Since its inaugural staging in 1989 under the stewardship of Mayor Sonny Bono, the Palm Springs International Film Festival (PSIFF) has established itself as one of the premiere North American screening events. The prestige it has cultivated is clearly evident in the line-up of Oscar hopefuls, fresh visions and international cinema greats that grace its multi-strand 2015 programme, kicking off January 2.

פסטיבל הסרטים חיפה 2014Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart in Olivier Assayas’ Clouds of Sils Maria.

The 2015 statistics are certainly impressive, with 192 films from 65 countries selected to screen across a very crowded 11 day schedule. Amongst them will be seven world premieres, including Don Quixote: The Ingenious Gentleman of La Mancha, with James Franco and Horatio Sanz; directors Erinnise Heuer and Parryk Rebisz’s documentary study of soulful strength, Spirit/Will/Loss; and Anna Mastro’s ‘new messiah’ black comedy Walter, with William H Macy and Virginia Madsen. Five international premieres bow in the West Coast sun, with screenings of new works from Germany (Herman Vaske’s Arteholic), Israel (Noam Kaplan’s Manpower), Luxembourg (Pol Cruchten’s Never Die Young), The Netherlands (Paula van der Oest’s Accused) and Iceland (Bjarni Thorsson’s The Grandad).

Darryl-Macdonald_credit-FabrizioMaltese1-e1389299178463“In this era of mega-blockbusters, filmmakers worldwide seem to be reacting by eschewing traditional genres and formats in favour of innovative and audacious new approaches to storytelling,” said Festival Director Darryl McDonald (pictured, right), at the event’s launch last week. “Newly emerging talents from regions like Eastern Europe, the Arab countries and Latin America (are) leading the charge.” The sentiments were echoed by PSIFF Artistic Director, Helen du Toit, who cited the reflective nature of many of the 2015 films as indicative of a ‘new wave’ in global cinema. “Filmmakers are mining the personal stories behind political movements. Marginalized women are asserting their rights. Emerging directors are staking their claims,” she noted. “These are exciting times in cinema and we are thrilled to be sharing them with our audience who comes from near and far.”

The organising committee’s commitment to new cinematic voices is exemplified in the New Voices/New Vision competitive sidebar, which honours ten directors making their PSIFF debut with films seeking US distribution. Amongst the selected are Canadian Martin Talbot’s Henri Henri; Afterlife, from Hungarian Virág Zomborácz; Naji Abu Nowar’s Theeb, from Jordan; and, Uruguayan auteur Germán Tejeira’s A Moonless Night. The careers of twelve more experienced filmmakers are honoured in the Modern Masters strand, which will feature new visions from such greats as Denys Arcand (An Eye for Beauty), Olivier Assayas (Clouds of Sils Maria), Barry Levinson (The Humbling), Wang Xiashuai (Red Amnesia) and Eran Riklis (Dancing Arabs).

reese-witherspoon-palm-springs-film-festivalOf course, PSIFF launches from its up-market LA headquarters just as the annual Awards Season madness is at fever pitch, so it is little surprise that the event is also able to guarantee the presence of Hollywood’s hottest A-listers. This years attendees include Reese Witherspoon (pictured, left), tipped for a Best Actress nomination for Wild, who will receive the Chairman’s Award; the star of the very Oscar-worthy drama Selma, David Oyelowo, recipient of the coveted Breakthrough Performance trophy; and, Boyhood writer/director Richard Linklater, to be honoured with the Sonny Bono Visionary Award. Others being feted include Robert Duvall, Birdman director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu, Still Alice’s Julianne Moore, Gone Girl’s Rosamund Pike, J.K. Simmons from Whiplash and the acting ensemble from The Imitation Game.

For all venue and ticketing information, visit the Palm Springs International Film Festival website.

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