News in 2008

Festival Announces Line-up of 209 Films
2009 Palm Springs International Film Festival


Festival Announces Line-up of 209 Films Celebrating
the Best in International and American Cinema

Palm Springs, CA (December 17, 2008) – The 20th Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival has announced a roster of 209 films, culled from 73 countries for the 2009 Festival.  The selection of films for screening includes a total of 83 premieres (14 World, 49 U.S. and 20 North American).  Also, 50 of the 67 films submitted for consideration in the Best Foreign Language Film category for the Academy Awards will be screened at this year's Festival, held from January 8-19, 2009.

"Over the course of its first 19 years, this Festival has always celebrated creative expression and embraced a diversity of visions and viewpoints," said Festival Director Darryl Macdonald.  "Happily, we are reaching our 20th anniversary milestone at a time when a new generation of filmmaking talent is making its debut on the world stage, with about one-third of this year's film selections by first or second-time directors.  Just as this year's line-up brings the promise of new voices to infuse the cinema with a renewal of its creative energy, the Festival itself is undergoing a reincarnation of sorts, with new staff, a fresh sense of purpose where the industry is concerned, and a clear eye to the future of the art form."

Director of Programming Helen du Toit, who was appointed to the position earlier this year, commented, "This year's PSIFF lineup reflects a new direction for us.  It's a leaner, more focused selection of international gems, with more space devoted to independent American productions, documentaries and new film and talent discoveries from around the globe."


The Festival will open on Thursday, January 8 with the screening of Last Chance Harvey (USA) at the Palm Springs High School, followed by a reception at the Palm Springs Art Museum.  Directed by Joel Hopkins, the film tells the story of a struggling New York jingle writer and a lonely British bureaucrat who meet in London and transform one another's lives.  Last Chance Harvey stars Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson who each received a Golden Globe nomination (for Best Actor and Best Actress in the Music or Comedy category) for their performances in the film.

In addition to the Opening Night Gala, the Festival will hold four international galas, a series of special screenings celebrating Festival programming showcases including:

  • 20th Anniversary Gala:  $5 a Day (USA) –Marking its U.S. premiere, the film is a tale of a son forced to reunite with his con-artist father during a cross-country odyssey.  Directed by Nigel Cole, the film stars Christopher Walken, Allesandro Nivolo, Amanda Peet and Sharon Stone.

  • GouLa!:  Alien Trespass (USA) – A world premiere, directed by R.W. Goodwin and starring Eric McCormack, Jenni Baird, Dan Lauria and Robert Patrick.  Set in 1957, a fiery object from space hurtles into a California desert mountaintop.  A murderous creature — the Ghota, bent on destroying all life forms on the planet — escapes from the flying saucer.  A benevolent alien, Urp, inhabits the body of Ted Lewis (Eric McCormack), a local astronomer, and with the help of Tammy, a waitress from the local diner, sets out to save mankind.

  • The Gay!La:  Chef's Special (Spain) – Directed by Nacho Velilla, a cook ditches dreams of Michelin stardom to manage a small barrio eatery.  Javier Cámara, Lola Dueñas, Fernando Terjero and Benjamin Vicuña star.

  • Closing Night Film: The Burning Plain (USA) – A U.S. premiere and directorial debut of award-winning screenwriter (Amores Perros) Guillermo Arriaga, is the layered story of a self-destructive woman and two intertwined families.  The film stars Charlize Theron, Kim Basinger, Jennifer Lawrence and Joaquim de Almeida.


The Festival will offer a selection of 83 premieres of highly anticipated films showcasing the diversity of international cinema.

World Premieres include:  (untitled) (USA), Alien Trespass (USA), American Primitive (USA), Baghdad, Texas (USA), Bedford: The Town They Left Behind (USA), Dark and Stormy Night (USA), Eugene (USA), Frank the Rat (USA), Infinite Space: The Architecture of John Lautner (USA), The Inheritance of War (USA), The Least Among You (USA), Like Dandelion Dust (USA), ShowGirls, Provincetown, MA (USA), Tales from the Script (USA).

