Stars Stud the Palm Springs International Film Festival

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Celebrating the start of the new year in cinematic style, the annual Palm Springs International Film Festival took place from Jan. 1st-11th. In its 27th year, the prestigious festival in the desert resort has featured more than 180 films from over 70 countries, an Awards Gala that has lately become a highly anticipated prelude to the Oscars, as well as the appearance of Hollywood’s finest, including Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, and Matt Damon.

Ridley Scott, Cate Blanchett, and Matt Damon
Ridley Scott, Cate Blanchett, and Matt Damon

Stars raised the bar on glamour and fashion-forward style at the first Awards Gala of the year. Highlights from the weekend’s festivities include the radiant Cate Blanchett who wore a long-sleeved, sky blue Marc Jacobs gown detailed with gold Lesage embroidery from France. She won the Desert Palm Achievement Award, Actress.

Alicia Vikander of “The Danish Girl” was pretty in pink in an Erdem dotted ruffle ‘Simone’ skirt and ‘Vena’ top from the Erdem Pre-Fall 2016 collection, accessorized with a Bulgari Serpenti ring, in Jimmy Choo Claudette platform sandals. She won the Rising Star Award.

The lovely Kate Winslet was classic in a figure-hugging black gown by Roland Mouret. She presented her “Steve Jobs” co-star Michael Fassbender the International Star Award. An award-winning author, Sherrill Bodine, was stunning in a sleeveless, sparkling gold gown standing next to her husband, John.

The Awards Gala also featured a video tribute created by director Steven Soderbergh for friend and advisor of the festival, producer Jerry Weintraub, who passed away last year.

Johnny Depp receiving the Desert Palm Achievement Award
Johnny Depp receiving the Desert Palm Achievement Award

Johnny Depp was introduced for the Desert Palm Achievement Award by director Scott Cooper who worked with him on “Black Mass.” Matt Damon received the Chairman’s Award while Brie Larson was presented the Breakthrough Performance Award for her role in “Room” by director Lenny Abrahamson and child co-star Jacob Tremblay. You can look at the complete list of winners here.

In addition to screenings, the film festival features a series of special programs like Talking Pictures which is devoted to exploring the creative side of those involved in filmmaking. The conversations engage journalists and audiences with cinema’s foremost creative talents.

Film Festival
Will Smith and Dr. Bennet Omalu

One of those conversations included “Concussion” star Will Smith who was joined by his real-life on-screen persona, Dr. Bennet Omalu. After watching the movie, Dr. Omalu said, “I could feel my soul becoming embedded on-screen.”

Film highlights included:

“Endorphine” (Canada) – Director André Turpin described how “the actors abandoned themselves to the abstract nature of the script.” The experimental crime drama, explained at different stages of the protagonist’s life, tells the story of 12-year-old Simone (Sophie Nelisse) who witnesses the murder of her mother.

Penelope Cruz in "Ma Ma"
Penelope Cruz in “Ma Ma”

“Ma Ma” (Spain) – The stunning Penelope Cruz takes on the highly dramatic role of Magda, a woman who has just been diagnosed with advanced cancer. Her devoted son eventually lends a hand in finding comfort for his mother, and a grieving soccer scout Arturo (Luis Tosar), by bringing them together during each other’s crisis, transforming their pain into something deeper.

“Fly Away Solo” (India) – This Hindi film was directed by Neeraj Ghaywan and follows the story of four individuals traversing their culture’s customs while trying to find their own freedom. Questions of tradition arise as each one struggles with conflicts that may ultimately affect not only themselves but everyone around them.

In addition to actively creating a hub for filmmakers and fans to congregate, the Palm Springs Film Society “believes film as an art form has the power to bridge cultures and illuminate the universality of the human experience.” Part of their efforts is realized through educational programs which bring students into engaging opportunities and in-depth experiences in the world of cinema encouraging creativity, introspection, and exploration.

Visit Palm Springs International Film Festival for more information on all the films, activities and programs that this wonderful organization has to offer.

About Irene Michaels

Over the past 25 years I have taken on the roles of a producer, publisher, insider journalist and fundraiser. My artistic interests began early in my teens working as a model and a dancer throughout the U.S. I formed my first modeling agency before I was twenty. While modeling I secured a re-occurring role in the popular daytime TV series General Hospital. Read more...

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