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Palm Springs Fest Unveils Competition Slates

Palm Springs Fest Unveils Competition Slates

The Palm Springs International Film Festival unveiled its competition slate and announced a new section highlighting Australian cinema. A final total of 188 films from 70 countries, including 41 of the 65 official submissions to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for Best Foreign Language Film, will screen from January 7 – 18. 12 films will screen in the festival’s New Voices/New Visions competition while 66 others will screen in the event’s John Schlesinger Award section.

“The Australian production boom was brought on by tax incentives, but it is the new talent behind the work that will sustain it,” commented festival director Darryl Macdonald. “In addition to sterling work from emerging filmmakers, our Australian films showcase spotlights the work of three exciting new directors: Glendyn Ivin’s U.S. premier ‘Last Ride’ features a dazzling performance by Hugo Weaving. Actress Rachel Ward makes an impressive directorial debut with ‘Beautiful Kate’ and Warwick Thornton’s Camera D’Or winner ‘Samson and Delilah’ represents Australia in the Oscar race.”

As previously reported in indieWIRE, Michael Hoffman’s “The Last Station” will open the 21st annual event and “The Lightkeepers” by Daniel Adams will close out the festival’s 2010 run.

12 Films are competing in PSIFF’s New Voices/New Visions competition which features work from first or second time filmmakers – descriptions provided by the festival:

“Angel at Sea” (Belgium/Canada) – Twelve-year-old Louis lives a charmed life in a small Moroccan town. But one night his father shares a secret with him that changes their relationship–and Louis’s life–forever. This visually arresting and emotionally gripping film won the top prize at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. Directed by Frederic Dumont. U.S. premiere.

“Beautiful Kate” – Actress Rachel Ward makes a stunningly assured feature writing and directing debut with this emotional drama about a self-hating writer Ned (Ben Mendelsohn) who returns to his childhood home in the Australian outback in search of answers about his family’s dysfunctional past. Director: Rachel Ward. Cast: Bryan Brown, Rachel Griffiths and Ben Mendelsohn.

“A Brand New Life” (South Korea/France) – It’s 1975. Jinhee is nine years old, and the life she knows is about to be shattered. Inexplicably abandoned by her father in a Catholic orphanage outside Seoul, Jinhee begins an extraordinary emotional journey marked by rage and hope, death and rebirth. Directed by Ounie Lecomte. U.S. premiere

“Brotherhood” (Denmark) – Former Danish servicemen Lars and Jimmy are thrown together while training in a neo-Nazi group. Moving from hostility through grudging admiration to friendship and finally passion, events take a darker turn when their illicit relationship is uncovered. Winner, Best Film, Rome Film Festival. Directed by Nicolo Donato. U.S. premiere.

“Devil’s Town” (Serbia) – A stylish black comedy about life in contemporary Belgrade that satirizes the moral malaise clouding Serbia, Devil’s Town features a host of top actors as city dwellers whose lives intersect on a hot summer day while the country’s tennis stars compete in an important tournament. Directed by Vladimir Paskaljevic. U.S. premiere.

“Heliopolis” (Egypt) – An honest and important expression of a generation’s fight for their dreams in the face of harsh realities, Ahmad Abdalla’s ensemble drama focuses a sharp critique of Egyptian society matched by a nostalgia-drenched longing for life before the 1952 Revolution. Directed by Ahmad Abdalla. U.S. premiere.

“Huacho” (Chile/France) – A poignant but unsentimental look at the harsh life of the rural population in southern Chile. Following a small peasant family through its day, we are privy to the hardships they bear but also to their indomitable resilience and resourcefulness. Directed by Alejandro Fernandez Almendras. U.S. premiere.

“La Pivellina” (Austria/Italy) – In an impoverished trailer park on the outskirts of Rome, a small band of social outcasts eke out an existence in the dreary Italian winter. Circus performers Patty and Walter wait patiently for the summer to come, until one day Patty finds a small two-year-old girl standing alone in the rain in a suburban park. Directed by Tizza Covi and Rainer Frimmel.

“The Man Beyond the Bridge” (India) – A lonely forest guard comes across a filthy, mentally challenged woman outside his house. After his initial disgust, he slowly gets used to her visits and starts to care for her. But when she becomes pregnant, the villagers question his right to help. Directed by Laxmikant Shetgaonkar. U.S. premiere.

