‘Saint Omer’ Takes Top Honors At 34th Palm Springs International Film Festival – Deadline
Legal docudrama Saint Omer was voted Best Picture at the 34th Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival, which announced this year’s juried award winners today.
Saint Omer wins for its ability “to expertly interrogate issues of society, culture, race, and gender,” the festival release stated. “Alice Diop, as screenwriter and director, delivers a film that explores different dynamics of Black women in contemporary France, drawing empathetic lead performances from Kayije Kagame and Guslagie Malanga (whose characters never interact, save for one momentous glance). By harnessing the skills of her technical team, Diop turns Saint Omer into a shrewd, cogent, ambitious, and overwhelming film which teases a metafictional awareness while remaining clear-eyed and unsentimental.”
The Palm Springs festival took place from January 5-16 and screened 134 films from 64 countries, including 27 premieres. The lineup includes 35 of the International Feature Film Oscar submissions.
The jury award categories included the FIPRESCI Prize for films in the International Feature Film Oscar submissions program; Best Documentary Award for compelling non-fiction filmmaking; New Voices New Visions Award for unique viewpoints from first- and second-time directors; Ibero-American Award for the best film from Latin America, Spain or Portugal; Local Jury Award for the film which promoted understanding and acceptance between people; Young Cineastes Award for a film chosen by our Youth Jury; and the Mozaik Bridging the Borders Award for a film that is successful in bringing the people of our world closer together.
The Audience Awards for Best Narrative Feature and Best Documentary Feature will be announced on the evening of Sunday, January 15.
A special jury of international film critics reviewed 35 of the 93 official submissions for the Academy Awards International Feature Film category that were selected to screen at this year’s festival. The films in competition were:
● Ajoomma (Singapore) Director He Shuming
● Alcarràs (Spain) Director Carla Simón
● All Quiet on the Western Front (Germany) Director Edward Berger
● Argentina, 1985 (Argentina) Director Santiago Mitre
● Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths (Mexico) Director Alejandro G.
● Beautiful Beings (Iceland) Director Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson
● Blanquita (Chile) Director Fernando Guzzoni
● The Blue Caftan (Morocco) Director Maryam Touzani
● Cairo Conspiracy (Sweden) Director Tarik Saleh
● Cinema Sabaya (Israel) Director Orit Fouks Rotem
● Close (Belgium) Director Lukas Dhont
● Corsage (Austria) Director Marie Kreutzer
● Darkling (Serbia) Director Dušan Milić (U.S. Premiere)
● Decision to Leave (South Korea) Director Park Chan-wook
● EO (Poland) Director Jerzy Skolimowski
● Eternal Spring (Canada) Director Jason Loftus
● The Happiest Man in the World (North Macedonia) Director Teona Strugar
Mitevska (U.S. Premiere)
● Holy Spider (Denmark) Director Ali Abbasi
● Il Boemo (Czech Republic) Director Petr Václav (U.S. Premiere)
● Joyland (Pakistan) Director Saim Sadiq
● Kalev (Estonia) Director Ove Musting
● Klondike (Ukraine) Director Maryna Er Gorbach
● Last Film Show (India) Director Pan Nalin
● Mars One (Brazil) Director Gabriel Martins
● Mediterranean Fever (Palestine) Director Maha Haj
● Nostalgia (Italy) Director Mario Martone
● The Quiet Girl (Ireland) Director Colm Bairéad
● Return to Seoul (Cambodia) Director Davy Chou
● Saint Omer (France) Director Alice Diop
● Under the Fig Trees (Tunisia) Director Erige Sehiri
● Utama (Bolivia) Director Alejandro Loayza Grisi
● Victim (Slovakia) Director Michal Blaško
● War Sailor (Norway) Director Gunnar Vikene (U.S. Premiere)
● World War III (Iran) Director Houman Seyyedi
● You Won’t Be Alone (Australia) Director Goran Stolevski
The jury statements on other winners in the competition:
Best International Screenplay:
In its rich harvest of the detail of agricultural life, Alcarràs conveys remarkable authenticity and empathy. Screenwriters Carla Simón and Arnau Vilaró conjure a family portrait of the complex dynamic within a fracturing clan, including the bittersweet sense of generational change (all the more amazing given that the main cast consists of non-professional actors), while also making a political argument that connects the dots of the many intricacies of an economic system that seems rigged against the best efforts of these hard-working people.
