JWR Articles: Commentary - Palm Springs International Film Festival - Preview (Featured performers: Emily Brooke Hands, Sebastian Urzendowsky, Rob Stewart, Claudia Tagbo) - January 15, 2007
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Palm Springs International Film Festival - Preview

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Global Cinema returns to the desert

The 18th annual edition of the Palm Springs International Film Festival (PSIFF) promises to be a global feast of diverse proportions. 254 films from 73 countries will grace, grate or galvanize the screens of six venues over the twelve-day run.

Opening night kicks off with the U.S. première of independent John Jeffcoat’s novelty comedy, Outsourced. From Ireland/U.K. comes the closing-night feature, The Tiger’s Tail. Veteran director John Boorman presents the chronicle of a nouveau Irish riche (Brendan Gleeson), as he literally tries to build a field of dreams but must endure the vagaries of the development market and an unscrupulous competitor.

Other gala presentations include Q. Allan Brocka’s hustler-as-hero chronicle, Boy Culture and Bill Condon’s latest musical, Dreamgirls. In a new section, Skøl Scandinavia, filmmakers from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden will move from Northern lights into the limelight with 17 examples of their craft. From the perils of a concert pianist (Allegro) to love at first heist (Lights in the Dusk) much will be learned and enjoyed.

Ciné Latino sports a marvellous bounty of 38 films. Who can resist José Luis Cuerda's The Education of the Fairies (er, the real thing!)? Not to be outdone, Chema Rodríguez has crafted a must-see documentary with The Railroad All-Stars—a soccer team of prostitutes trying to score some points rather than johns. Pedro Almodóvar will be represented by his latest study of the human condition with Volver.

Appearing in the John Schlesinger Award Program are such intriguing films as Patrice Sauvé’s in-depth look behind the corners of Montréal’s dark side (Cheech); queers everywhere (and their admirers) will flock to Russel P. Marleau’s The Curiosity of Chance to savour the social revenge fuck of a bullied sophomore who enlists a blue-ribbon jock and a drag queen onto his team; director Amy Berg focuses on the Church’s cover up of Roman Catholic priest Oliver O’Grady in her knowingly titled documentary, Deliver Us From Evil; Sebastian Urzendowsky (unforgettable in The Child I Never Was) stars in a German coming-of-age saga; from Turkey, Ice Cream, I Scream humorously probes the debit side of the global economy; Pingpong (winner of several awards at the Munich Film Festival); Before Flying Back to the Earth touches down from Lithuania—a documentary on the ravages of leukemia and resilience of children; one of the Philippine offerings is Auraeus Solito’s poetic The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros, where a twelve-year-old boy stretches into his gay self; the deliciously named Eating Out 2: Sloppy Seconds is an eye-candy-rich conquest flick; Rob Stewart’s Sharkwater is Jaws without a plot, but a spectacular study of another endangered species.

Late-night fans will love this year’s Super Charged Cinema. Subway phobia? Purge it with Maurice Devereaux’s End of the Line; Woody Harrelson fan? Check out his voice in Free Jimmy—the animated tale of a drug-addicted elephant who never forgets when to shoot up! Monsters live downtown in Bong Joon-ho’s The Host from South Korea. Anyone who’s not afraid to hang out on a limb will savour Severance in this charming U.K. massacre entry.

True Stories devotees will want to take in Paul Mazursky’s Uman—the burial place of the revered Rabbi Nachma (Yippee) or, in Meth, contemplate the aftershocks arising from the widespread use of crystal methadone.

Royston Tan’s 4:30 headlines World Cinema Now. If it’s half as effective as his previous numbered production, 15 viewers won’t be disappointed. Classical music lovers need look no further than Jean-Louis Guillermou’s Antonio Vivaldi: A Prince in Venice. Failed musicians may find comfort in Denis Dercourt’s The Page Turner. In Puccini for Beginners, opera aficionados may be surprised that the master’s music accompanies a tale of lesbian angst. Philippe Falardeau’s Congorama starts with promise but fails to soar past the credit line. Mel Chionglo’s Twilight Dancers (from the Philippines) takes a hard look at the trials and tribulations of a male stripper who keeps the men happy but is looking for Ms. Right.

Beyond the films, the dynamic fest offers a glitzy awards gala (January 5th) and a number of panels, notably: “Courting Controversy: When Directors Deal With Contentious Subject Matter.” For many of the productions on this year’s menu, it’s too late to worry about offending anyone. Let the lights go down and the art come up! JWR

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