News in 2009

2009 PSIFF announces festival winners
2009 Palm Springs International Film Festival


Departures named Mercedes-Benz Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature;
Visual Acoustics named Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature;
Revanche receives FIPRESCI Award; Hooked receives New Voices/New Visions Award;
Captain Abu Raed receives John Schlesinger Award

Palm Springs, CA (January 18, 2009) –The 20th Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival announced this year's award winners at a luncheon at DST Studios on Sunday, January 18, 2009. The Festival, held from January 6-19, 2009, screened 208 films from 73 countries, including 50 of the 67 foreign entries for this year's Academy Awards®. Palm Springs' increasingly popular Festival continues to expand its diverse programming of quality independent and foreign films, setting the stage for the year's film festival circuit.

Festival chairman Harold Matzner stated, "Each year, the Palm Springs International Film Festival continues to raise the bar and this year is no exception. The 2009 Festival has exceeded all of our expectations shattering revenue records for ticket sales to the star-studded Awards Gala, total box office and the number of sold-out film screenings. This achievement is all the more remarkable in this difficult economic environment and reflects both the Festival's quality and reputation."

Festival Director Darryl Macdonald added, "It's been a fabulously successful year for the Festival. Record attendance, huge audiences, happy filmmakers, a very active industry base, massive press coverage and operations that ran as smooth as silk. This will go down in the Festival annals as a vintage year on every front."


This year's Festival attendees selected Departures (Japan) directed by Yojiro Takita, as the Mercedes-Benz Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature. A failed cellist connects with his inner undertaker, his rural hometown and his newly deceased father in this tonally eccentric, lushly scored, moving drama. The film is on the Academy Awards® shortlist for Best Foreign Language Film nominations.

Other audience narrative favorites include: Patrik, Age 1.5, Like Dandelion Dust, The Necessities of Life, Captain Abu Raed, Tear This Heart Out, $5 a Day, Marcello Marcello, The Little Traitor, We Can Do That, Everlasting Moments, Every Child is Special, Stone of Destiny, Moscow Belgium, The Black Balloon, American Primitive, Cherry Blossoms, Baby Love and Passchendaele.

Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman (USA), directed by Eric Bricker, received the Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature. Narrated by Dustin Hoffman, the film tells the story of California-based Julius Shulman, who became the world's preeminent architecture photographer and the man who defined the way we view modernism.

On receiving the award, director Eric Bricker said, "Receiving this award means a lot not only to the filmmaking team but to Julius Shulman as well. Palm Springs is as much a part of Julius Shulman as is Los Angeles and to receive this type of recognition from the Palm Springs audience is a true honor. We would also like to thank the Palm Springs International Film Festival. The festival, likes its audience, is a class act and truly exemplifies the power and spirit of cinema."

Other audience documentary favorites include: Valentino: The Last Emperor, The English Surgeon, Blessed Is the Match: The Life and Death of Hannah Senesh, Herb and Dorothy, Pray the Devil Back to Hell, The Young Romantic: A Portrait of Yundi Li, Trip to Asia: The Quest for Harmony, Forgotten Transports: To Estonia, Creative Nature, An Unlikely Weapon, Prodigal Sons and Maynard Dixon: Art and Spirit.

A special jury of international film critics reviewed the official Best Foreign Language submissions to the Academy Awards® screened at this year's Festival to award the FIPRESCI Award for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year. This year's FIPRESCI jury members include Roger Clarke (UK), Peter Keough (USA) and Lisa Nesseleson (France).

The jury selected Revanche, the submission from Austria directed by Götz Spielmann. Commenting on the film, juror Lisa Nesselson from Screen International said, "Revanche from Austria is the suspenseful story of a heist whose unexpected repercussions radiate out with satisfying moral complexity." The film is on the Academy Awards® shortlist for Best Foreign Language Film nominations.