Best Actress in an International Film:
With a strong sense of pacing and spatial movement, in the frequently occurring long takes with ever-so-slow and meticulously subtle camerawork, we award the Best Actress Prize to Oksana Cherkashyna in Klondike for her performance as Irka, a pregnant woman. When the increasing pressures of the surrounding chaos in Eastern Ukraine in 2014 reach her doorstep, Cherkashyna’s portrayal weaves both the physical and psychological, encompassing everything from palpable inner-fears (in the shape of domesticity) to literally giving birth next to a machine gun.
Best Actor in an International Film:
We award the Best Actor Prize to Ali Junejo in Joyland for his intimate, thoughtful and nuanced performance as Haider, a man grappling with his diverging sense of self and familial responsibility. Junejo emerges as the film’s most flexible and dependable performance owing to his generosity and earnestness with each cast member, both in behavioral and linguistic choices. His ability to convey the ambivalent paradoxes of Haider, while delivering a performance of such searing clarity and empathy recalibrates the vivid textures of Joyland away from the social realism of its larger goals, turning it into an evocative character study in a performance of quiet complexity.
The complete list:
FIPRESCI Prize for Best International Feature Film: Saint Omer (France), Director Alice Diop
FIPRESCI Prize for International Screenplay: Alcarràs (Spain), Screenwriters Carla Simón & Arnau Vilaró
FIPRESCI Prize for the Best Actress in a International Feature Film: Oksana Cherkashyna from Klondike (Ukraine)
FIPRESCI Prize for Best Actor in a International Feature Film: Ali Junejo from Joyland (Pakistan)
The FIPRESCI jury members were Andrew Kendall (Film Columnist, Stabroek News), Anders E Larsson (Writer, Editor, and Festival Director of Lund Fantastic Film Festival) and Robert Horton (Film Critic, Herald and Seattle Weekly).
BEST DOCUMENTARY AWARD
The Documentary Award is presented to the director for the most compelling non-fiction filmmaking from among those selected to screen at the festival. The films in competition were as follows:
- All That Breathes (India/UK) Director Shaunak Sen
- Butterfly in the Sky (USA) Director Bradford Thomason, Brett Whitcomb
- Casa Susanna (USA) Director Sebastien Lifshitz
- Crows Are White (Japan/Ireland/USA) Director Ahsen Nadeem
- The Grab (USA) Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite
- I Like it Here (USA) Director Ralph Arlyek
- Nelly & Nadine (Sweden) Director Magnus Gertten
- Shot in the Arm (USA) Director Scott Hamilton Kennedy (World Premiere)
- Subject (USA) Director Camilla Hall, Jennifer Tiexiera
- To Kill a Tiger (Canada) Director Nisha Pahuja (International Premiere)
- Turn Every Page: The Adventures of Robert Caro and Robert Gottlieb (USA) Director Lizzie Gottlieb
Because of its powerful story, rich cinematic approach, and its commitment to the community, the jury has decided to award To Kill a Tiger. The filmmakers sensitivity to the subjects’ experience and their poignant capture of shifting tones is a superb use of the genre, resulting in a remarkable story profiling an enduring father-daughter bond exemplifying a social evolution.
Best Documentary Award: To Kill a Tiger (Canada), Director Nisha Pahuja
Best Documentary Award Special Mention: Butterfly in the Sky (USA), Director Bradford Thomason, Brett Whitcomb
The films were juried by Diana Cadavid (Director of the LALIFF and the FICCALI), Amir George (Filmmaker, Black Radical Imagination) and Robin Robinson (Film Festival Programmer).
