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18th Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival Award Winners

Record attendance, record ticket sales and a record number of sold out shows. By Gregg Schwenk

Palm Springs, CA -The 18th Annual Palm Springs International
Film Festival came to a successful close on Sunday, January 14, 2007.  The Festival, which ran from January 4-15, 2007, screened 255 films from 73 countries, including 79 premieres and 55 of the 61 foreign entries for this year's Academy Awards.  Palm Springs' increasingly popular Festival continues to expand its diverse programming of quality independent and foreign films, setting the stage for this year's film festival circuit.  Next year's Festival will be held January 10-21, 2008.
 
Festival chairman Earl Greenburg said, "I've been working with this Festival for four years now, and I'm still in awe of the amazing growth that has taken place this year.  Our annual Awards Gala, which served as a tentpole for the Festival,
was a harbinger of what was to follow. Record attendance, record ticket sales and a record number of sold out shows.  And then ending the Festival at the Houston estate with the most amazing talent to breakthrough this year, Jennifer Hudson.  All of this truly sets us apart from all other film festivals."
 
Festival director Darryl Macdonald said, "While we've seen explosive growth in the Festival's attendance and box office in recent years, this year the Festival hit its stride in every department.  The films were rapturously received by
record- breaking audiences, the theatre operations were smooth as silk, the receptions and special events were particularly stellar, and the Festival itself had a blissful and celebratory atmosphere from the outset that only escalated with every passing day."
 
AWARDS
A special jury of international film critics reviewed the official Best Foreign Language submissions to the Academy Awards screened at this year's Festival to award the FIPRESCI Award for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year.  This year
the jury selected Pan's Labyrinth (Mexico/Spain), the submission from Mexico. Director Guillermo Del Toro's haunting film also received the Festival'sInternational Filmmaker Award.
 

Pan's Labyrinth


Mads Mikkelsen received FIPRESCI Award Best Actor for his performance in After the Wedding (Denmark) directed by Susanne Bier and Blanca Lewin received FIPRESCI Award Best Actress for her performance in In Bed (Chile) directed by
Matias Bize. This year's FIPRESCI jury members were president Grčgory Valens (France), Dave Kehr (USA), László Kriston (Hungary), Howard Feinstein (USA) and Norm Wilner (Canada).
 
The New Voices New Visions category features films from 12 new international directors whose first or second films have been selected by the Festival's programming team to represent the best work of previously unheralded talents
emerging in the narrative filmmaking field with a particularly high standard of accomplishment and innovative technique.  Jury members included filmmaker Dan Ireland, Sheri Linden from Hollywood Reporter and Pierre Menahem founder of  Scalpel Films. 
 
The jury selected It's Winter (Iran) directed by Rafi Pitts to receive the award for its humanism, poetry and the elegance of its filmmaking that moved and haunted us with a distinct and fully realized vision.  Set in an impoverished, snow-covered town south of Tehran, the film tells the story of a woman whose unemployed husband goes abroad to find work.  Pitts will also receive Movie Magic's Scheduling for the 21st Century and Budgeting for the 21st Century, donated by Entertainment Partners. 
 
The jury also presented a Special Jury Prize to director Verónica Chen's Agua (Argentina) for its original and mesmerizing storytelling that uses fresh cinematic language to powerful effect.  In the film, a former swimming champion is wrongly accused of doping and attempts to regain his honor, while a young pool swimmer tries hard to be selected for the national team.
 
Other films screened for this award include 53 Days in Winter (Spain), Dear Mr. Waldman (Israel), French California (France), Heaven's Doors (Morocco), I Remember (Brazil), Never on a Sunday (Mexico), Nina's Journey (Sweden), Salty
Air (Italy), Sons (Norway), Sway (Japan) and To Get to Heaven You First Have to Die (Tajikstan).
 
John Jeffcoat received the John Schlesinger Award for Outstanding First Feature (Narrative or Documentary) from the Opening Night film Outsourced, which marked its US premiere at the Festival.  This honor, selected by the Festival
programming team, acknowledges the work of a first-time filmmaker whose narrative or documentary feature represents particular distinction and the promise of a major filmmaking career.  He will receive Avid Media Composer Advanced Creative Editing for Mac & PC, donated by Avid Technologu, Inc. and Movie Magic's Scheduling for the 21st Century and Budgeting for the 21st Century, donated by Entertainment Partners. 
 
Commenting on the selection of the film, Carl Spence, director of programming said, "John Jeffcoat's feature debut signals a bright new talent in the ranks of American independent filmmakers.  We hope that this award will help provide
Outsourced with the audiences it deserves and recognize John as an emerging directorial talent to watch."
 
The Festival also announced its Audience Award Winners.  The Lives of Others (Germany) directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck received Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature.  The film is the official Best Foreign Language
submission from Germany.  The political thriller set before the fall of the Berlin Wall, an agent of the East German police finds his ideology turned inside out when he is assigned to incriminate an innocent playwright.  The Lives of Others swept the German and Bavarian Academy Awards and European Film Awards.


The Lives of Others
 
The other runner-ups include Music Within (USA) directed by Steven Sawalich, Vitus (Switzerland) directed by Fredi M. Murer, Outsourced (USA) directed by John Jeffcoat, Nina's Journey (Sweden/Poland) directed by Lena Einhorn, Water
(Canada) directed by Deepa Mehta, Black Book (Netherlands/Germany/United Kingdom/Belgium) directed by Paul Verhoeven, Emma's Bliss (Germany) directed by Sven Taddicken, The Rocket (Canada) directed by Charles Binamé, Black Irish (USA) directed by Brad Gann.
 
