The Palm Springs Film Festival began rounding off its 11-day run with its annual awards luncheon held Saturday afternoon at Spencer’s at the Mountain.

The Fipresci Prize for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year went to Taiwanese thriller “The Assassin,” directed by Hou Hsiao-hsien. The Fipresci Prize for the Best Actor of the Year went to Sigurður Sigurjónsson and Theodór Júlíussonfrom for their work in the Iceland film “Rams,” while the Fipresci Prize for Best Actress of the Year in a Foreign Language Film went to Alena Mihulová for her role in “Home Care,” written and directed by Czech filmmaker Slavek Horak.

“Alena, who is now 50, had her first breakthrough role at (age) 17 and then nothing for 33 years,” said Horak, who accepted the award on the actress’ behalf. “She played an apprentice to a home care nurse in her first film and has now graduated to a home care nurse in my film,” he joked.

Artistic director and acting festival director Helen Du Toit delivered the welcoming opening remarks at the event, which drew filmmakers from around the globe, including Prashant Nair, who received the HP Bridging the Borders Award for his film “Umrika,” which focuses on a young Indian boy named Rama, who follows in his older brother’s footsteps to find out if he made it to the USA or wound up in Mumbai.

“We made this film with the intention of really making an impact,” Nair said of the award, presented by Cinema Without Borders and Hewlett Packard and designed to promote understanding and peace amongst different people and cultures in the world. “So getting this award really means a lot.”

The John Schlesinger Award went to Japanese filmmaker Erik Shirai for his stirring sake brewery documentary “The Birth of Saké.”

Shirai dedicated his award to his fellow “documentary filmmakers,” all of whom are striving to create compelling and important work.

The jury for the award said that “with its aesthetic approach, patience and intimacy, ‘The Birth of Saké’ mirrors the craft of making saké, and the director’s singular passion for his subject embodies the spirit of the John Schlesinger Award.”

The New Voices/New Visions Award was bestowed upon Xavier Seron’s “Death by Death,” a Belgium-France co-production, with a special mention given to the India-U.S. co-production “Thithi,” helmed by Raam Reddy.


The Palm Springs fest screened 180 films from 60 countries, including 40 of the 80 foreign language entries for this year’s Academy Awards. The Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature and Best Documentary Feature will both be announced on Sunday.

Pictured above: “Umrika.”