The 23rd annual Palm Springs International Film Festival (PSIFF) will present Octavia Spencer with the Breakthrough Performance Award.  Presented by Cartier, the Awards Gala will be held Saturday, January 7, at the Palm Springs Convention Center.  Hosted by Mary Hart, the Awards Gala will also present awards to previously announced honorees George Clooney, Glenn Close, Michel Hazanavicius and Michelle Williams.  The Festival runs January 5-16.

“Octavia Spencer is a consummate actress who seamlessly blends her dramatic and comedic talents, creating performances of uncommon depth,” said Film Festival Chairman Harold Matzner.  “As the irascible Minny in The Help, she captures the essence of awoman who deals with life head on, relishing confrontation and serving as a source of courage and humor for those whom she loves. To Octavia Spencer, it is therefore a great honor for the Palm Springs International Film Festival to present the 2011 Breakthrough Performance Award.”

Spencer has most recently been seen starring in Tate Taylor’s The Help. Set in Jackson, Mississippi during the 1960s, The Help chronicles the relationship between three different and extraordinary women who build an unlikely friendship around a secret writing project that breaks societal rules and puts them all at risk.   Screenplay by Tate Taylor and Kathryn Stockett, based on the critically acclaimed No. 1 New York Times best-selling debut novel by Kathryn Stockett.  The DreamWorks Pictures and Participant Media film is directed by Tate Taylor and also stars Emma Stone, Viola Davis and Bryce Dallas Howard.

Spencer’s acting career began with her big screen debut in 1995 in Joel Schumacher’s A Time to Kill, opposite Sandra Bullock.  Spencer’s extensive feature film credits include Peep World, Dinner for Schmucks, Small Town Saturday Night, Herpes Boy, Halloween II, The Soloist, Drag Me to Hell, Seven Pounds, Pretty Ugly People, Coach Carter, Charm School, Win a Date with Tad Hamilton, Bad Santa, Spiderman, Big Momma’s House, Being John Malkovich and Never Been Kissed.  She was recently lauded by Entertainment Weekly online for her comedic timing when she was named to their esteemed list of the “25 Funniest Actresses in Hollywood.”  Spencer also won Best Supporting Actress from the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association.

Past recipients of the Breakthrough Performance Award include Carey Mulligan, Marion Cotillard, Jennifer Hudson, Mariah Carey, Felicity Huffman and Freida Pinto.

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