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Palm Springs International Film Festival gives foreign films momentum

French film
French film "Paris or Perish" will show at the 2014 Palm Springs International Film Festival. The fast-paced, fish-out-of-water comedy journeys from the upper reaches of the Paris fashion world to the bucolic Moroccan countryside.
Pierre-Elie de Pibrac

The 25th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival begins Friday.    

Of the roughly 190 films on the festival’s schedule, 46 were their country’s official submission to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in the best foreign language film category, and they include the nine that made the nominations short list. 

"These films can benefit if they are in contention for the Oscars by walking away with a huge amount of momentum for at the very least a nomination, if not the golden statue itself," said the festival's director Darryl McDonald.  

He remembers five years ago, when a Japanese film called "Departures" had its U.S. premiere at Palm Springs.

"We had to keep adding screenings of it because the theaters we put it into were too small to meet demand," McDonald told KPCC.   "It subsequently went on to win our Audience Award for most popular film that year and after that, surprised everybody by going on to win the Oscar for best foreign language film."  

McDonald said the festival has also helped several foreign films find second lives - in English, like the Canadian film "Starbuck" which won the Palm Springs Audience Award two years ago. 

"A producer out of Hollywood saw it here, snapped up the American remake rights and it was just released this fall as 'Delivery Man' starring Vince Vaughn," said McDonald.    

Three years ago, Palm Springs screened a film from Sweden by Niels Arden Oplev titled "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." 

For all the fodder from foreign shores, the Palm Springs has plenty of Hollywood glitter.  At the Saturday night awards gala, the festival will honor actors Meryl Streep, Sandra Bullock, Bruce Dern, Tom Hanks, Matthew McConaughey, Julia Roberts and director Steve McQueen, and present the Sonny Bono Visionary Award to members of the band U2.

25 years ago, the festival welcomed 17,000 visitors to screenings of 52 films.  This year, organizers expect 135,000 visitors over the ten days of the festival.