Blindsight (UK) directed by Lucy Walker received the Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature.  The documentary follows a group of blind Tibetan teenagers as they attempt to hike up the 23,000-foot summit of Lhakpa Ri on the north side
of Mount Everest with the aid of dedicated, mountaineering dream team. The other runner-ups include Beyond the Call (USA) directed by Adrian Belic, Can Mr. Smith Get to Washington Anymore? (USA) directed by Frank Popper, The Cats of Mirikitani (USA) directed by Linda Hattendorf, Sharkwater (Canada) directed by Rob Stewart.
 
New this year, the Festival presented the Frownie Award, given for best close-up of an actress in a film, to Missi Pyle, star of Mojave Phone Booth (USA).  The Frownie Award, which bears the inscription "I'm ready for my close-up," was created by the makers of legendary Frownies Facial Pads, a non-surgical face lift used by Hollywood film stars for decades.  

 
SCREENINGS
This year's festival opened on Thursday, January 4, 2007 with the U.S. premiere of Outsourced (USA).  The romantic comedy follows an American novelty products salesman, who heads to India to train his replacement, after his entire
department is outsourced.  Director John Jeffcoat, and star Ayesha Dharker attended the screening.
 
Other International Gala Screenings include the U.S. premiere of Black Book (Netherlands) attended by director by Paul Verhoeven and stars Carice Van Houten and Sebastian Koch and traditional "Gay!la" screening of Boy Culture (USA)
attended by director Q. Allan Brocka and the film's stars Derek Magyar, Darryl Stephens and Jonathon Trent.
 
The Festival closed with North American premiere of The Tiger's Tail (Ireland/UK) on Sunday, January 14.  The Tiger's Tail is a black comedy thriller set during the current economic boom times of Ireland featuring a triple-whammy of sex, lies and devilish twists in which a successful businessman's life begins to unravel when he encounters his doppelganger. Writer and director John Boorman attended the screening. 
 
AWARDS GALA
On Saturday, January 6, the Festival held its annual Awards Gala presented by Tiffany & Co. at the Palm Springs Convention Center hosted by Entertainment Tonight's Mary Hart.  The following honorees and presenters attended the event
including the cast of Babel with the Ensemble Performance Award presented by Mary Hart.  Cast members attending to accept the award include Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Adrianna Barraza and Rinko Kikuchi; Adam Beach with the Rising Star
Award, Actor and Jessica Biel with the Rising Star Award, Actress presented by Sienna Miller; Cate Blanchett with the Career Achievement Award presented by Alejandro González Ińárritu; Todd Field with the Sonny Bono Visionary Filmmaker Award presented by In the Bedroom star Sissy Spacek; Philip Glass with the Frederick Loewe Award for Film Composing presented by Danny Elfman; Alejandro onzález Ińárritu with the Director of the Year Award presented by Morgan Freeman; Little Miss Sunshine with the Chairman's Vanguard Award presented by Jon Favreau.  Accepting the award were directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, screenwriter Michael Arndt and cast members Abigail Breslin and Alan Arkin; Sydney Pollack with the SAG Foundation's Patron of the Arts Award presented by Laurence Fishburne; and Kate Winslet with the Desert Palm Achievement Award presented by Todd Field. Actress Jennifer Hudson received the Breakthrough Performance Award for her role in Dreamgirls on Saturday, January 13.  The actress was presented the award and performed at the home of Festival board members Jim and Jackie Lee Houston.

Awards Gala presented by Tiffany & Co.

 
TALKING PICTURES:
"Talking Pictures" is the Festival's series of seminars, panel discussions and master classes that focuses on various elements of films and filmmaking designed to explore the history, language and subtext of cinema.  This year's Festival featured two "Critical Perspectives" programs on Sunday, January 7.  Newsweek critic David Ansen presented a screening of Little Miss Sunshine followed by a discussion with the film's writer Michael Arndt and directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris.  Los Angeles Times critic Kenneth Turan presented a screening of Pan's Labyrinth followed by a discussion with the film's director Guillermo Del Toro.  Del Toro also received the Festival's International Filmmaker Award at the screening.  


Founded in 1990 by then Mayor Sonny Bono, the PSIFF is one of the largest film festivals in North America.  The Festival has an attractive film sales and distribution record and is seen by American distributors as one of the best Academy Award campaign marketing tools.  The Festival also features cultural events, filmmaker tributes, industry seminars and an annual black-tie gala award presentation. 
 
Renewing their support of this year's Festival is Title Sponsor, The City of Palm Springs and Presenting Sponsors, Spencer's Restaurant, The Desert Sun, the City of Indian Wells, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, Wessman
Development and Entertainment Tonight.   Major sponsors include Tiffany & Co., Regal Entertainment Group, Integrated Wealth Management, Bank of America, CBS2, Ciroc vodka, Johnnie Walker scotch, Don Julio tequila, Frownies, Wells Fargo, House & Garden, Guthy-Renker, Palm Desert National Bank, Windermere Real Estate and Artistic Contributor, the SAG Foundation.
 
This year's Festival screened 255 films from 73 countries and featured seminars,
special events and Gala receptions.For additional information visit
www.psfilmfest.org.


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Gregg Schwenk is a writer, educator, and entrepreneur. He reports on a number of various subjects including: film, art, technology and politics. Mr. Schwenk is an adjunct professor at CSUF's Center for Entertainment and Tourism located in Orange County, California. He is also a consultant and advisor to several entertainment and technology firms. In 2005, Mr. Schwenk was appointed by the US Secretary of Commerce, to the District Export Council. He has a BA from the University of California, Berkeley and completed the Advanced Management Program at USC.
Related Keywords:Palm Springs International Film Festival, Palm Springs, Earl Greenburg, Pan's Labyrinth,

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