U.S. Films to Open, Close International Film Fest

The Palm Springs International Film Festival will open and close with American films, officials have announced, while spotlighting Eastern European films in between.

Opening the Jan. 2-12 event will be the Golden Globe-nominated “Selma,” directed by Ava DuVernay, the first African-American woman to be nominated for a Best Director Golden Globe. It stars David Oyelowo, who will receive the Breakthrough Performance Award, Actor at the Jan. 3 Awards Gala.

Closing the festival will be “Boychoir,” directed by François Girard and featuring an all-star cast that includes Dustin Hoffman, Garrett Wareing, Kathy Bates, Eddie Izzard and Debra Winger.

Both films are sold out.

“We are thrilled to launch this year’s festival with ‘Selma,’ Ava DuVernay’s deeply moving civil rights drama, featuring an Oscar-worthy performance by David Oyelowo in the role of Dr. Martin Luther King,” said artist director Helen du Toit..

“The timing could hardly be better with the upcoming 50-year anniversary of the historical voting rights marches from Selma to Montgomery. On a personal note, it is heartening that — for the second consecutive year — our Opening Night film is directed by a black woman.”

The film also features Tom Wilkinson, Cuba Gooding Jr., Alessandro Nivola, Giovanni Ribisi, Common, Carmen Ejogo, Lorraine Toussaint, Tim Roth and Oprah Winfrey, who also serves as a producer. Oyelowo and DuVernay are expected to attend the screening. A reception is scheduled to follow at the Palm Springs Art Museum.

“Boychoir,” which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in September, is the story of a 12-year-old disadvantaged boy who gets accepted at the elite National Boychoir Academy. He engages in a battle of wills with a tough choirmaster, played by Hoffman. Girard is known for his musical-themed films, including “32 Short Films About Glenn Gould” and “The Red Violin.”

A program of 20 films from Eastern Europe, titled Eastern Promises, is new this year.

“In 2014, filmmakers from Central and Eastern Europe produced some of the poignant and provocative works of world cinema and we are spotlighting them here, from discoveries by new talent to mustn’t miss works by familiar names,” said Alissa Simon, PSIFF senior programmer.

The program includes such Oscar candidates as “Ida” from Poland; “The Guide” from the Ukraine; “Cowboys” from Croatia, and “Corn Island” from Georgia.

For a complete list of the Eastern European films, go to DesertSun.com. Festival ticket information: (760) 322-2930 or psfilmfest.org.

Eastern European films

The complete list of films in the European Promises program:

“Afterlife” (Hungary) —Tender, funny and surprising, Afterlife is a sweetly absurdist coming-of-age tale that explores the relationship between an anxious twenty-something and his controlling father, a village Pastor — not only while the older man is alive, but also after his death. Director: Virág Zomborácz

“Corn Island” (Georgia) — A fable-like drama capturing the cycle of life along the border between Georgia and Abkhazia. An old farmer sows corn on one of the tiny islands that form in the Inguri River each spring, but cultivating no-man’s land is dangerous business. Director: George Ovashvili

“Cowboys” (Croatia) — A nifty blend of social drama and absurdist comedy, about a bunch of small town no-hopers who stage an American Western as a musical. Director: Tomislav Mršić

“Fair Play” (Czech Republic/Slovakia/Germany) — In Czechoslovakia circa 1983, a talented young sprinter risks her career by resisting the “special care” program designed to boost her competition times in this involving drama. Director: Andrea Sedláčková

“Ida” (Poland) — A moving and intimate drama set in 1960s Poland, about a young novitiate on the verge of taking her vows who discovers a dark family secret dating from the Nazi occupation. The film received Best Film, Best Director, Best Actress at the Polish Film Awards. Director: Pawel Pawlikowski

“In the Crosswind” (Estonia) — An art film in every sense of the word, this black-and-white slice of history mixes live-action with tableaux vivants to provide a requiem for inhabitants of the Baltics deported to Siberia or killed on Stalin’s orders. Director: Martti Helde

“The Guide” (Ukraine) — A boy on the run is rescued by a blind folk minstrel in this tale of love, loyalty, betrayal and infamy, set during the suppression of rural “kulaks” — wealthy farmers — and the Soviet-engineered Ukraine famine that left as many as 10 million peasants dead from starvation. Director: Oles Sanin

“The Japanese Dog” (Romania) — This moving tale centers on a bereaved 80-year-old reconnecting with his estranged son, who returns to Romania with a Japanese wife and child. Director: Tudor Christian Jurgiu

“Kebab & Horoscope” (Poland) — A former kebab-shop employee and an out-of-work horoscope writer declare themselves marketing experts and are hired to help a struggling carpet emporium in this droll shaggy-dog story. Director: Grzegorz Jaroszuk

“The Lesson” (Bulgaria/Greece) — An honest, hard-working schoolteacher in a small Bulgarian town is driven to desperate measures to avoid financial ruin and must grapple with the moral consequences of her actions. Directors: Kristina Grozeva, Petar Valchanov

“Mirage” (Hungary/Slovakia) — An African footballer on the lam (Isaach de Bankolé) in the desolate and lawless plains of Hungary becomes an avenging angel in Szabolcs Hajdu’s Eastern European western. A beautiful, mysterious work, it’s graced with fantastic camerawork and a superb soundtrack. Director: Szabolcs Hajdu

“No One’s Child” (Serbia/Croatia) — In the spring of 1988, hunters capture a wild boy among the wolves deep in the Bosnian mountains and send him to a Belgrade orphanage. But his “education” is interrupted by war. Director: Vuk Ršumović

“The Reaper” (Croatia/Slovenia) — With a superb, seasoned cast and stellar camerawork, three intertwined stories unfold over a single night in an isolated Croatian village. This tense, nuanced drama makes for grim but compelling viewing. Director: Zvonimir Juric

“Rocks in My Pockets” (Latvia) — A modern milestone in animated storytelling, stuffed with irony, humor and tales within tales, this imaginative memoir merges director Signe Baumane’s own story with a mini-history of 20th century Latvia. Director: Signe Baumane

“See You in Montevideo” (Serbia) — This exciting sequel to Montevideo, Taste of a Dream (PSIFF, 2013) continues the tale of how the Yugoslav football team took part in the first official World Cup in Montevideo, Uruguay in 1930 and made sports history. Director: Dragan Bjelogrlic

“Tangerines” (Estonia) — 1992. An Estonian village in Abkhazia. The approaching war scares off all but two villagers who remain to harvest the tangerines. This deeply pacifist chamber drama is as tense as a thriller. Director: Zaza Urushadze

“These Are the Rules” (Croatia/France/Serbia) — Based on a true story, this is a painstaking and painful account of the official indifference and injustice that confronts the law-abiding parents of a teenage boy badly beaten up by a high school bully. Director: Ognjen Svilicic

“Three Windows and a Hanging” (Kosovo) — When a woman from a traditional Kosovar village anonymously reveals to an international journalist that she and others were raped during the war with Serbia, the fallout from this once-repressed secret threatens to tear apart the fabric of village life. Director: Isa Qosja

“The Tribe” (Ukraine) — One of the most original, audacious and talked about films of 2014, The Tribe takes place in a boarding school for the deaf where the students participate in an underground criminal network. Performed entirely in sign language without subtitles. Director: Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy

“White God” (Hungary) — A new city law taxing mixed breed mutts leads many owners to dump their dogs on the streets – including 13-year-old Lili’s beloved pet Hagen. While she tries to find him, Hagen fights for survival. But every dog has his day. Director: Kornél Mundruczó

Source: The Desert Sun