Event opens with 'Blancanieves' and closes with 'Unfinished Song'

The Palm Springs Film Festival has set 61 premieres in a program of 180 films from 68 countries. World preems include French pic “Elephants,” Canadian pic “Molly Maxwell” and docu “Smiling Through the Apocalypse — Esquire in the ’60s,” featuring Gore Vidal and Nora Ephron.

Fest launches Jan. 3 with Spain’s Oscar submission “Blancanieves,” and wraps Jan. 13 with the U.S. preem of Paul Andrew Williams’ “Unfinished Song” starring Terrence Stamp and Vanessa Redgrave.

“We’re delighted to once again be offering up such a broad and diverse line up of exceptional international cinema,” said fest director Darryl Macdonald. “Best of all, among these 180 accomplished new films are 63 debut features by first-time filmmakers, heralding an injection of fresh, audacious talent into the lifeblood of contemporary world cinema.”

North American premieres include P.J. Hogan’s “Mental” starring Toni Collette, Liev Schreiber and Anthony LaPaglia and Peter Greenaway’s “Goltzius and the Pelican Company” starring F. Murray Abraham. U.S. premieres include “Great Expectations,” directed by Mike Newell and starring Helena Bonham Carter, Ralph Fiennes and Canada’s “Still,” starring James Cromwell and Campbell Scott.

Ten international titles have been selected to compete for the New Voices/New Visions award, which comes with a $60,000 Panavision camera rental package.

This year’s films from emerging filmmakers are “7 Boxes” from Paraguay, “Beauty” from Argentina, “The Cleaner” from Peru, “The Daughter” from Russia, “I Belong” from Norway, “Mumbai’s King” from India, “Playground Chronicles” from France, “Sadourni’s Butterflies” from Argentina, “Satetllite Boy” from Australia and “This Life — Some Must Die, So Others Can Live” from Denmark.

“Many of the films have already enjoyed great critical acclaim, massive box office success in their home countries, or are simply presenting wildly original new visions,” said artistic director Helen du Toit.

Among other titles screening are “Bound By Flesh,” directed by Leslie Zemeckis; Robert Redford, Meryl Streep and Ashley Judd narrating “A Fierce Green Fire”; Abbie Cornish in “The Girl”; Charlotte Rampling and Gabriel Byrne in “I, Anna”; Jamie-Lynn Sigler and Alicia Witt in “I Do”; “Love, Marilyn” with Elizabeth Banks, Lindsay Lohan and Evan Rachel Wood; Jeff Bridges in “A Place at the Table” and Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, Julianna Marguiles and Alan Arkin in “Stand Up Guys.”

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