Natar Ungalaaq received the FIPRESCI Award for Best Actor for his performance in The Necessities of Life (Canada) directed by Benoît Pilon, and Martina Gusman received the FIPRESCI Award for Best Actress for her performance in Lion's Den (Argentina) directed by Pablo Trapero. Commenting on the actor awards Roger Clarke from The Independent, Sight & Sound said, "Though not a trained actor, Natar Ungalaaq brings rare warmth and icy clarity to his role as an Inuit hunter culturally and emotionally marooned in at TB hospital in 1940's Quebec." Peter Keough from The Boston Phoenix said, "Martina Gusman masters every scene of Lion's Den, expressing extreme emotions with restrained intensity and subtly conveying her character's transformation from passivity to power over the course of her ordeal."

The New Voices/New Visions category features films from twelve new international directors whose first or second films have been selected by the Festival's programming team to represent the best work of previously unheralded talents emerging in the narrative film making field with a particularly high standard of accomplishment and innovative technique. All films in the section are US premieres and were adjudicated by American distributors Kattie Evans, Vice President of Acquisitions and Production for National Geographic Films; Michael Kananack from NeoClassics Films Ltd; and Orly Ravid, Vice President of US Acquisitions and Distribution for Senator Entertainment. "All the films and creative voices in the program provide talented filmmakers to watch in the future," commented Michael Kananack.

The jury selected Hooked (Romania/France) directed by Adrian Sitaru. The winner of the New Voices/New Vision section of the 20th Palm Springs International Film Festival goes to the daring vision of Hooked by Romanian filmmaker Adrian Sitaru, "For its extraordinary power and utility in portraying fascinating characters engaged in a highly compelling dynamic, relying on pure raw talent behind the superb writing, acting and direction, and all achieved on a Dogme budget," commented Juror Orly Ravid. The film's star Maria Dinulescu accepted the award.

A Special Jury Mention went to Rain (Bahamas), directed by Maria Govan. The jury stated that "Rain gets a special mention for its for its vision of the Bahamas rarely seen before by director Maria Govan and cinematographer Martina Radwan with special performances by Renel Brown and Nikki Micheaux."

Other films screened for this award were Among the Clouds (Iran), Ciao Bella (Sweden), Eugene (USA), Grown Ups (France/Sweden), Machan (Sri Lanka/Italy/Germany), The Seven Days (Israel), The Shaft (China), Small Crime (Cyprus), Unspoken (Belgium) and The Wedding Song (Tunisia/France).

Amin Matalqa received the John Schlesinger Award for Outstanding First Feature (Narrative or Documentary) for the film Captain Abu Raed (Jordon/USA). This honor, selected by the Festival programming team, acknowledges the work of a first-time filmmaker whose narrative or documentary feature represents particular distinction and the promise of a major filmmaking career.

Commenting on the selection Director of Programming Helen du Toit said, "With over half our selection made by emerging directors we were spoiled for choice this year. Yet the international success of Captain Abu Raed, clearly establishes Jordanian director Amin Matalqa as an exciting new indie talent who taps into powerful universal emotions."

The director issued the following statement, "Thank you so much for this wonderful honor. I'm so sad I can't be back in Palm Springs to receive the John Schlesinger Award. As a long-time fan of his great films, I am very honored to be receiving this recognition under his name. Your encouragement and support are like fuel to independent filmmakers like myself. So thank you for recognizing me and my labor of love, Captain Abu Raed."

Golden Globe Best Foreign Language Film winner Waltz with Bashir (Israel), directed by Ari Folman, received the Bridging the Borders Award presented by Cinema Without Borders to the film that is the most successful in bringing the people of our world closer together. A film about memory and responsibility that uses powerful animation to recreate the hallucinogenic qualities of recollection, this unique documentary shows how Lebanon is part of the Israeli psyche, its shadow, its other place.

The Best of the Fest screenings will take place on Monday, January 19, which will include the award winning films and the Academy Award Best Foreign Language Film shortlist. Full list here.

Presented by Cartier, the 20th annual Awards Gala is sponsored by Mercedes Benz and "Entertainment Tonight." Renewing sponsors of this year's Festival include 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.

Founded in 1990 by then-Mayor Sonny Bono, the Palm Springs International Film Festival has evolved into one of the largest film festivals in North America. For additional information call 760-322-2930 or 800-898-7256 or