Awards cap Palm Springs film festival
05:00 AM, Jan 16, 2013
PALM SPRINGS, Calif. The Palm Springs International Film Festival closed its 12-day run Monday with a second showing of films that won awards this weekend.
The Sapphires, an Australian film about aboriginal folk singers who become a soul group, won the Mercedes-Benz Audience Award for Best Narrative Features on Sunday. Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey, about the rock band Journey’s efforts to replace original lead singer Steve Perry, won The Mercedes-Benz Audience Favorite Award for Best Documentary.
Final box-office figures aren’t yet available, but festival executive director Darryl Macdonald said individual and concierge ticket sales were up, and platinum pass sales were about the same as last year, indicating attendance could exceed last year’s record of 136,200 filmgoers.
The nation’s most attended festival is the Seattle International Film Festival, which Macdonald co-founded in 1976. It boasts of more than 150,000 festival-goers over 25 days.
This festival featured 182 films from 68 countries and almost one third were by filmmakers making feature film debuts. There was no announcement of films signing U.S. distribution deals, as there often are at industry festivals such as Sundance and Cannes, but Macdonald said, “I talked to more film industry people this year than I ever remember.”
Most of the conversations occurred this weekend, he said, when most of the industry attention was on Sunday’s Golden Globe Awards and next week’s Sundance festival.
Producer Jeff Scheftel, whose film, The Girls in the Band, tied for last year’s audience favorite for Best Documentary, called Palm Springs an important festival for his films.
“This festival was wonderful to us last year,” he said at the awards brunch held at a Palm Springs restaurant. “It opened up an entire new audience to us. Girls in the Band generated interest from 25 different distributors as a direct result of this festival.”
He said it’s doing the same for his current film, Iceberg Slim: Portrait Of A Pimp. It received a distribution deal last month, but Scheftel said the broad acceptance by the mostly elderly white audience in Palm Springs could open new markets for the film.
The festival continued to be a nurturing force for Spanish director Pablo Berger. His opening night, black-and-white silent film, Blancanieves, won the Cine Latino Award; his two previous films won awards at the 1995 Palm Springs ShortFest and the 2004 Palm Springs feature fest. The jury called the movie “a great homage to cinema and storytelling.”
The FIPRIESCI jury of international critics gave its award for Best Foreign Language Film to Fill the Void, the Israeli Oscar submission, for “portraying a culture usually depicted in stereotypical terms with subtlety, sympathy and sensuality and employing a style that is intimate, but not intrusive.”
The John Schlesinger Award, presented to a first-time documentary director, went to Thymaya Payne for Stolen Seas, one of two festival entries about Somali pirates. The jury recognized it for forcing viewers to “re-examine our prejudices about a misunderstood African reality.” Stolen Seas” was a co-production of Somalia, Kenya, the UK and Italy while the narrative about Somali pirates, “A Hijacking,” was from Denmark.
The Bridging the Borders Award, presented by the website Cinema Without Borders and Hewlett Packard to a film “exemplifying art that promotes bringing the people of our world closer together,” went to the Irish-UK crime caper film, Jump. Cinema Without Borders also presented a Special Jury Award to When Day Breaks, from Serbia, Croatia and France.
The New Voices/New Visions Competition of 10 films by first or second-time filmmakers was won by Adrian Saba of Peru for The Cleaner, about a man who cleans up after the dying during an epidemic in Lima. The jury called it “a singular, unusual and intimate tale.”
Macdonald said he was delighted by the jury selections, especially with the mix of emerging and established filmmakers.
“In that sense,” he said, “their choices perfectly reflected the festival’s own programming choices.”