NEW VOICES NEW VISIONS AWARD
The New Voices New Visions Award focuses on films that the festival programming team felt represent the most distinctive new directors who have emerged in the last year. Each of the following 9 films in competition represents the filmmaker’s debut or second feature:
● Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (USA) Director
Aitch Alberto (U.S. Premiere)
● Butterfly Vision (Ukraine/Czech Republic/Croatia/Sweden) Director
Maksim Nakonechnyi (U.S. Premiere)
● The Damned Don’t Cry (France/Belgium/Morocco) Director Fyzal Boulifa
(North American Premiere)
● How to Blow Up a Pipeline (USA) Director Daniel Goldhaber
● Love According to Dalva (Belgium/France) Director Emmanuelle Nicot
● Our Father, the Devil (USA) Director Ellie Foumbi
● Riceboy Sleeps (Canada) Director Anthony Shim
● Snow and the Bear (Turkey/Germany/Serbia) Director Selcen Ergun (U.S.
● Susie Searches (USA/UK) Director Sophie Kargman (U.S. Premiere)
This film begins with protagonists that are not necessarily sympathetic on a surface level but who we come to at least understand and respect by the end, and not because they’ve changed, but because our perception of them has changed. Instead, we as an audience have been forced to grow and expand our own vision. For these reasons, the jury awards the New Voices New Visions Award to The Damned Don’t Cry by Fyzal Boulifa.
New Voices New Visions Award: The Damned Don’t Cry (France/Belgium/Morocco), Director Fyzal Boulifa
New Voices New Visions Special Mention: Our Father, the Devil (USA), Director Ellie Foumbi
The films were juried by Lauren Wissot (Film Critic, Filmmaker Magazine and IDA), Violet Lucca (Film Critic, Harper’s Magazine) and Monica Trasandes (Director of Programming, GLAAD).
The Ibero-American Award is presented to the best film from Latin America, Spain or Portugal selected to screen at the festival. The award aims to highlight the creativity seen in modern Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American films. The films in competition were as follows:
- Blanquita (Chile) Director Fernando Guzzoni
- Chile ’76 (Chile/USA) Director Manuela Martelli
- Huesera (Mexico/Peru) Director Michelle Garza Cervera
- I Have Electric Dreams (Belgium/France/Costa Rica) Director Valentina Maurel (North American Premiere)
- Lullaby (Spain) Director Alauda Ruiz de Azúa
- Mars One (Brazil) Director Gabriel Martins
- Sublime (Argentina) Director Mariano Biasin
- Utama (Bolivia/Uruguay/France) Director Alejandro Loayza Grisi
For capturing the revolution against Pinochet not at the front lines but instead inside the unlikely gilded cage of a privileged woman’s awakening, for showing how the personal is political, with clever cinematic imagery, we award Chile ‘76.
Ibero-American Award: Chile ’76 (Chile/USA), Director Manuela Martelli
Ibero-American Special Mention: Blanquita (Chile), Director Fernando Guzzoni
The films were judged by Manuel Betancourt (Author, The Cardboard Kingdom), Rebecca Sun (Senior Editor of Diversity and Inclusion, The Hollywood Reporter), and Trey Shields (Senior Programmer at the Philadelphia Film Festival/Society),
LOCAL JURY AWARD
The Local Jury Award is presented to the film, which promotes understanding and acceptance between people. The films in competition were as follows:
- All That Breathes (India/UK) Director Shaunak Sen
- Liquor Store Dreams (USA) Director So Yun Um
- Mama Bears (USA) Director Daresha Kyi
- Split At the Root (USA) Director Linda Goldstein Knowlton
The local jury award is presented to a film that encompasses a spirit of community and neighborliness. We believe that this was best exemplified by the transparent depiction of the complexities and beauty of living and thriving within a historically multicultural community confronting daily social injustices as shown in Liquor Store Dreams by So Yun Um.
Local Jury Award: Liquor Store Dreams (USA), Director So Yun Um
Local Jury Special Mention: Mama Bears (USA), Director Daresha Kyi
The films were judged by Michelle Webb (Registered Nurse), Tim Vincent (California Prevention Training Center – Senior Consultant), Randy Florence (PD Area Chamber of Commerce, President & CEO), Barbara Sisto (Retired Educator) and Emily Alvarez-Zurita (CSUSB Student).
