Palm Springs to Open 16th Festival with "Coach Carter"; Featuring 79 Premieres
by Brian Brooks
The new-year ushers in a host of festivals, with the Palm Springs International Film Festival leading the pack, opening on January 6th with a roster of 190 films from 65 countries. Seven films will screen in the fest's "Gala" section including the opening night feature "Coach Carter" by Thomas Carter ("Save the Last Dance"), starring Samuel L. Jackson. The film is based on a true-life account of a high school basketball coach (Jackson) who received both praise and criticism after benching his entire undefeated team for poor academic performance, resulting in considerable national attention. Jackson, who will be attending the screening, will also be honored at PSIFF's awards gala on January 8 to receive the Career Achievement Award for Acting.
Other International Gala Screenings to tap for the festival's 16th edition include the world premiere of Raymond De Felita's "The Thing About My Folks" starring Peter Falk, Paul Reiser, and Olympia Dukakis. Argentine/Spanish production "Roma" by Adolfo Aristarian will have its North American debut as a gala, while John L' Ecuyer's "Prom Queen" (Canada), Laurent Tirard's "The Story of My Life" (France), and South African/U.K. feature "Red Dust" by Tom Hooper and starring Hilary Swank will have U.S. premieres.
Additionally, PSIFF will screen 41 of the 50 films submitted for consideration in the Best Foreign Language Film category for the Academy Awards in its "Awards Buzz" section. Also screening in the section are ten docs that have received acclaim in the last year, including Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman's Sundance 2004 winner, "Born into Brothels," Paola di Florio's "Home of the Brave," Deb Ellis and Denis Mueller's "Howard Zinn: You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train," Jessica Yu's Gothams-nominated "In the Realms of the Unreal," Stacy Peralta's "Riding Giants," Christian Bauer's "The Ritchie Boys," Byambasuren Davaa and Luigi Falorni's European Film Awards-nominated "The Story of the Weeping Camel," fest favorite "Super Size Me" by Morgan Spurlock, Mark Wexler's "Tell Them Who You Are," and Kevin Macdonald's BAFTA winner "Touching the Void."
The festival's Cine Latino program will feature 31 titles from Latin America as well as the Iberian Peninsula, while the event's inaugural "Super-Charged Cinema" will screen genre films including action, martial arts, comedy and horror to late-night audiences.
Five films have been earmarked as "Special Screenings" marking their world or U.S. premieres. Barry Avrich's controversial doc "The Last Mogul," about late Universal chief Lew Wasserman will have its world debut in the section as will Barra Grant's "Life of the Party" starring Eion Bailey. Also in "Special Screenings" are the U.S. premieres of "5 X 2 -- Five Times Two" by French director François Ozon, "Millions" by Danny Boyle, and Marco Kreuzpaintner's "Summer Storm." In addition, 79 other international titles will have their varying premieres during the 12-day festival. Among the roster of films, Kevin Noland's comedy "Americano," starring Joshua Jackson and Dennis Hopper will have its world premiere, while Argentine doc "Nietos (Identitad y memorial)" by Benjamin Avila will make its North American debut.
Closing the festival is Charles Dance's U.S. premiere of "Ladies in Lavender," starring Judi Dench and Maggie Smith. The film centers on two spinster sisters whose emotions are unleashed after a dapper young foreigner washes ashore on their beach on the eve of World War II.
"This year's line-up is especially auspicious, featuring, as it does, a number of major premieres from both well-established auteurs and promising emerging filmmakers based in America and abroad," commented Darryl Macdonald, PSIFF festival director in a statement. "The breadth and depth of the talent encompassed by the line-up of films from current cultural hotbeds of world cinema such as Argentina, Israel, China, Italy, and Germany -- all of whom are undergoing resurgence, of sorts, of their national cinemas." The Palm Springs International Film Festival was founded in 1990 by then Mayor Sonny Bono, and stylizes itself as a key Oscars campaign marketing tool.
[ For more information, please visit: http://www.psfilmfest.org. ]