‘Félicité,’ Touré, Vega Win Big at 2018 Palm Springs Film Festival

Photo Source: “A Fantastic Woman”: Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Marking its 29th year, the Palm Springs International Film Festival closed Jan. 17 after welcoming over 135,000 attendees and screening 180 films from more than 50 countries in the desert oasis town.

The Southern California film festival is known as a chance for Academy Award hopefuls to get a little more face time before Oscar nominations are announced and voting begins. The festival kicked off on Jan. 4 with a screening of Steven Spielberg’s “The Post” from 20th Century Fox (nominated for a bevy of accolades, including six Golden Globe nominations), and held special screenings of Sony Pictures Classics’ “Call Me By Your Name,” and Fox Searchlight Pictures’ “The Shape of Water” and “Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri.” In addition to reminders of awards season frontrunners, the Palm Springs fest draws many attendees for its offering of international titles, which the event has built its reputation on; many of these are Oscar hopefuls themselves in the Best Foreign Film category.

The festival is also known for two sets of awards: one with a glitzy Hollywood-style gala and the other for films in competition in the fest’s programming, juried by a panel of international film critics.

The annual gala was a Who’s Who of Oscar hopefuls, bestowing the Rising Star acting awards on Timothée Chalamet of “Call Me by Your Name” and Gal Gadot for Warner Bros.’ “Wonder Woman.” The Spotlight Awards went to Sam Rockwell of “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and Allison Janney of Neon’s “I, Tonya.” Mary J. Blige won a Breakthrough Performance Award for Netflix’s “Mudbound.” Other big winners included Gary Oldman (Focus Features’ “Darkest Hour”) and Saoirse Ronan (A24’s “Lady Bird”) who both took home Desert Palm Achievement Awards; Holly Hunter (Amazon’s “The Big Sick”), who won the Career Achievement Award; Willem Dafoe (A24’s “The Florida Project”) who earned the Icon Award; and Jessica Chastain (STX’s “Molly’s Game”) who won the Chairman’s Award. Guillermo Del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” was the winner of the Vanguard Award.

In the festival competition, big winners this year include “Finding Your Feet” (from the U.K.) and “Skid Row Marathon” (U.S.), both of which received Audience Awards, for Best Narrative and Best Documentary Film, respectively. The prestigious FIPRESCI prize, juried by a special panel of international film critics who reviewed 45 of the 92 official submissions for the Academy Awards Best Foreign Language Film screening at the festival, went to “Félicité” (Senegal), directed by Alain Gomis, for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year. Nakhane Touré won Best Actor in a Foreign Language Film for his performance in “The Wound” (South Africa), while Daniela Vega for her performance in “A Fantastic Woman” (Chile) took home the Best Actress in a Foreign Language Film award.

Check out the festival’s website here. And keep checking in with Backstage for full film fest coverage.

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