Largest Short Film Festival And Film Market In The World Delivers The Goods

Jack Lyons Theatre & Film Critic

The most influential Short Film Festival and frequent harbinger of Academy Awards nominations for a short festival, was held in Palm Springs June 19 through June 25, 2012.

     The city of Palm Springs is now recognized as the destination for young and emerging filmmakers to be and be seen during the month of June.  It’s generally accepted that the desert paradise city is the number one magnet for exposure and recognition of short films.  Serious filmmakers, those who are interested in having their films receive attention or possible Academy Award nomination consideration, agree that to have a film entered in the Palm Springs International ShortFest and Market is a must, and to have it screened is a real coup.

     What the late Palm Springs Mayor Sonny Bono created back in the early 90’s, as a way to raise the city’s visibility for tourism, has become the 800-pound gorilla of film festivals worldwide.  Led by festival executive director Darryl Macdonald and philanthropist/businessman and Board Chairman Harold Matzner, these two gentlemen have produced a formula for success that is the envy of festivals the world over.

     During the month of June, the Short Festival comes to town bringing 20,000 loyal movie junkies, film buffs, and lovers of movies of all sizes and shapes and genres.  In January of every year the city swells in population by some 40,000 attendees eager to get a look at the many Hollywood stars who, not only attend, but who also walk the Red Carpet for a worldwide press corps.  

Darryl Macdonald and Hollywood filmmaker Gus Van Sant ~photo by Jack Lyons

    This June marks the 18th year of the festival.   More than 320 short films were viewed on the three screens of The Camelot Theatres, in Palm Springs.  The festival showcased fifty world premieres, sixty-three North American premieres and twenty-one USA premieres.  Films submitted came from fifty-two countries around the world. 

     For movie buffs with short attention spans (which is rarely the case) the short festival film format is for you.  Selections are structured into fifty-three themed programs, consisting of anywhere from six to eight short films in each program which generally run between seventy and one hundred minutes.  Films and animated shorts cover a wide array of subjects and niche topics that the festival programming staff feels the general public will enjoy.

     One of the highlights of this year’s festival was a special screening and a special award presented to American filmmaker Gus Van Sant, by executive director Darryl Macdonald.  Van Sant, long a supporter of the short film genre, shared with the audience his philosophy concerning, not only short films, but the long form full length features, as well, encouraging the filmmakers in the audience (there were almost 30 in attendance) to never give up their dream and to keep knocking on the door. So to speak.

     A partial list of this year’s award winners and prizes are:  Best of Festival Jury Award to “Behind the Mirrors” (Peru/USA, by Julio O. Ramos; The Panavision Grand Jury Award worth a $60,000.00 camera package went to “Paulie” (USA), by Andrew Nackman; Future Filmmaker Award to “Khanna” (UK), by Rajinder Sawhney; Audience Awards/Audience Favorite Live Action Short to “A Curious Conjunction of Coincidences” (Netherlands), by Joost Reijmers; and Best Documentary Short to “The Record Breaker” (Denmark), by Brian McGinn.  For a complete list of winners from this year’s entries, go online to www.palmspringsinternationalshortfest.com.

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