Palm Springs fest auds go ‘Est-Ouest’

Pic is France's Oscar submission

Regis Wargnier’s “Est-Ouest” (East-West) placed first in the tally of aud favorites as the 11th Palm Springs Intl. Film Festival wrapped Sunday.

The epic, starring Catherine Deneuve and Sandrine Bonnaire, is France’s official submission for best foreign-language pic Oscar. It was followed in fest voting by two other Oscar entries: Matej Minac’s Holocaust-era drama “All My Loved Ones,” from Slovakia, and Majid Majidi’s “The Color of Paradise,” the Iranian helmer’s follow-up to “Children of Heaven.”

Other Oscar entries among the 15 pics which garnered the most votes included Eric Valli’s “Caravan” from Nepal, Deepa Mehta’s “Earth” from India and Paul Morrison’s Welsh-lingo “Solomon and Gaenor.” Charles Burnett’s “The Annihilation of Fish” ranked highest among U.S. pics.

Results reflected the fest’s greater emphasis this year on foreign pics in general and Oscar submission titles in particular, with 29 of the 47 foreign Academy Award finalists screening. Programming included 12 world and 52 Stateside preems. Fest organizers said that a top priority for 2001 is to screen every Oscar submission.

Attendance at burgeoning desert resort fest rose to 57,600 (over last year’s 50,000), with estimated B.O. take at over $300,000 (compared with last year’s $250,000).

As a result of the fest’s shift away from American indies toward imports, there was an increase in the number of appearances by world-class film figures, ranging from Zhang Yimou (screening his “Not One Less”) to possible Oscar contenders such as Soren Kragh-Jacobsen (“Mifune”), Pedro Almodovar (with “All About My Mother”) and Carlos Diegues (with “Orfeu”) to stars like Deneuve (repping both “Est-Ouest” and “Place Vendome”), Warren Beatty and Annette Bening.

Indicative of the new global profile, the fest organizers have held meetings with Klaus Eder, head of the Federation Internationale de la Presse Cinematographique (Fipresci), and there are plans under way to bring in a five-person Fipresci jury next year to participate in fest special events and to focus its attention on the foreign language Oscar submissions section.

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