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Palm Springs 2013: Award Winners, Plus 'Unfinished Song,' Denmark's 'A Hijacking' and 'This Life,' Alan Cumming in Conversation

Thompson on Hollywood By Sophia Savage | Thompson on Hollywood January 14, 2013 at 10:20PM

The 24th Palm Springs Film Festival closed Sunday after 182 films from some 68 countries played for an audience of local enthusiasts and out-of-towners with an appetite for the best in foreign and domestic cinema.
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This Life
'This Life'

The 24th Palm Springs Film Festival closed Sunday after 182 films from some 68 countries played for an audience of local enthusiasts and out-of-towners with an appetite for the best in foreign and domestic cinema.

The festival lined up an impressive 41 foreign films including Spanish Oscar submission "Blancanieves" (winner of PSIFF's Cine Latino award), "Rust and Bone," "The Hunt," "The Intouchables" and many others.

Big winners at the festival include "The Cleaner" from Peru, Israel's "Fill the Void," Australia's fest favorite "The Sapphires," the actors of "Caesar Must Die" and "Our Children"'s Emile Dequenne. The complete list of winners is below.

"Unfinished Song"
TWC "Unfinished Song"

During the festival's final weekend I caught a few titles, among them Anne-Grethe Bjarup Riis' "This Life - Some Must Die So Others Can Live," Tobias Lindholm's riveting "A Hijacking" and Paul Andrew Williams' bittersweet "Unfinished Song," a strong closing night selection with pitch-perfect performances from Terence Stamp, Vanessa Redgrave, Gemma Arterton and Christopher Eccleston.

Introducing the film, Stamp revealed that he always regretted turning down the role of King Arthur in 1967's "Camelot" opposite Vanessa Redgrave's Guenevere (a role that went to Richard Harris). When "Unfinished Song" was brought to him the universe was offering him a second chance to both star with Redgrave, as well as to sing. We can all be thankful he took the chance. He and Redgrave present a beautifully nuanced relationship and Arterton shines as the cheery and cheeky leader of the elderly musical choir around which the film is set.

A Highjacking
'A Hijacking'

"Unfinished Song," marking its US Premiere, didn't leave a dry eye in the house, nor did Riis' "This Life," about Danish citizens--the Hvidsten group--who resist the German occupation of their country in 1940 by hiding supplies dropped by the British military. As Riis' directorial debut, the drama is absorbing and heart-wrenching, placing audiences inside the close knit community that chooses to take an enormous risk because of how deeply they believe their lives are worth fighting for. A hit in Denmark and a worthy entry into any lover of the country's cinema.

And speaking of Danish cinema, what a gift Lindholm is proving to be. As the screenwriter of both "The Hunt" and "A Hijacking" (both at Palm Springs) as well as the director of the latter, he is having a great year along with his native country--their "A Royal Affair" (also at the festival) has landed one of the five slots to compete for the Best Foreign Language Oscar. "A Hijacking" is expertly crafted, telling the story of a cargo ship that is taken hostage by Somali pirates while focusing on both the CEO that leads the negotiations to recover the ship his employees and the cook that struggles onboard. Magnolia is set to release "A Hijacking" this year. The film also played at Venice and Toronto, and won the Golden Alexander at Thessaloniki and the New Auteurs Audience Award at AFI Fest.

Palm Springs was treated to a conversation with Alan Cumming following a screening of his film "Any Day Now," from director Travis Fine. The audience adored the film as well as Cumming's sharp charm and sense of humor. He talked about his early stage career, his refuge from the spotlight (writing), performing "Macbeth" as a one man show, and about being an outspoken gay figure. Asked about whether that had ever hurt his career, he confirmed quite the opposite: "If anything it's been positive for me." He does, however, wish people would stop talking about it. Being gay is "more of a big deal because we make it a big deal," he says, adding that "we keep it alive by over-analyzing it" in the media. But that didn't stop him from talking about "the gayest night in the history of the world," during which he and Liza Minnelli performed together on Fire Island (something he'll be going again soon), or from playing the role of a drag queen in "Any Day Now" who, along with his partner, fights for custody rights to protect a boy with downs syndrome. He says he's fed up but understands why these battles are still being fough: "Society at large isn't mandating that people treat each other equally, so how can you make individuals do so?"

Here's more of our coverage from Palm Springs 2013: "Beyond the Hills," "Sister," "War Witch," Award Honorees.

The complete list of award winners and trailers are below:

This article is related to: Palm Springs International Film Festival , Festivals, Festivals, Reviews, A Hijacking, Any Day Now, Unfinished Song


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.