Running January 1-11, Palm Springs annually offers a robust showcase for the Foreign Language Oscar contenders, which will be announced on December 18.
Many remain at large on the distribution market while others, including such expected buzzy titles as “Son of Saul,” “The Clan,” “Viva,” “The Second Mother,” “Mustang” and “A War” have had or will have qualifying runs in the US this season. This year ex-Newsweek critic David Ansen joins the festival as lead programmer.
Opening night will be 50s thriller “The Fencer,” both a Golden Globe nominee for Best Foreign Language Film and Finland’s Best Foreign Language Oscar submission. A young fencer, while hiding from the Russian secret police, becomes a physical education teacher in an Estonian village. Other foreign films in the Special Presentations program include Jaco Van Dormael’s high-concept satire “The Brand New Testament,” the Best Foreign Language Oscar submission from Belgium, starring Pili Groyne, Benoit Poelvoorde and Catherine Deneuve. In the movie, God accidentally sets off a panic after his disgruntled daughter leaks the apocalyptic plans stored on his computer.
The Festival will close with the U.S. premiere of Jeremy Sims’ road movie “Last Cab to Darwin.” A loner who doesn’t have long to live embarks on an epic drive through the Australian outback from Broken Hill to Darwin to die. The film stars Michael Caton and Jackie Weaver. Another U.S. premiere is “Tsotsi” director Gavin Hood’s thriller “Eye in the Sky,” starring Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman and Aaron Paul, is a thriller set in the world of remotely piloted aircraft warfare. The fest will also screen Christmas Day limited opener “The Revenant,” directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu and starring Leonardo DiCaprio as frontiersman Hugh Glass, which is nominated for three Golden Globe awards including Best Picture-Drama, Best Actor-Drama and Best Director.
Every year, the Festival presents a series of screenings and conversations with various award season players. Golden Globe nominee Lily Tomlin will attend the screening of Sony Pictures Classics’ “Grandma”; director Asif Kapadia will attend the screening of his documentary “Amy,” a portrait of Amy Winehouse which employs the singer’s own candid footage and creative visualizations of her lyrics to illuminate the story of her all-too-short life and career.
As part of its Dinner & a Movie program, the festival will screen the documentary “Cooking Up a Tribute,” directed by Luis González and Andrea Gómez, which follows restaurateurs Josep, Jordi and Joan Roca as they take their El Celler de Can Roca on the road, exploring the native cuisines of Mexico, Colombia and Peru. The screening will be followed by a dinner at Mr. Lyons restaurant with a menu by chef Tara Lazar and Masterchef finalist Stephen Lee.
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