North American Premieres include:  Captive (Bulgaria/Russia), Egon & Dönci (Hungary), Flowers of the Sky (Sri Lanka/India), The Gift to Stalin (Kazakhstan/Russia), The Green Dumpster Mystery (Israel), Hope Eternal (UK/Zambia/Congo/Zimbabwe/South Africa), Kandisha (Morocco), The Karamazovs (Czech Republic/Poland), Marcello Marcello (Switzerland), No One’s Son (Croatia), Opium War (Afghanistan/Japan/Korea/France), Living in Emergency: Stories of Doctors Without Borders (USA/France, Kenya, Liberia, Congo, Pakistan, Malawi), Painted Skin (Hong Kong/Singapore/China), Ploning (Philippines), Robert Zimmermann is Tangled Up in Love (Germany), The Seven Days (Israel),
Small Crime (Greece), Tahaan – A Boy with a Grenade (India), The Witch of the West Is Dead (Japan), Zrubavel (Israel).

U.S. Premieres include:  $9.99 (Israel/Australia), Addicted to Plastic! The Rise and Demise of a Modern Miracle (Canada), Among the Clouds (Iran), As Slow as Possible (Canada/Germany), Baby Love (France), Blind Loves (Slovakia), Blue Gold: World Water Wars (USA), The Burning Plain (USA), Ciao Bella (Sweden), Dean Spanley (New Zealand/UK), Forgotten Transports: To Estonia (Czech Republic), The Girl from Monaco (France), Goodbye Solo (USA), Grown Ups (France/Sweden), Hooked (Romania/France), Il Divo (Italy/France), In Your Absence (Spain), It’s Not me, I Swear! (Canada), Kanchivaram (India), The Kautokeino Rebellion (Norway), Last Stop 174 (Brazil), Love and Other Crimes (Serbia/Germany/Austria/Slovenia), Machan (Italy/Sri Lanka/Germany), The Market – A Tale of Trade (Germany/UK/Turkey/Kazakhstan), Melodrama Habibi (France), Modern Life (France), The Necessities of Life (Canada), A Pain in the Ass (France), Pandora’s Box (Turkey/France/Germany/Belgium), Passchendaele (Canada), Pedro (USA), A Police Romance (France), Public Enemy Number One (Part 1 & 2) (France/Canada), Rain (Bahamas), Salt of This Sea (Palestine), The Sea Wall (France/Cambodia/Belgium), The Seed of Discord (Italy), The Shaft (China), The Song of Sparrows (Iran), The Tour (Serbia/Bosnia and Herzegovina), Unspoken (Belgium), Václav (Czech Republic), The Wedding Song (Tunisia/France), We Can Do That (Italy), The Window (Argentina/Spain), When a Man Comes Home (Denmark/Sweden), Woman’s Hearts (Italy/Morocco), The Young Romantic: A Portrait of Yundi Li (Canada).


As part of the Awards Buzz program, the Festival will screen 50 of the 67 official submissions to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for Best Foreign Language Film.  A special jury of international film critics will review these films to award the FIPRESCI Award for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year, Best Actor and Best Actress.  The 2008 FIPRESCI jury members will include Peter Keough (USA), Lisa Nesselson (France) and Roger Clarke (UK).


The New Voices/New Visions Award will honor one of 12 features from new international talents making their first or second films.  The films will be judged by Orly Ravid, V.P. of U.S. Acquisitions and Distribution Senator Entertainment; Kattie Evans, National Geographic Films, V.P. Acquisitions; and Michael Kananack, V.P. Sales and Acquisitions, Neoclassics Films Ltd.  Films selected for this year include:

  • Among the Clouds (Iran) - In southwest Iran, near the border with Iraq, a resourceful 16-year-old baggage porter becomes smitten with a slightly older Iraqi girl who’s not what she seems in this bittersweet drama.  A U.S. premiere, directed by Rouhollah Hejazi.

