Félicité (Senegal), directed by Alain Gomis
Félicité (Senegal), directed by Alain Gomis

This year’s juried award winners of the 29th Palm Springs International Film Festival (PSIFF) were announced today at a luncheon at the Hilton Palm Springs on Saturday, January 13, 2018.

The FIPRESCI Prize for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year went to Félicité (Senegal), directed by Alain Gomis.  Bursting at the seams with energy, Franco-Senegalese filmmaker Alain Gomis’s Berlin festival prizewinner immerses us in the sights and sounds of Kinshasa while loosely chronicling the day-to-day travails of the eponymous single-mom and nightclub-chanteuse (Congolese singer Véro Tshanda Beya, in an unforgettable performance) at the heart of the film. The film is on the shortlist for the Best Foreign Language Academy Award.

FIPRESCI Prize for the Best Actor in a Foreign Language Film went to Nakhane Touré from The Wound (South Africa). South African co-writer/director John Trengove’s balanced docudrama explores a clandestine relationship between two Xhosa men, set against the backdrop of a traditional coming-of-age ceremony.

The FIPRESCI Prize for Best Actress in a Foreign Language Film went to Daniela Vega from A Fantastic Woman (Chile). Making a living waiting tables in downtown Santiago while pursuing her dream of becoming an nightclub singer, young transgender woman Marina (Daniela Vega in a stunning debut) finds safety and solace from an often cruel world in her relationship with older divorcee Orlando (Francisco Reyes, Neruda). But when Orlando suffers a violent fall and massive injuries in the last moments of a fatal aneurysm, suspicion falls on Marina, causing her to flee the hospital and the eye of a judgmental city.

A special jury of international film critics reviewed 45 of the 92 official submissions for the Academy Awards Best Foreign Language Film category screened at this year’s Festival, and all three films that received prizes are on the shortlist for the Best Foreign Language Academy Award.

The New Voices New Visions focuses on films that represent the most distinctive new directors to have emerged in the last year. Each of the twelve films in competition represents the filmmakers debut or second feature.  This year’s New Voices New Visions Award went to The Charmer (Denmark), directed by Milad Alami. A searing and topical exploration of the immigrant experience shot through with elements of psychological thriller and erotic drama, Milad Alami’s striking feature debut follows an Iranian man’s increasingly desperate attempts to secure citizenship by seducing a string of Danish women.

Léa Mysius for Ava (France) received the Honorable Mention for Exceptional Direction. Thirteen-year-old Ava’s summer vacation gains a new urgency when she learns she is rapidly going blind. In the face of creeping darkness, she squeezes in all the life she can, rebelling against her mother, stealing a dog, and becoming romantically entangled with a mysterious beach rat, sending her on an unpredictable journey of self-realization.

The John Schlesinger Award, named after the director, writer, producer and festival supporter, is presented to the director of a debut feature documentary, and this year’s award went to Brimstone and Glory (US/Mexico), directed by Viktor Jakovleski. Equal parts awe-inspiring and anxiety-inducing, Brimstone and Glory’s chronicle of an annual fireworks extravaganza in Tultepec, Mexico, is a visual, jaw-dropping spectacle like no other documentary before it.

The Cine Latino Award is presented to the best Ibero-American film screening at the festival. The award aims to highlight the creativity seen in modern Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American films. The Cine Latino Award went to Killing Jesús (Colombia/Argentina), directed by Laura Mora. When university student Paula witnesses her social activist father’s assassination, the inept, uncaring police force drives her to seek justice on her own. But when she finds herself immersed in the killer’s poverty-stricken world she discovers that they might both be victims of the same broken system.  Honorable Mention was given to A Fantastic Woman (Chile), directed by Sebastián Lelio.

The HP Bridging the Borders Award that honors the film that is most successful in bringing the people of our world closer together, went to The Insult (Lebanon), directed by Ziad Doueiri. What should have been a trivial altercation, quickly settled and forgotten, instead propels two men (one a local Christian, the other a Palestinian refugee) to the center of a very public scandal in Lebanon, reopening historical and political wounds on both sides.

The complete list of 29th Palm Springs International Film Festival Award Winners:

Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature
TBA on Sunday, January 14

Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature
TBA on Sunday, January 14

FIPRESCI Prize for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year
Félicité (Senegal), directed by Alain Gomis

FIPRESCI Prize for the Best Actor in a Foreign Language Film
Nakhane Touré from The Wound (South Africa)

FIPRESCI Prize for Best Actress in a Foreign Language Film
Daniela Vega from A Fantastic Woman (Chile)

New Voices New Visions Award
The Charmer (Denmark), directed by Milad Alami.
Honorable Mention for Exceptional Direction: Léa Mysius for Ava (France)

The John Schlesinger Award
Brimstone and Glory (US/Mexico), directed by Viktor Jakovleski

Cine Latino Award
Killing Jesús (Colombia/Argentina), directed by Laura Mora
Honorable Mention: A Fantastic Woman (Chile), directed by Sebastián Lelio

HP Bridging the Borders Award
Winner: The Insult (Lebanon), directed by Ziad Doueiri

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