Fest cooks up an int’l flavor

Palm Springs packs 'em in

The 17th edition of the Palm Springs fest shuttered Sunday, capping a characteristically globe-hopping selection of 232 films from 71 countries, with a notable emphasis on Latin American, Indian and Italian cinema.

Audience feature award was a tie between Klaus Haro’s WWII drama “Mother of Mine” and Joan Plowright starrer “Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont,” with Marcos Carnevale’s Spanish romantic comedy “Elsa & Fred” as runner-up.

“Five Days in September,” Canuck documaker Barbara Willis Sweete’s profile of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, scored with auds as best nonfiction feature, followed by “Pursuit of Equality,” Geoff Callan and Mike Shaw’s intimate look at San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and his gay-marriage initiative.

The John Schlesinger award for top tyro pic in narrative or nonfiction went to vet Brazilian lenser-turned-helmer Breno Silveira’s biopic, “Two Sons of Francisco,” having its North American preem at the desert fest after gathering record Brazilian B.O.

Juried prizes reflected fest’s extremely wide reach, including three Fipresci critics’ awards for pic, actor and actress in the 48-film field of foreign-language Oscar submissions. Minh Nguyen-Vo’s Vietnamese drama “Buffalo Boy” took best pic, while Romanian thesp Ion Fiscuteanu (“The Death of Mr. Lazarescu”) and Turkish star Meltem Cumbul (“Lovelorn”) won the acting nods. This was the first time any Fipresci fest jury has chosen not only a top film but also thesps. Pic prize is in effect the international critics chiming in on what the Acad should select as foreign-language film.

Prize for best pic in 12-film “New Voices/New Visions” section went to Dominic Savage’s northern U.K.-set racial drama, “Love + Hate.”

Fest opened with local preem of Terrence Malick’s “The New World” and wrapped Sunday with Richard E. Grant’s directing debut, “Wah-Wah.”

Fest organizers estimated admissions at 112,000 (a 5% rise from previous edition) and box office up 10% to an estimated $800,000.

Roster of fest’s gala tribute recipients included Shirley MacLaine, David Cronenberg, Jake Gyllenhaal, Charlize Theron, Felicity Huffman, Terrence Howard, “The Family Stone” producer Michael London and composer Thomas Newman.

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