Palm Springs announces winners

Félicité, The Charmer and The Insult among prizes.

by Amber Wilkinson

Véro Tshanda Beya Mputu in Félicité
Véro Tshanda Beya Mputu in Félicité
The 29th Palm Springs International Film Festival announced the bulk of its prizes at an awards brunch yesterday.

Among the prize winners were Alain Gomis' Oscar shortlisted Félicité, about a single mother struggling to help her son after an accident and Ziad Doueri's The Insult, which a Lebanese Christian and a Palestinian refugee become locked in a bitter court fight after a trivial argument over a piece of guttering.

Acting prizes from the FIPRESCI jury went to Daniela Vega for her portrayal of a trans woman struggling to get recognition from her older boyfriend's family when he dies suddenly, and Nakhane Touré for his role as a closeted gay man in John Trengove's The Wound.

The full winners - with the exception of the audience awards which will be announced today - are below.

FIPRESCI PRIZE

A special jury of international film critics reviewed 45 of the 92 official submissions for the Academy Awards® Best Foreign Language Film category screened at this year’s Festival. Awards are presented to the Best Foreign Language Film and Best Actor and Actress in a Foreign Language Film.

FIPRESCI Prize for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year: Félicité (Senegal), directed by Alain Gomis. Bursting at the seams with energy, Franco-Senegalese filmmaker Alain Gomis’s Berlin festival prizewinner immerses us in the sights and sounds of Kinshasa while loosely chronicling the day-to-day travails of the eponymous single-mom and nightclub-chanteuse (Congolese singer Véro Tshanda Beya, in an unforgettable performance) at the heart of the film. The film is on the shortlist for the Best Foreign Language Academy Award.

FIPRESCI Prize for the Best Actor in a Foreign Language Film: Nakhane Touré from The Wound (South Africa). South African co-writer/director John Trengove’s balanced docudrama explores a clandestine relationship between two Xhosa men, set against the backdrop of a traditional coming-of-age ceremony.

FIPRESCI Prize for Best Actress in a Foreign Language Film: Daniela Vega from A Fantastic Woman (Chile). Making a living waiting tables in downtown Santiago while pursuing her dream of becoming an nightclub singer, young transgender woman Marina (Daniela Vega in a stunning debut) finds safety and solace from an often cruel world in her relationship with older divorcee Orlando (Francisco Reyes, Neruda). But when Orlando suffers a violent fall and massive injuries in the last moments of a fatal aneurysm, suspicion falls on Marina, causing her to flee the hospital and the eye of a judgmental city.

All three films that received prizes are on the shortlist for the Best Foreign Language Academy Award. The FIPRESCI jury members were Nathan Lee (Film Critic, Film Comment), Marco Lombardi (Critic and Journalist) and Amber Wilkinson (Editorial Director, Eye For Film).

NEW VOICES NEW VISIONS AWARD

The New Voices New Visions focuses on films that our programmers feel represent the most distinctive new directors to have emerged in the last year. Each of the twelve films in competition represents the filmmakers debut or second feature. The winner is selected by a special jury of U.S. distributors, critics, and curators. The program is sponsored by RED.

New Voices New Visions Award: The Charmer (Denmark), directed by Milad Alami. A searing and topical exploration of the immigrant experience shot through with elements of psychological thriller and erotic drama, Milad Alami’s striking feature debut follows an Iranian man’s increasingly desperate attempts to secure citizenship by seducing a string of Danish women.

Honorable Mention for Exceptional Direction: Léa Mysius for Ava (France). Thirteen-year-old Ava’s summer vacation gains a new urgency when she learns she is rapidly going blind. In the face of creeping darkness, she squeezes in all the life she can, rebelling against her mother, stealing a dog, and becoming romantically entangled with a mysterious beach rat, sending her on an unpredictable journey of self-realization.

The films were juried by Shaz Bennett (Director, 4248 Productions), Mali Elfman (Producer), Eric Kohn (Deputy Editor and Chief Critic, Indiewire) and Farihah Zaman (Production Manager, Field of Vision).

THE JOHN SCHLESINGER AWARD

The John Schlesinger Award, named after the director, writer, producer and festival supporter, is presented to the director of a debut feature documentary from among those screened at the festival.

Schlesinger Award: Brimstone and Glory (US/Mexico), directed by Viktor Jakovleski. Equal parts awe-inspiring and anxiety-inducing, Brimstone and Glory’s chronicle of an annual fireworks extravaganza in Tultepec, Mexico, is a visual, jaw-dropping spectacle like no other documentary before it.

The films were juried by Jennifer Cochis (Director, LA Film Festival), Andy Greenblatt (Executive Director, Philadelphia Film Society) and Marcie Hume (Director, Producer A&E).

CINE LATINO AWARD

The Cine Latino Award is presented to the best Ibero-American film screening at the festival. The award aims to highlight the creativity seen in modern Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American films.

Cine Latino Award: Killing Jesús (Colombia/Argentina), directed by Laura Mora. When university student Paula witnesses her social activist father’s assassination, the inept, uncaring police force drives her to seek justice on her own. But when she finds herself immersed in the killer’s poverty-stricken world she discovers that they might both be victims of the same broken system.

Honorable Mention: A Fantastic Woman (Chile), directed by Sebastián Lelio.

The films were judged by Vanessa Erazo (Journalist, Remezcla), Gabriel Lerman (President, Hispanic Bridge) and Lucy Mukerjee-Brown (Director of Programming, OUTFEST).

THE HP BRIDGING THE BORDERS AWARD

The HP Bridging the Borders Award is presented by Cinema Without Borders and Hewlett Packard, which honors the film that is most successful in bringing the people of our world closer together. The prize includes an HP ZBook 17 Mobile Workstation, valued at $4,000.

HP Bridging the Borders Award: The Insult (Lebanon), directed by Ziad Doueiri. What should have been a trivial altercation, quickly settled and forgotten, instead propels two men (one a local Christian, the other a Palestinian refugee) to the center of a very public scandal in Lebanon, reopening historical and political wounds on both sides.

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