Lights, Camera, Coming Attractions! - Visit Palm Springs tag-img

Lights, Camera, Coming Attractions!

Emily Blunt attends the 30th Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival Film Awards Gala at Palm Springs Convention Center on January 3, 2019 in Palm Springs, California. (Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images for Palm Springs International Film Festival )

The Palm Springs International Film Society Rolls Out the Red Carpet

As the old saying goes: art imitates life. And no medium provides a more compelling reflection of the human experience than film. Motion pictures pack 24 frames of imagery into every second of screen time. That’s 24 opportunities to laugh, love and live our celluloid dreams on the biggest screen imaginable.

“Film really gives us all a chance to experience something communally,” declares Palm Springs Film Society’s artistic director Lili Rodriguez. “Even if it’s not inside of a movie theater.”

The past year deprived us of the ability to gather in the glowing warmth of the flickering silver screen, but Lili and her team never stopped serving groundbreaking entertainment like so much hot-buttered popcorn.

lili_rodriguez

Palm Springs International Short Film Festival

“During the pandemic, we’ve been doing mostly virtual screenings on our virtual platform” she narrates. But the Film Society is about to roar back to in-person screenings, and it all kicks off with ShortFest 2021.

palm springs short festival

“It’s one of the very first film festivals in California that’ll hold all of its screenings indoors. And so, that’s really exciting!”

Launching into the main event, Lili continues, “It’s just a real privilege to be able to mount something that’s in person and promotes that culture of going back into the theaters. There are 295 films in the official selection, which is a little scaled back from what we normally do. Normally there are about 330 plus short films every year, but this year, because we wanted to allow for more time in between screenings for cleaning and for load-ins, we scaled back the program slightly.”

Despite the minor dip in entries, the Palm Springs Film Society has amplified its commitment to variety. “You really can expect everything. We really program every single genre in each program because we do so many films. So, there are dramas, comedies, science fiction, horror, films for families. There really is just a little bit of everything. And I think that’s in line with what audiences who come to the Palm Springs ShortFest every year are used to.”

The Oscar®-qualifying Palm Springs ShortFest is the largest short film festival and market in North America.

Palm Springs International Film Festival

But June’s festivities are just the opening act in the Palm Springs Film Society’s year-round captivating calendar. “We do ShortFest, which is the short film festival in the summer. And then we do the feature film festival, which is normally in January and will be back in 2022.

 Mahershala Ali attends the 30th Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival Film Awards Gala at Palm Springs Convention Center on January 3, 2019 in Palm Springs, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for Palm Springs International Film Festival )
Mahershala Ali attends the 30th Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival Film Awards Gala at Palm Springs Convention Center. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for Palm Springs International Film Festival )

A Brief  History – The biggest driver of the Palm Springs International Film Festival’s emergence was, Sonny Bono, who felt that a film festival was exactly the kind of event that might extend the truncated tourist season in Palm Springs. That first year’s Festival, in January of 1990, was an immediate success, drawing more than 17,000 filmgoers in the course of its five-day run, and generating positive press coverage from publications including the Los Angeles Times, Variety, and The Hollywood Reporter. The quality of the programming attracted film industry participants, media coverage, film buyers, and great directors in droves.

The Palm Springs Film Festival Gala is the first to kick off the award season at the beginning of January.  In addition to curating the best in international cinema, PSIFF has come to be known as the first stop on the road to the Academy Awards®.  It now is a star-studded powerhouse attracting such stars like Kate Winslet, Brad Pitt, Naomi Watts, John Travolta, Nicole Kidman, Cate Blanchett, Daniel Day-Lewis, Charlize Theron, Jake Gyllenhaal, Liam Neeson, and Bradley Cooper attending the Festival’s Awards Gala to receive awards.

Bradley Cooper at Film Festival
Bradley Cooper attends the 30th Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival Film Awards Gala at Palm Springs Convention Center. (Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images for Palm Springs International Film Festival )

Reaching the Community

Throughout the year, we have a membership program, and we do normally, in-person screenings of films that are about to be released.” The wonders of cinema reverberate beyond the theater’s walls and into the souls of our citizenry. “We also do community events with partners,” beams Lili. “We do a summer series with Sunnylands and then we do a fall series with the Palm Springs Art Museum. So, we do some free community events.”

But as much as the Palm Springs Film Society enjoys reaching out, the ultimate goal is to pull audiences in. “Being around people, it’s going to be really special,” Lili anticipates. “We really miss the audience experience.”

Rami Malek attends the 30th Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival Film Awards Gala at Palm Springs Convention Center on January 3, 2019 in Palm Springs, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for Palm Springs International Film Festival )
Rami Malek attends the 30th Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival Film Awards Gala at Palm Springs Convention Center. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for Palm Springs International Film Festival )

Growing nostalgic, she elaborates, “Nothing quite compares to being in a theater with other people and talking about the movie, either right after the screening or waiting in line. So, I think that’s really special, and it’s always a real treat to put faces to the teams that make these movies that we’ve been talking about and obsessing over for months. So, that’s always really special, in general, but this year, after going over a year without meeting filmmakers, it’s going to be, I think, extra emotional for me, personally.”

Lili’s link to the landscape is paramount. “I’m a local of the desert. And so, for me, this idea of community is really important, but specifically the film community that we’ve built up at the Film Society, it’s the thing that really kept us going throughout the pandemic… It was wonderful to reconnect with our members on a different level. And so it’s everything, really.”

As the soundtrack swells, we near the end of our feature presentation. Lili summons her passion and puts it all in perspective for us.

Lili Rodriguez ShortFest

“It’s more than watching movies. It’s more than watching something on your phone or in your living room. Film festivals really give you that space to go out and to connect with people who… Who like sort of the same things that you do. You know, how common is it to find, in this day and age, people who geek out over short films, right? It’s, it’s maybe a small, but very diehard group of folks. And so that’s really what we want to tap into. And that’s, I think what’s at the spirit of the Film Society. It’s a society; it’s about your relationship to other people and how cinema can bring us all together.”

What a perfect finale. Thank you, Lili Rodriguez. Roll end credits.

Palm Springs International Film Society  (760) 322-2930

By Kevin Perry

Kate Blanchet at Palm Springs Film Festival

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