  • Ciao Bella (Sweden) - When Iranian-born Swede Mustafa is transformed into Latin lover Massimo, his suave manners and sense of style attract working-class beauty Linnea. This sassily humorous love story manages to address serious issues, including national stereotyping, racism, and an increasingly sexualized youth environment.  A U.S. premiere, directed by Mani Maserrat-Agha.

  • Eugene (USA) – Marking its world premiere, Jake Barsha's feature debut is a brilliantly disturbing psychological thriller about a lonely bachelor who befriends a young hustler and his girlfriend, with disastrous results for all involved. Strong performances — Stuart Bennett in the lead role is particularly fine — support Eugene's taut script and beautiful camerawork.

  • Grown Ups (France/Sweden) – This U.S. premiere tells the story of a single French father and his shy teen daughter discover romance—and deal with a shift in their own relationship — during a Swedish summer holiday.  Debuting director Anna Novion proves an astute observer of human interactions in this wistfully charming comic drama.

  • Hooked (Romania/France) – A day in the country becomes a crisis of conscience for two lovers after they hit a prostitute with their car.  Presumed dead, she suddenly wakes up, and the couple lies to her about the accident.  Hooked's naturalistic, handheld visual style complements the psychological complexity of the screenplay.  A U.S. premiere, directed by Adrian Sitaru.

  • Machan (Italy/Sri Lanka/Germany) – Based on a real-life event, Machan tells the story of a group of slum dwellers on the margins of society who find an invitation to a handball tournament in Bavaria, and band together to form the unlikely Sri Lanka National Handball Team.  A U.S. premiere, directed by Uberto Pasolini.

  • Rain (Bahamas) – Teenager Rain (Renel Naomi Brown) embarks on a quest to find her mother, whom she has never met, and is devastated by what she finds.  Director Maria Govan's powerful debut feature, marking its U.S. premiere, exposes viewers to a side of life in the Bahamas rarely seen by outsiders.

  • The Seven Days (Israel) – When a large clan (a who's who of Israel's finest performers) gathers for the funeral and shiva of a loved one, bitterness and family feuds soon take precedence over mourning.  A North American premiere, directed by Ronit Elkabetz and Shlomi Elkabetz.

  • The Shaft (China) – Set amid the imposing mountains of western China, the dreams and disappointments of a family of coalmine workers poignantly reflect the plight of a vast number of ordinary laborers unable to climb the ladder of the country's post-Communist economy.  A U.S. premiere, directed by Zhang Chi.

  • South Desert (Chile) – Young Sofia finds a letter her mother had written before her recent death. Returned because the addressee was unknown, the letter leads Sofia on an adventure from Spain to the far south of Chile looking for answers.  A U.S. premiere, directed by Shawn Garry.

  • Unspoken (Belgium) – When somethingtruly heartbreaking happens in a family, the deepest response is often unspoken. A middle-aged Belgian couple struggle with the loss of their daughter five years on.  A U.S. premiere, directed by Fien Troch.

  • The Wedding Song (Tunisia/France) – This U.S. premiere is Karin Albou's (Little Jerusalem) sophomore feature and confirms her status as a rising star in the art-film firmament.  The story of a Muslim girl and a Jewish girl who bond intensely during the Nazi occupation of Tunis is taboo breaking, sensual, and political, all at the same time.


Ten films have been selected as part of Modern Masters program highlighting the latest work of established directors at the forefront of contemporary international cinema.

  • Adam Resurrected (USA/Israel/Germany) – Paul Schrader's brilliant new work tells the story of Adam Stein, who grapples with a paralytic case of survivor's guilt in the aftermath of the Holocaust. An extraordinary performance by Jeff Goldblum captures the essence of the complex central character, a man who survived while those around him perished.  The film also stars Willem Dafoe, Derek Jacobi, Ayelet Zurer and Moritz Bleibtreu.

  • Cherry Blossoms (Germany) – This profoundly moving story of marital love, directed by Doris Dörrie, won the Most Popular Film Award at the Seattle Film Festival.  Trudi discovers that Rudi is suffering from a terminal disease, but decides to keep it from him.  Instead she plans to take a long-planned trip together to Japan to visit their son.

