314 films are on tap for the 16th Palm Springs International ShortFest, taking place June 22 - 28 in the desert resort city. Fifty-two themed programs will divide the fest, which will screen 58 world premieres and 55 North American debuts.
Among this year's roster, with work from 43 countries, are films by three actors. Glenn Close co-directs and narrates the World Premiere documentary "Pax" (USA) with Sarah Harvey. Kirsten Dunst directs "Bastard" (USA) starring Brian Geraghty, Juno Temple, Lukas Haas and Joel David Moore. James Franco directs three shorts including "The Clerk's Tale" (USA), "The Feast of Stephen "(USA) and "Herbert White" (USA) starring Michael Shannon. Franco will attend the screening of his three shorts and participate in an on-stage conversation with Variety's Peter Bart on Saturday, June 26 at 3:00 p.m.
The opening night screening on June 22 will include live-action and animated comedies in a program dubbed, "Opening Night: For Laughing Out Loud." Throughout the festival the selected short films are organized into 52 programs covering a variety of genres, including thrillers, horror, romance, fantasy animation, documentaries and comedies - and themes such as family, war, art, sex, love, memories, dreams, couples, travel, sports, crime, philosophy, animals, motherhood, the Jewish experience, LGBT shorts and French Language shorts. There will also be a special focus on Australia titled, "On Top Down Under."
Other shorts include AnnaLynne McCord in "Amexica" (Mexico/USA); Annie Leibovitz in the documentary "Annie Leibovitz 'So, There You Go'" (USA); Julian Sands in "The Good Life" (USA); Vincent D'Onofrio and Kevin Corrigan in "The New Tenants" (Denmark/USA); Brendan Gleeson in "Noreen" (Ireland); Alicia Witt and David Morse in "The Pond" (USA); Jesse Eisenberg in "Some Boys Don't Leave" (USA); Matthew Rhys in "Think Tank" (USA); and John Mahoney and Lili Taylor in "Tired of Being Funny" (USA). Lending their voices to shorts, Isabella Rossellini narrates the live action "Flat Love" (Spain/USA); Helena Bonham-Carter, Robbie Coltrane, John Hurt and Tom Wilkinson in the animated "The Gruffalo" (UK); Meryl Streep, Forest Whitaker and Spike Jonze in the animated "Higglety Pigglety Pop! Or There Must Be More To Life" (Canada/USA), and Ian McKellan and Joseph Fiennes in the animated "A Lost and Found Box of Human Sensation" (Germany).
A jury of three industry professionals will screen this year's slate of short films selected for competition across 17 categories, including Best Animation, Best Documentary, Best Live Action, Best of Festival, and the Future Filmmaker Award, with a total of $90,000 in money and production prizes, including $14,000 in cash grants. First place winners in four categories will automatically become eligible for consideration by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) for a possible Academy Award nomination. Over the course of its first 15 years, the festival has presented 68 films that have gone on to receive Academy Award nominations. Winners will be announced on Sunday, June 27 at a Closing Night screening and reception.
"While it's remarkable how many established actors are now actively working in the short film field, ShortFest's primary purpose - apart from providing great entertainment for moviegoers - is to showcase and support exceptional new talent emerging in the creative field, and this year's event features a huge number of innovative new directors, writers, actors and animators emerging in America and worldwide," commented the festival's executive director Darryl Macdonald in a statement. "The animated shorts are particularly strong this year, and the live action work is much more polished."