuff,” adds Lerman, who’s already thinking about next year’s program. “I start when I go to Sundance, and it won’t stop until we’re back here.”
“Palm Springs is so special because of the people who put everything into this festival and gala. They treat the stars right, and it’s a great way to kick off the awards season.”Mary Hart
Director Joe Wright was on hand with his Churchill pic Darkest Hour.
by the numbers
guests who attended the festival’s awards gala
employees and volunteers at the gala
film festival attendees
Chairman’s Award winner Jessica Chastain greets fans outside the gala.
Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick) takes a moment to pose with fans before the gala. He presented actress Holly Hunter, who portrayed his mother-in-law in the film, with the Career Achievement Award.
Killing Jesús from Colombian director Laura Mora is one of many award-winning South American films to reach U.S. audiences via the Palm Springs fest.
Mankiller producer and Palm Springs local Gale Anne Hurd.
Richard Jenkins (The Shape of Water).
Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird).
“I just left Providence, Rhode Island, where it was 6 degrees, and I woke up this morning and there was not a cloud in the sky, and it was beautiful.”Richard Jenkins