“Northless” (Mexico/Spain) – Through the intimate story of a young Oaxacan man struggling to jump the border into the U.S. and ending up in the care of two lonely women in Tijuana, Northless takes a fresh look at the realities of immigration facing individuals and families. Is crossing worth the price of what gets left behind? Directed by Rigoberto Perezcano.

“Nothing Personal” (Netherlands/Ireland) – A lone woman on the road in Ireland meets an equally reticent man who offers her food for work on the grounds of his grand house. Urszula Antoniak’s wonderfully understated and surprising debut features standout performances from Lotte Verbeek (Best Actress at Locarno) and Stephen Rea. Directed by Urszula Antoniak. U.S. premiere.

“What You Don’t See” (Germany/Austria) – Reminiscent of Francois Ozon’s See the Sea, this impressive psychological thriller about a sensitive German adolescent grappling with his father’s suicide and his mother’s new boyfriend plays out against the eerie woods and fantastic rock formations of the Brittany Coast. Directed by Wolfgang Fischer. U.S. premiere.

G’Day USA: A Showcase of New Australian Cinema – with descriptions provided by the festival:

“The Balibo Conspiracy” – In 1975, five young Australian TV journalists covering the invasion of East Timor by the Indonesian army were murdered at the border village of Balibo. Their story, denied and covered up for over 30 years, is grippingly recreated in this tense and moving film from Robert Connolly. Director: Robert Connolly. Cast: Anthony LaPaglia, Oscar Isaac and Damon Gameau. U.S. premiere.

“Beautiful Kate” – Actress Rachel Ward makes a stunningly assured feature writing and directing debut with this emotional drama about a self-hating writer Ned (Ben Mendelsohn) who returns to his childhood home in the Australian outback in search of answers about his family’s dysfunctional past. Director: Rachel Ward. Cast: Bryan Brown, Rachel Griffiths and Ben Mendelsohn.

“Blessed” – Focusing on the often-fraught bond between mothers and their children, Blessed unfolds in a blue-collar suburb of Melbourne over the course of 24 hours. The intersecting stories are divided into two parts, the first told from the viewpoint of the troubled offspring and the second through the weary eyes of their struggling moms. Director: Ana Kokkinos. Cast: Frances O’Connor, Miranda Otto and Deborra-Lee Furness. U.S. premiere.

“In My Father’s Country” – In one of the most remote corners of indigenous Australia, a boy will soon become a man. Following preparations for the ritual, the film shows the life lessons he receives from his father and grandfather. Set against the political backdrop of government pressure to close “uneconomic outstations,” it also shows modernity almost imperceptibly penetrating their community. Director: Tom Murray. North America premiere.

“Last Ride” – When his ex-con father (Hugo Weaving) bundles him into the car in the middle of the night, 10-year-old Chook knows that something is wrong. As the two drive into the desert towards an unknown future, their troubled relationship and the need to survive sees them battling the elements and each other. Director: Glendyn Ivin. Cast: Hugo Weaving, Tom Russell and Anita Hegh. U.S. Premiere.

“Lucky Country” – A gripping thriller set in 1902, in the wild Australian outback, where a desperate family on the brink of ruin find themselves turning on each other after three strangers arrive at their farm with rumors of gold. Director: Kriv Stender. Cast Aden Young, Toby Wallace and Pip Miller. U.S. premiere.

“My Year Without Sex” – A middle-class Melbourne mom recovering from a near-fatal illness wrestles with the titular problem and a whole lot more in this endearing comic drama from the writer/director of the prize-winning Look Both Ways (PSIFF 2006). Director: Sarah Watt. Cast: Sacha Horler, Matt Day and Portia Bradley. U.S. Premiere.

“Samson & Delilah” – One of the year’s most cinematically satisfying films, this unconventional love story of two aboriginal teens from a dusty settlement in the Central Australian Desert is full of fascinating ethnographic detail, gentle humor and breathtaking cinematography. Winner of the Camera D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and many other prizes. Director: Warwick Thornton. Cast: Rowan McNamara, Marissa Gibson and Scott Thornton.

“Wake in Fright” – A true milestone in Australian film history, this dread-filled drama is set in a rough outback mining town where a marooned teacher finds himself at odds with the xenophobic locals. Tensions quickly escalate until the inevitable explosion comes to pass. Director: Ted Kotcheff. Cast: Donald Pleasence, Gary Bond and Chips Rafferty.

[For more information and a list of the best foreign language Oscar contenders and John Schlesinger competition films screening at the festival, visit their website.]

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