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Honoring Women at 31st Palm Springs International Film Festival



David Ansen, former Newsweek critic and now Palm Springs Film Festival’s head of programming says this is a very strong year, featuring 180 films from around the world.  Now more than ever, the film festival offers major stars at its’ gala who feel Palm Springs is a must stop on the path to the Oscars. 


Chairman Harold Matzner has heralded the growth of the Gala which brings international press as well.  David said, “many of the international films are getting harder to see in theatres.  They are are like an endangered species. With Amazon and Netflix garnering many nominations there is less incentive for audiences to leave their homes in order to see these films.  Still at the festival there is a large dedicated audience that has a hunger for the films and the opportunity to listen to the actors, directors, and authors connected with them”.  


This year David attended the New York and Toronto film festivals, at the latter he saw 30 films in 8 days. There he saw the Canadian film “And The Birds Rain Down,” which he highly recommends.


David spoke of the energy and spirit of the new festival Artistic Director Lili Rodriguez, and the rest of the mostly female programming team, and he noted that many of the film showing this year are also directed by women. “Lili is doing a wonderful job. This year she went to Cannes to find films. Two of the titles she found are the German oscar entry, ‘System Crasher’, by Nora Fingscheidt and Mati Diop’s ‘Atlantics” from Senegal, both directed by women.”


Renée Zellweger, who plays Judy Garland, and her director Rupert Goold will be at the festival.   He is one of Varietys “10 Directors to Watch”.


“Scarlett Johanssen and Laura Dern’s terrific performances together in Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story”, from Netflix, has already garnered Golden Globe nominations.  And they will be at the gala.” David says, “Stars are afraid if they don’t come to Palm Springs they might miss out.”


Martin Scorsese is being honored from “the Irishman”, with the Sonny Bono Visionary Award which is also from Netflix”. 


There is a focus on Italy, 


“This year is the 100th birthday of Fellini and the festival will feature ‘La Dolce Vita’ and ’81/2,’ two of his great early films” David pointed out.  Some years ago I remember the festival did a retrospective of Fellini’s films, showing one of my personal favorites, “Amarcord ,” where every frame of the film was breathtaking.


Can you tell us more about the films?


“I programmed the opening night film, ‘An Almost Ordinary Summer,’ from Italy.  In New York I saw ‘Martin Eden’, from a book by Jack London. 


We have a section called Food to screen, with three films that tie in with chefs and restaurants: ‘Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy’, ‘Stage: The Culinary Internship’ and ‘When Tomatoes Met Wagner’.” 


Two films from France have caught voter’s eye, Ladj Ly’s “Les Miserables,” from Amazon, and Céline Sciamma’s “Portrait of a Lady on Fire.” 


David will do a 45 min interview with Antonio Banderas, after a screening of Pedro Almodóvar’s, “Pain and Glory,” also nominated for Best Actor and Best International Film.  Pedro won Best Actor in Cannes. “Ed Norton will be there with ‘Motherless Brooklyn’ which is a very good film, completely changed from the book, which seems fine with the author.  We will have the author of Fox Searchlight’s ‘JoJo Rabbit’ author Christine Leunens  in a section called ‘Talking Pictures and Book to Screen’”.


“In contrast there is Joaquin Phoenix  from “the Joker,” from Warner Bros., which has had an amazing international box office this year.  And from France an Amazon film ‘Les Misérables’ has been nominated for best foreign film from France.  Cannes has been the strictest regarding showing films that will only play in theatres.  It is ironic based on what is attracting critics, awards voters and audiences this year”.


“We are playing all of the 10 Best International films. “(better know as Best foreign film until this year).  

Czech Republic, “The Painted Bird”

Estonia, “Truth and Justice”

France, “Les Misérables”

Hungary, “Those Who Remained”

North Macedonia, “Honeyland”

Poland, “Corpus Christi”

Russia, “Beanpole”

Senegal, “Atlantics”

South Korea, “Parasite”

Spain, “Pain and Glory”


What documentaries are you excited about?  


“We are showing, Garin Hovannisian’s ”I am Not Alone,” which won the audience award at the AFI film festival, it is from Armenia. There are docs about Fashion, Pierre Cardin “House of Cardin”, and Music, “Billie” (Holiday) Director James Erskinefrom, “Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band” from , Director Daniel Roher, and Italy’s Marco Della Fonte’s ”Soul Journey" (World Premiere).”







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About MarlaLewinGFV

Lewin Marla
(Global Film Village)

Marla is a producer, playwright, screenwriter, publicist and now a journalist. She attends 12 to 20 film festivals per year. She has spoken on filmmaking at many festivals including Cannes and SXSW.


Los Angeles

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