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Palm Springs Festival awards "When she found me"

The 19th Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival came to a successful close on Sunday, January 13, 2008 and announced this year's award winners at a luncheon at Spencer's Restaurant. The Festival, which ran from January 3-14, 2008, screened 212 films from 66 countries, including 65 premieres and 55 of the 63 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 this year's film festival circuit.

Festival chairman Earl Greenburg stated, "The success of this year's awards gala and Festival is amazing. During the past few years, we have been cautious about releasing numbers, however we can't avoid doing it this year. For the first time in the Festival's history both receipts for film ticket sales and the awards gala each exceeded one million dollars."

Festival director Darryl Macdonald said, "With record-breaking attendance, a star-studded Gala that featured appearances by talents like Daniel Day-Lewis, Sean Penn and Halle Berry and an ecstatic audience response to the film line-up, this year's Festival surpassed our already high expectations for the event. It sets a perfect stage for next year's 20th anniversary edition of the event."

AWARDS
This year's Festival attendees selected Then She Found Me (USA) directed, co-written by and starring Helen Hunt as the Mercedes-Benz Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature. The U.S. premiere opened the Festival and stars Hunt, Bette Midler, Colin Firth and Matthew Broderick. Then She Found Me is a THINKFilm release, opening in May.

The other runner-ups include The Year My Parents Went on Vacation (Brazil), Late Bloomers (Switzerland), Red Like the Sky (Italy), How About You (Ireland), The Band's Visit (Israel), Shake Hands With the Devil (Canada), The Counterfeiters (Austria), Children of Glory (Hungary), Noodle (Israel), and 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Romania).

Autism: The Musical (USA) directed by Tricia Regan received the Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature. The documentary follows the six-month rehearsal process of the Miracle Project, in which a group of autistic children writer and perform a full-length musical. The film is shortlisted for the Academy Awards Best Documentary Feature nomination.

The other runner-ups include Body of War (USA), Anita O'Day: The Life of a Jazz Singer (USA), Call Me Troy (USA), War/Dance (USA), As Seen Through These Eyes (Canada), Please Vote For Me (China), The Business of Being Born (USA), Hats Off (USA), The Pixar Story (USA) and Angels in the Dust (South Africa).

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 the jury selected Armin the submission from Croatia, directed by Ognjen Svilicic. The film is an intimate, poignant drama about a small-town father and son trying to maintain their dignity in the big city and in the face of unexpected opportunities. The jury selected the film for its sensitive portrayal of a father-son relationship and the subtle intimations of unseen horrors, brilliantly evoked in a serio-comic manner.

Song Gang-ho received FIPRESCI Award Best Actor for his performance in Secret Sunshine (South Korea) directed by Lee Chang-dong and Anamaria Marinca and Laura Vasiliu received FIPRESCI Award Best Actress for their performances in 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Romania) directed by Cristian Mungiu. This year's FIPRESCI jury members include Ronald Bergen (UK), Isabelle Danel (France) and Adam Nayman (Canada).

The New Voices/New Visions category features films from ten 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. Reviewing the films for this award were journalist Elliot Kotek; Stefan Laudyn, director of the Warsaw Film Festival; and Thorsten Ritter, International Sales Agent from Bavaria Films.

The jury selected Hounds (Germany) directed and co-written by Ann-Kristin Reyels. The jury issued the following statement on the film: "Themselves a strange mix of cultures, the jury found common ground in their appreciation of Hounds, an accomplished first feature directed and co-written by Ann-Kristin Reyels which subtly succeeds in all aspects of the art-form. Of particular importance to our decision was our sense of this film's consideration of its context within the world at large: Hounds cleverly and comically presents a small-town microcosm of global issues - the acceptance of disabilities without condescension, the respect for other species, and the importance of love and communication within families (however unconventional their composition)."

Special Jury Mention went to The Waltz, directed by Salvatore Maira and Special Mention (Cinematography) to Two Embraces (directed by Enrique Begne; cinematography by Frederico Barbarosa). Commenting on these two awards the jury stated: "For his ability to construct and execute the logistical feat of an entertaining feature film in one extended take without the sacrifice of story, the jury has decided to single out Salvatore Maira's The Waltz for a Special Mention. And finally, the jury acknowledges by Special Mention the vivid and eloquent cinematography created by Federico Barbarosa for Enrique Begne's Two Embraces."

Other films screened for this award include Body (Brazil), Continental, A Film Without Guns (Canada), Dharm (India), In the Arms of My Enemy (France/Belgium/Canada), The New Man (Sweden/Finland), In the Name of God (Pakistan) and Shotgun Stories (USA).

Nadav Schirman received the John Schlesinger Award for Outstanding First Feature (Narrative or Documentary) for the film The Champagne Spy (Israel). 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. The film follows a 12 year-old boy who journeys into the shadowy corners of his father's real and covert identities, when he learns that he is a Mossad spy.

Commenting on the selection Co-directors of programming Carl Spence and Helen du Toit said, "Prior to making his mark with acclaimed features John Schlesinger made his debut with a documentary film. We are delighted to celebrate a filmmaker, who incidentally was inspired to get into filmmaking by John Schlesinger's Marathon Man and is working on his first narrative feature following the enthusiastic audience and critical response to his debut documentary feature The Champagne Spy."

Nic Balthazar received the Heineken Red Star Award for Ben X (Belgium). The Heineken Red Star Award was created to provide increased exposure and visibility for the movies screened at these film festivals, while recognizing and rewarding innovative and original works of film. The art of filmmaking is a labor of love; it takes many people to create a movie, but even when the final cut is complete, there is still a long way to go before it makes it to the big screen, which is where the Heineken Red Star Award comes in. The winner of the Heineken Red Star Award receives a full-page profile in Variety magazine, featured on a segment on the Independent Film Channel, and invited to participate in an industry networking event in Los Angeles this December - all in an effort to provide much-needed recognition and exposure for talented filmmakers to assist in getting their works to screen.

The Band's Visit (Israel), directed by Eran Kolinn, received the Bridging the Border's Award presented by Cinema Without Borders to the film that is the most successful in bringing the people of our world closer together. The story of an Egyptian brass band in a backwater, desert Israeli town and the comical tensions that erupt among the band's members, hosts and potential audience.

Founded in 1990 by then Mayor Sonny Bono, the PSIFF is one of the largest film festivals in North America. The Festival has an attractive film sales and distribution record and is seen by American distributors as one of the best Academy Award campaign marketing tools. The Festival also features cultural events, filmmaker tributes, industry seminars and an annual black-tie gala award presentation.

Renewing their support of this year's Festival is Title Sponsor, The City of Palm Springs and Presenting Sponsors, Spencer's Restaurant, The Desert Sun, the City of Indian Wells, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, Entertainment Tonight and Wessman Development. Producing Sponsors include Mercedes-Benz, the Official Vehicle of the Festival, Integrated Wealth Management, Bank of America, Regal Entertainment, Ciroc/Don Julio/Johnnie Walker and Wells Fargo.

The 20th Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival is scheduled from January 8-19, 2009, for additional information call 760-322-2930 or 800-898-7256 or www.psfilmfest.org.

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