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Desert meet draws big names

Nortel gathers top foreign-language films

Every January the Nortel Intl. Film Festival takes full advantage of its location to bring Palm Springs a long list of Hollywood stars and entertainment luminaries in a series of award events and tributes.

Last year’s festival, for example, featured gala events honoring John Travolta, Debbie Reynolds and Jack Valenti, as well as smaller parties and receptions that brought what festival director Craig Prater dubs an impressive guest list.

In terms of screenings, however, the festival prides itself on gathering the best foreign-language films from all over the world.

“We make a great attempt to find the best international films, the ones that will go on to be nominated by the Academy Awards,” Prater says.

“At last year’s festival, we screened ‘Life Is Beautiful,’ for example, and Roberto Benigni was there,” he recalls. “He was in love with the audience, and seeing him jumping around up onstage was certainly one of the highlights of the festival.”

Last year’s event also included a cinematographer’s day featuring 15 international artists discussing their craft.

“We were worried that the discussion would be too forced, but instead, there was great interaction among all of the cinematographers,” Prater says. “They entered into a conversation that was very detailed and very professional, and our audience was able to listen in and hear information that they might never hear otherwise.”

Prater says this year’s event will reflect the festival’s expansion. Not only has the number of programmers doubled, but the next fest will feature three new theaters in addition to a new 1,100-seat theater at the Palm Springs Auditorium that was added at last year’s fest.

“We are really growing,” Prater says.

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