YOUNG CINEASTES AWARD
The Young Cineastes jury is composed of local students who not only have shown talent and aspirations for making films but a sincere passion for watching and learning more about cinema and life at every moment possible. The films in competition were as follows:
- Anxious Nation (USA) Director Vanessa Roth, Laura Morton
- Liquor Store Dreams (USA) Director So Yun Um
- Riceboy Sleeps (Canada) Director Anthony Shim
- Talia’s Journey (Belgium/Senegal/Luxembourg) Director Christophe Rolin
Young Cineastes Award: Riceboy Sleeps (Canada), Director Anthony Shim
The films were judged by Indi Chacon, Danica Palmersheim, Eli Salazar, and Kaitlyn Thompson.
THE MOZAIK BRIDGING THE BORDERS AWARD
At a time when physical, religious, racial, cultural, and economic borders divide the population of our planet, efforts to bridge those borders should be appreciated. In that spirit, Cinema Without Borders presents the MOZAIK Bridging the Borders Award to a film that is most successful in bridging and connecting the people of our world closer together. The winner of the 2023 MOZAIK Bridging the Borders Award presented by Cinema Without Borders and sponsored by MOZAIK Philanthropy will receive a cash award of $2500. The films in competition were as follows:
- Cinema Sabaya (Israel) Director Orit Fouks Rotem
- Dirty Difficult Dangerous (France/Italy/Lebanon/Saudi Arabia/Qatar) Director Wissam Charaf (North American Premiere)
- The Happiest Man in the World (North Macedonia/Belgium/Slovenia/Denmark/Croatia/Bosnia/Herzegovina) Director Teona Strugar Mitevska
- No Bears (Iran) Director Jafar Panahi
MOZAIK Bridging the Borders Award: Dirty Difficult Dangerous (France/Italy/Lebanon/Saudi Arabia/Qatar), Director Wissam Charaf
MOZAIK Bridging the Borders Special Mentions: The Happiest Man in the World (North Macedonia), Director Teona Strugar Mitevska
The films were juried by Bijan Tehrani (Writer, Director, Founder & Editor in Chief of Cinema Without Borders), Keely Badger (Executive Director of MOZAIK), Vladek Juszkiewicz (Film Producer, Founder, Director Emeritus of the Polish Film Festival Los Angeles), Marcy Garriott (Independent Documentary Filmmaker), Granaz Moussavi (Iranian/Australian Poet, Writer & Filmmaker), Bambadjan Bamba (Actor, Filmmaker, Immigrant Rights Advocate).
The complete list of award winners:
FIPRESCI Prize for Best International Feature Film of the Year
Saint Omer (France), Director Alice Diop
FIPRESCI Prize for the Best Actor in an International Feature Film
Ali Junejo from Joyland (Pakistan)
FIPRESCI Prize for Best Actress in an International Feature Film
Oksana Cherkashyna from Klondike (Ukraine)
FIPRESCI Prize for International Screenplay:
Alcarràs (Spain), Screenwriters Carla Simón & Arnau Vilaró
Best Documentary Award
To Kill a Tiger (Canada), Director Nisha Pahuja
New Voices New Visions Award
The Damned Don’t Cry (France/Belgium/Morocco), Director Fyzal Boulifa
Chile ’76 (Chile/USA), Director Manuela Martelli
Young Cineastes Award
Riceboy Sleeps (Canada), Director Anthony Shim
Local Jury Award
Liquor Store Dreams (USA), Director So Yun Um
MOZAIK Bridging the Borders Award
Dirty Difficult Dangerous (France/Italy/Lebanon/Saudi Arabia/Qatar), Director Wissam Charaf
At this time Palm Springs ShortFest is scheduled to return June 20-26, 2023.
About the Palm Springs International Film Society
The Palm Springs International Film Society is a 501(c)(3) charitable non-profit organization whose mission is to cultivate and promote the art and science of film through education and cross-cultural awareness. The Film Society produces the Palm Springs International Film Festival (PSIFF) and Film Awards every January and Palm Springs ShortFest in June. In addition to curating the best in international cinema, PSIFF’s Film Awards has come to be known as the first stop on the campaign trail for the Academy Awards® and our Oscar®-qualifying ShortFest is the largest short film festival and market in North America. Our festivals, year-round member screenings and educational programs manifest our organization’s mission by nurturing and encouraging new filmmaking talent, honoring the great masters of world cinema, and expanding audience horizons. Film Festival information visit http://www.psfilmfest.org.
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