  • Everlasting Moments (Sweden/Denmark) – Veteran Swedish director Jan Troell (best known for The Emigrants, his classic from 1971) returns with this elegant, perfectly realized period family drama starring the luminous Maria Heiskanen as Maria Larsson, a pioneer of Swedish photography—and the mother of seven — at the turn of the 20th century. Troell at his exemplary best.

  • Four Nights with Anna (Poland/France) – This beautifully-acted, gracefully told oddball story marks the welcome return of cinematic master Jerzy Skolimowski, after a self-imposed sabbatical.  His exquisite new film centers on sad sack Leon (Artur Steranko), who becomes romantically obsessed with nurse Anna (Kinga Preis) whose brutal rape he witnessed — or may have committed.

  • Kabei (Japan) – Set in 1940 Tokyo, veteran Yoji Yamada's 80th feature is a deeply affecting drama centering on mother and wife Kayo (Sayuri Yoshinaga), who struggles to get along with her two daughters after her professor husband is jailed for his progressive views.  A film that mixes poignancy and humor in equal measure.

  • Modern Life (France)The third in a series of films centering on the lives of French paysans. Director Raymond Depardon's remarkable documentary follows several families who live off the land in rural Haut-Garonne.  Told from the farmer's point of view, Modern Life is a deeply personal look at the complexities of “the simple life.

  • Mommy Is at the Hairdresser's (Canada) – School's out for the summer of 1966, but for Élise, the abrupt departure of her long-suffering mother means she’ll have to care for her father and two brothers.  Director Léa Pool uses the perfect blend of sweet aesthetics and sorrowful subject matter to tell this poignant coming-of-age story.

  • Of Time and the City (UK) – A cinematic ode to Liverpool, England, the film tracks director Terence Davies’ love/hate relationship with his birthplace over the course of his life. Showing the elusive glamour and the ever-present drudgery of daily life, Davies lays bare his inner longing and occasional loathing for the city that formed him.

  • White Night Wedding (Iceland) – An irreverent uprooting and updating of Anton Chekhov's play Ivanov, directed by Baltasar Kormákur.  A middle-aged professor about to get married for the second time to a woman half his age — despite the opposition of his future parents-in-law — starts to get cold feet.


The John Schlesinger Award for Outstanding First Feature or Documentary acknowledges the work of a first-time filmmaker whose film is presented in any program at the Festival.  Audience Awards will also be presented for Best Narrative Feature and Best Documentary Feature.  Bridging the Borders Award presented by Cinema without Borders will be presented to an international film that extols the universality of the human experience, bridging the borders between nations and promoting international understanding.


World Cinema Now will feature 93 films in a wide-ranging overview of contemporary international cinema.  True Stories highlights 39 of the best new films in contemporary non-fiction cinema.  Archival Treasures will feature the three films Midnight Cowboy (USA), Love One Another (Germany) and The Jester (Poland).


The Festival's annual Awards Gala, on Tuesday, January 6, 2009, presented by Cartier and hosted by Entertainment Tonight's Mary Hart, will honor Clint Eastwood with the Career Achievement Award, Ron Howard with the Director's Lifetime Achievement Award, Revolutionary Road with the Ensemble Performance Award, Anne Hathaway with the Desert Palm Achievement Award for Acting, Amy Adams with the Spotlight Award and Dakota Fanning with the Rising Star Award.

Founded in 1990, by then Mayor Sonny Bono, the PSIFF is one of the largest film festivals in North America.  The Festival's 20th Annual Awards Gala is presented by Cartier and sponsored by Mercedes Benz and Entertainment Tonight.  Renewing sponsors of this year's Festival are Title Sponsor, The City of Palm Springs and Presenting Sponsors, The Desert Sun, the City of Indian Wells, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, Spencer’s Restaurant, and Wessman Development.  Major Sponsors include Bank of America, Integrated Wealth Management, Guthy-Renker, Regal Entertainment, Wells Fargo, Palm Desert National Bank, KPSP, Ocean Properties Development, Ciroc, Johnnie Walker and Don Julio.