Palm Springs Intl. Film Fest Welcome Diverse Projects to the Desert

Palm Springs Intl. Film Fest Welcome Diverse Projects to the Desert


Following years of delays and pandemic restrictions, and now celebrating a post-strike awards season, what better way to kick off the 35th annual Palm Springs Intl. Film Festival than with a “fun and naughty film,” says festival director Lili Rodriguez.

Thea Sharrock’s “Wicked Little Letters” will enjoy its U.S. premiere Jan. 5 at the desert fest, followed by 179 films from 74 countries including 47 premieres (eight world, three international, 12 North American and 24 U.S.), while showcasing a lineup of 40 international feature film Oscar submissions. 

“The real excitement is that we’re back to a full-on festival with all pre-pandemic offerings, and 100% venue capacity. The moment we saw ‘Wicked Little Letters,’ we knew we needed it as our opener,” says Rodriguez.

Among films earning attention at PSIFF include the world premieres of “A Look Through His Lens,” which details the life of Oscar-winning cinematographer Philippe Rousselot, and “All About the Levkoviches,” from debuting director Adam Breier. The event closes with “Ex-Husbands,” from director Noah Pritzker, Jan. 13. The festival will also have a dedicated focus on South Korean films, with screenings of “Cobweb,” “The Handmaiden,” “Memories of Murder” and “Train to Busan.”

Always popular is the Talking Pictures program, which takes place Jan. 4-5, allowing festgoers the chance to interact with filmmakers and actors. This year’s program features several PSIFF Awards honorees including Jeffrey Wright for “American Fiction,” Greta Gerwig for “Barbie,” Eric Roth for “Killers of the Flower Moon,” Carey Mulligan for “Maestro,” Cillian Murphy for “Oppenheimer,” Emma Stone for “Poor Things” and Colman Domingo for “Rustin.” 

Actress-turned-filmmaker Jennifer Esposito’s directorial debut, “Fresh Kills,” will screen at the festival, with the multihyphenate making an appearance. Her screenplay charts the volatile struggles of a group of Staten Island women, both married into and born into a life of organized crime. “I grew up around this type of life, and one of my first boyfriends came from a ‘family.’ I saw a lot of extreme violence, oftentimes coming from girls, and I always wanted to understand why they were so angry. We’ve never seen this point of view before in a mob film,” says Esposito.

Actor Glenn Howerton, whose dynamic performance in the critically acclaimed “Blackberry” is earning Oscar buzz, will be in attendance as his film makes a screening. 

Portraying the ruthless, real-life task master Jim Balsillie (former co-chief executive officer of the Canadian technology company Research in Motion, the company behind the BlackBerry device) was a challenge that Howerton relished. “I didn’t want to get too caught up in any sense of allegiance towards any one character or person. I’m fascinated by hyper-masculine men because I’m not like that in real life. I find alpha males sort of off-putting, but at the same time, fascinating to observe. And it’s compelling to play as an actor,” says Howerton.

Returning are numerous panels and spotlights, including New Voices New Visions, Modern Masters, Queer Cinema, Cine Latino, True Stories and World Cinema Now. A noteworthy new addition to the fest’s offerings is one that lends itself to a younger audience. 

“We’re very excited about our inaugural family day, which is being held on the last Sunday of the festival. We’ll be screening ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem,’ and a really wonderful film called ‘Dancing Queen,’ which is sort of like a Norwegian ‘Strictly Ballroom’ for kids. We’ve never done anything like this before,” says Rodriguez.

Following an undoubtedly tense few months for the industry, Rodriguez is eager to see Palm Springs come alive at the start of the new year with fresh entertainment for all. “The festival is a huge economic driver to the area, and I love sneaking through the lines and listening to what people are saying about the event,” Rodriguez says. “We’re a must-stop in people’s awards campaigns, especially for the international Oscar category, which has really come to define us.” 

WHAT: Palm Springs Intl. Film Festival
WHEN: Jan. 4-15
WHERE: Palm Springs


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