‘Starbuck,’ ‘A Separation’ among Palm Springs Film Fest winners


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Winners of awards at the Palm Springs Film Festival were announced Sunday. ‘Starbuck’ won the Mercedes-Benz audience award for best narrative feature. ‘Starbuck,’ a Canadian comedy directed by Ken Scott, is about how the past comes back with a vengeance. The film is about a class action suit against prolific sperm donor David Wozniak, a.k.a. Starbuck. Twenty years after his successful moneymaking scheme, all 142 of David’s children want to know is, “Who’s my Daddy?”

‘The Girls in the Band’ and ‘Wish Me Away’ tied for the audience award for best doc feature. ‘Girls,’ directed by Judy Chaikin, is about the hidden history of female jazz musicians. ‘Wish Me Away,’ directed by Bobbie Birleffii and Beverly Kopf, is about singer-songwriter Chely Wright, a devout Christian who also happens to be a lesbian.


‘The Turin Horse’ received the FIPRESCI Award. ‘Turin Horse’ is Hungary’s official entry for the foreign language film Oscar. The film was directed by Béla Tarr, and the jury said it selected it “for the power of its austerity and radical commitment to its vision.” The film is an end-of-days parable largely confined to an ascetic shack shared by an old man and his daughter as a terrible blight takes hold outside.

Matthias Schoenaerts received the FIPRESCI award for best actor for his role in ‘Bullhead’ (Belgium), directed by Michaël R. Roskam, “for his superb portrayal of an innocent and sensitive man trapped in a truculent body.” The ensemble female cast (Leila Hatami, Sareh Bayat and Sarina Farhadi) from ‘A Separation’ (Iran) received the FIPRESCI award for best actress, “for their naturalistic, powerful and fully interdependent portrayals of three women grappling with complex questions of guilt and morality.” The film was directed by Asghar Farhadi.

‘The House’ took home the New Voices/New Visions Award. Ten new international talents making their feature film debut at the festival were in the running for the prize. ‘The House’ is from the Slovak Republic and directed by Zuzana Liová. It’s a family drama about an ambitious teen, her disowned elder sister and their dour, controlling father that reveals contemporary Eastern Europe’s divisions -- between generations, genders, economic strata, city and country.

‘The Tiniest Place’ received the John Schlesinger Award, which is presented to a first-time documentary filmmaker.This film was directed by Tatiana Huezo Sanchez, and is the story of Cinquera, a small town in rural El Salvador that was completely depopulated during the civil war, as told by the survivors who have returned with astonishing resilience to rebuild their lives on their native soil.

The HP Bridging the Borders Award went to ‘Terraferma,’ directed by Emanuele Crialese. In Italy’s foreign language film Oscar submission, an elderly Sicilian fisherman who rescues a boatload of African immigrants must decide whether to do what the law demands or what he knows to be right.

“This year’s line-up encompassed a particularly satisfying blend of challenging but highly compelling works, more broadly accessible crowd pleasers and debut films distinguished by their distinctive storytelling craft and technical prowess,’ festival director Darryl Macdonald said in a statement. ‘The audience balloting skewed more highly favorable across the board than in recent years, and our juries have made astute and well-reasoned choices in every instance. In summary, it’s been a very good year for the cinema, and a hugely rewarding year for all who worked on or participated in this labor of filmic love.”


-- Julie Makinen

Leila Hatami and Peyman Moadi in ‘A Separation.’ Credit: Habib Madjidi/Sony Pictures Classics