'Whistleblower,' 'Bomb' among top picks

Thriller “The Whistleblower,” starring Rachel Weisz and Vanessa Redgrave, was voted best narrative feature by the Palm Springs Film Festival audience, while “Louder Than a Bomb,” about a youth poetry competition, took docu feature as the fest announced winners of its juried and audience prizes at a Sunday awards brunch at Spencer’s restaurant.

A jury of international film critics selected French Oscar entry “Of Gods and Men” for the Fipresci foreign film prize, while Fipresci acting honors went to Lars Rosing for Greenland’s “Nuummioq” and Anne Coesens for Belgium’s “Illegal.” The New Voices/New Visions nod for debut feature without U.S. distribution went to Denmark’s “Nothing’s All Bad,” written and directed by Mikkel Munch-Fals, who receives a $60,000 Panavision camera package.

“Summer Pasture,” directed by Lynn True and Nelson Walker, won the John Schlesinger award for first documentary, while the Bridging the Borders award went to Iciar Bollain’s “Even the Rain,” the Spanish submission for the foreign film Oscar. Award is presented by Cinema Without Borders to a film that reflects cinema’s ability to bring people closer together.

The fest screened 205 films from 69 countries, including 41 of the 65 Oscar foreign-language entries.

The 22nd edition of the festival saw record attendance, as well as more filmmakers and industry guests, leading to a “marked jump in film sales activities,” according to fest director Darryl Macdonald. Director of programming Helen du Toit said the festival continues to add notable events, such as a pre-festival retreat for filmmakers at the Annenberg Sunnylands estate that included a talk by producer Ron Yerxa. She also noted the popularity of the fest’s Talking Pictures events, with three sold-out events for Colin Firth, Javier Bardem and Michael Douglas.

Douglas, who accepted the festival’s Icon award from Variety editorial director Peter Bart, appeared in good health as he reminisced about his days riding horses in Palm Springs and his plans for a Liberace biopic.

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