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By Jack Lyons, Theatre and Film Critic Member American Theater Critics Association

It’s that time of year again when film junkies and movie fans begin their annual pilgrimage to the third largest Film Festival in North America.  Destination Palm Springs, California.

Hollywood celebrities, and movie stars, international filmmakers and movie industry executives have been gathering every January for the last 30 years in world famous Palm Springs to attend the Palm Springs International Film Festival (PSIFF), one of the glitziest and glamourous movie festivals in the country.

Chairman of the Board, Harold Matzner

2500 attendees of the Film Awards Gala will be rubbing elbows with this year’s Gala honorees at  Chairman of the Board, Harold Matzner’s festive soiree held in the Palm Springs Convention Center on Thursday, January 3rd.  The dinner and awards  ceremonies, Hosted by TV celebrity Mary Hart,  is expected to raise $2.5 million for the non-profit organization which uses the money for film festival operations, and educational programs including the Palm Springs International ShortFest, presented each year in June for emerging filmmakers.  ShortFest, has grown exponentially since its inception becoming the largest short film festival and film market in the world.

In addition to the 130,000 visitors expected to attend the more than 200 movies and documentaries from 70 countries, there will be panel discussions, functions and events available over the 12 day festival.  One of the highlights for the fans is the opportunity to see one their favorite stars walk the “Red Carpet” to the Gala Awards dinner on Thursday, December 3, 2019 at the Palm Springs Convention Center.

This year’s Honorees listed alphabetically include: Timothee Chalamet, who receives the male actor Spotlight Award; Olivia Coleman, who receives the Desert Palm Achievement Award; Glenn Close, who receives The Icon Award;  Ryan Coogler, who receives VARIETY’s Ten Directors’ to Watch Award; Bradley Cooper, who receives the Director of the Year Award; Alfonso Cuaron, who receives the Sonny Bono Award; The film Green Book  receives The Vanguard Award presented to and accepted by Director Peter Farrelly and actors Vigo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali;  Regina King, who receives the Chairman’s Award; Spike Lee, who receives the Career Achievement Award; Rami Malek, who receives the Breakthrough Performance Award; and Melissa McCarthy, who receives the female actor Spotlight Award. 

The best way to fully enjoy the event over the 12 day run is to be fully prepared.  Everything begins with selections of the films you want to see.  Schedules of films and their titles, short synopses, along with dates and time of each film or event are available free to the public.  One can obtain a copy from the PSIFF Festival ticket and information center located at 777 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, Suite 113 from 9 AM to 7 PM Daily; or from any of the five screening venues in Palm Springs: The Camelot Theatres, The Regal 9, The Palm Canyon Theatre, The Annenberg Theatre, The Palm Springs High School’s Richards Auditorium and  The Mary Pickford Theatre, in Cathedral City.

One can purchase a variety of Festival Passes that suit your movie choices.  The festival has experienced staff and volunteers ready to assist and answer your questions.  Call them at 800-898-PALM (7256) or go online at: www.psfilmfest.org. to order your tickets. However, time is off the essence.  Passes and tickets go very fast.

The logistics of producing a major film festival, no matter where it’s being presented, is the result of hundreds of dedicated and committed professionals and volunteers coming together to make the public’s movie going experience special.  So remember to smile and thank them for their services. They usually smile right back.

Also, I believe your festival experience will be enhanced and more enjoyable if you engage your fellow movie fans in ‘film talk’ conversations and your festival experience, while cueing in the various venue lines prior to the screening.  It’s a great way to find about films you haven’t scheduled to see but might be worth a look.

One last tip.  Make sure you layer your wearing apparel:  Dress Warm.  Remember it’s January.  Jackets and/or sweaters, even scarfs, will come in handy once the sun goes down in our desert paradise (about 5 PM).  In any event prepare to expand your horizons. There’s a wide world out there.  Enjoy!  See you at the festival.


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