An interview with Darryl Macdonald, director of Palm Springs International Film Festival


The Palm Springs International Film Festival will open on January 5th and continue through January 16th. PSIFF has consistently proven to be a fantastic platform for international film exhibition, as well as an outstanding event for international film fans within the U.S. and abroad. Last week, we had the pleasure of sitting down with Darryl Macdonald, Director of the festival, and discussing the ins-and-outs of the 2012 PSIFF.

Bijan Tehrani: In Palm Springs International 2011 international cinema had a very strong presence, how is it in 2012 festival?
Darryl Macdonald: The vast majority of our programming has always been devoted to a broad overview of international cinema, this year, for instance, 73 countries are included in the line-up, topping the 70 countries represented in the 2011 line-up. Included in that total are films from 40 countries which have been submitted to the Academy as this year’s official entries for the Best Foreign Language Oscars. I’m particularly pleased about our special showcase of Arab cinema this year, with films from 8 different Arab countries chosen to represent the dramatic upsurge in world-class filmmaking, as well as newly emerging filmmaking talent in that region. Our beefed-up archival section encompasses world cinema as well, with films like Mali director Souleymane Cisse’s Yeleen (Brightness), from Mali, Satyajit Ray’s The Godess from India, Youssef Chahine’s Egyptian film Cairo Station and Yazujiro Ozu’s Japanese masterwork, Record of a Tenement Gentleman and Bertolucci’s The Conformist complimenting our presentation of Mark Cousin’s epic, 15-hour overview of the history of cinema entitled The Story of Film: An Odyssey.
BT: I believe our readers are interested about special screening of a documentary about birth and history of cinema at the festival , please tell us about it.
DM: We’re presenting this utterly engrossing epic in it’s entirety, and it’s perhaps the most comprehensive and wide ranging overview of the history of film ever committed to the screen. Encompassing a riveting selection of clips from over 1,000 films and interviews with some of the foremost talents in the cinema, The Story of Film covers more than a century of film history, and was six years in the making. Pure catnip for any film lover, made even more fascinating by its creator, Mark Cousins, who will be with us to introduce the program at the Festival. We’re showing in in two different ways: as a five-day series broken into 3-hour segments each day; or as a marathon screening of two parts, running Saturday and Sunday of our closing weekend.
BT: Please tell us about international filmmakers attending the 2012 festival.
DM: We’re still lining up filmmaking guests as we speak (Thursday, December 23), but we expect to have over a hundred filmmakers attending the Festival to share their films with audiences and participate in Q&A’s after their screenings. Among the filmmakers attending are Joseph Cedar (whose Israeli Oscar submission, Footnote is playing), Emanuele Crialise (Terraferma) from Italy, Ole Christian Madsen (SuperClasico) from Denmark, Jose Padilla(Elite Squad) from Brazil, Ann Hui (A Simple Life) from Hong Kong, Pablo Giorgelli (Las Acacias) from Argentina and many more, along with well known actors like Oscar Winner Marcia Gay Harden (with the World Premiere of her new film If I were you), Michael O’Keefe, James Franco, with his new directorial effort, Sal, and (drum role, please) Carol Channing, reaping the documentary about her life and work, Carol Channing: Larger than Life.
BT: At Palm Springs ShortFest it was easy to meet the filmmakers in a casual and friendly environment, a great advantage over many other festivals, should we expect the same at Palm Springs International Film Festival?
DM: To the extent that they are free and not tub-thumping their films in interviews, the filmmakers at the Festival are going to the films with other filmgoers, eating at local restaurants, wandering around town and, of course at their own screenings engaged in Q&A’s with audiences.

BT: How strong is presence of independent cinema at the festival?
DM: I can’t think of a single film in the Festival that’s not an independently produced film.

BT: What are special screening in 2012 and other events?
DM: The Opening Night Gala will feature the U.S. debut of Lasse Halstrom’s new comedy, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen,  adapted by Simon Beaufroy (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours) and starring Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt and Kristin Scott Thomas, closing night will feature Yasemin Samdereli’s Almanya, Welcome to Germany, a culture clash comedy that won the Audience Award at the Chicago Film Festival and two German Film Awards including Best Film and Best Screenplay. In between those two bookends, we’ll be presenting our ever-popular Talking Pictures programs featuring Oscar contenders and year-end award winners, a Sneak Preview (sorry, no – I can’t tell you the name of it), a special presentation of Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire, our ever-popular Gay!La (His and Hers) events, Our Modern Masters selections, our New Voices/New Visions section, our True Stories showcase of more than 30 great new documentaries and over 100 great new films in our World Cinema Now showcase.

We’ll also be presenting our first photographic exhibit – a walking tour through the Uptown Design District – of Photographs from the newly published book Marilyn: Intimate Exposures, featuring the work of celebrity photographer Bruno Bernard (also known as Bruno of Hollywood). Credited in some circles with ‘discovering’ Monroe, Bruno’s work here focuses special attention on the period from 1946 to 1954, when Marilyn emerged from the obscurity of her pre-stardom life as Norma Jean Mortenson into a full-fledged star with The Seven Year Itch, and includes 40 photographs never before published.
BT: How film fans and young filmmakers can attend the screenings and events of the festival?
DM: Tickets and information are available online at, by phone at 1 800 898 7256, or at theaters throughout Palm Springs.

BT: What is the festival’s international cinema related awards?
DM: We are one of only four Festivals in North America with a FIPRESCI (International Film Critics) Jury, who select the Best Foreign Language Film, Best Actor and Best Actress from the Festival’s international line-up. We also have our New Voices/New Visions jury Award, honoring the best narrative film among the films by first or second-time directors, The John Schlesinger Award to a first-time documentary filmmaker, and of course the Bridging the Borders Award, for the film which best exemplifies art that breaks down barriers between people and nations.
BT: Please tell us about other festival awards and juries of the festival.
DM: Apart from those juried awards, the Festival also presents audience awards in the categories of Best Narrative Feature and Best Documentary Feature.


About Author

Bijan Tehrani

Bijan Tehrani a film director, film critic and writer, works as editor in chief of Cinema Without Borders while teaching Language of Film and Film History at workshops nationwide. Bijan has won several awards in international film festivals and book fairs for his short films and children's books.

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