film festival tourism

Palm Springs

The Palm Springs International Film Festival

The Palm Springs festival offers an enviable combination of interesting surroundings, balmy weather, and a full agenda of worthwhile films.

Palm Springs Festival Logo

Festival Website:

Timing: Two weeks in early-mid January


The Palm Springs fest is blessed with fortuitous timing– just before Oscar nominations are due. Capitalizing on this advantage, it has become the place to see films from nations around the world which have been put forward by their home countries for the five foreign film Academy Award nominee slots. Oscar hopefuls from the United States as well are featured as part of the program. In 2016 170 films were shown from 40 countries including 40 of the 80 foreign film Oscar submissions.  In 2016 veteran critic David Ansen came aboard as senior programmer.

David Ansen

Special Guests

The convenient location and attractive surroundings of the town lure many Hollywood A-listers to the Festival to raise awareness about their Oscar-worthy projects. In addition, many international filmmakers attend to take advantage of the press coverage the festival generates.

Lone Scherfig (AN EDUCATION) on stage at the Annenberg Theater


Press, industry types, and festival tour-goers mingle with the local retirees and gay community. About 135,000 attended in 2015, making this one of the largest such event in America. Seventy percent of the audience came from outside the region. This is a festival that works hard to attract tour groups, and many such groups attend each year.

Screening Venues

Most films screen at the Regal and Camelot Multiplexes. Neither is new, but both are in good condition. Other screenings are held in the Annenberg Auditorium of the Palm Springs Art Museum, a large, plush new theater in the center of town, at the local high school, and at the Palm Canyon Theater, housed in the local community center at the edge of the downtown area.

Regal Cinemas

Screening Schedule

Movies begin at 9am and run until late in the evening. The schedule allows for up to nine titles to be screened concurrently, so there is considerable choice.


Thirteen dollars each for regular screenings, with various packets and passes available. Many films sell out quickly, so it’s a good idea to purchase tickets on-line as soon as they become available. If you’re willing to pony up an addition $50 for a membership in the Palm Springs Film Society, you can get tickets before the general public.

Program Notes

The festival puts out a lavish program book with full descriptions of the films.

Getting Around

If you stay in town and confine yourself to screenings at the Regal Multiplex and the Annenberg Theater, you can easily get by without a car. The Camelot Theater complex and the high school, where opening and closing galas take place, are about a two-mile hike from the center of town. The festival runs shuttles between venues which run about every fifteen minutes.


With its dramatic desert and mountain backdrop, Palm Springs has long been celebrated as the playground of Hollywood royalty. The past few years have witnessed a renewed appreciation of the city’s many mid-Twentieth Century architectural treasures. Its balmy climate and intimate scale make Palm Springs a great town for walking, and there are numerous small shops and outdoor cafes in which to linger. The sun shines 350 days a year. Many cities offer direct flights during the winter months.

Downtown Palm Springs


To avoid having to rent a car, stay in the center of town. Following are are few of the places I have stayed at and enjoyed.

  • Hilton. Ccomfortable and well located.  400 East Tahquitz Canyon Way, Palm Springs, CA 92262  (760) 320-6868
the Hilton

The Hilton

  • Hard Rock: A four-star property that has gone through financial crises and ownership changes over the past few years, As a guest, however, I  have never been bothered by this management turmoil. The hotel features oversized guest rooms, a spacious lobby, four-acres of grounds, and resort-style amenities. Hard Rock Hotel , 150 South Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Spring, CA (760) 325-9676.

Hard Rock Hotel

  • The Del Marcos. An affordable option in the convenient and quiet Historic Tennis Club area. Staff are friendly and accommodating. 225 West Baristo Road, Palm Springs, CA 92262 |

Del Marcos Hotel


Palm Springs has many and varied restaurants. Places worth recommending include

  • Le Vallauris. Best in town. An elegant setting in a historic Palm Springs mansion with a charming courtyard. The food measures up. Close to the Annenberg Auditorium. 385 W Tahquitz Canyon Way, Palm Springs, CA 92262. (760) 325-5059.

Le Vallauris

  • Pomme Frite. First-class, affordable Belgian cuisine. Portions are huge. Close to the Regal Multiplex. 256 South Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs Ca 92262 – USA  Phone : (760) 778-3727

Jean-claude Constant, owner of Pomme Frite

  • The Terrace, Hilton Hotel. One block from the Regal and a good choice for a quick meal. Quiet, attractive, inexpensive, with well-prepared food and fast service. 400 East Tahquitz Canyon Way, Palm Springs, California, United States 92262-6605 Tel: 1-760-320-6868.;jsessionid=8D5157C0C7E01E78975D28D86955B91F.etc42#1
  • The Farm. Located in a quiet, shady nook in the La Plaza Mall not far from the Regal Theater, this is a pleasant place to relax and enjoy a casual meal. 6 La Plaza, Palm Springs, CA 92262 (760) 322-2724

The Farm

  • Lulu California Bistro. A chic,  expansive space serving good food at moderate prices.  Convenient location at the corner of Palm Canyon and Arenas. 200 S. Palm Canyon Dr., 760-327-5858.

Lulu California Bistro

  • Il Giardino. A small, family-run place at the edge of town serving first-rate Italian dishes. 333 S. Indian Canyon Dr. (760) 322-0888.

Il Gierdino



  • The Palm Springs Art Museum.  A good small museum with special strengths in modern, western  and Native American art.

Palm Springs Art Museum

  • Architectural Tour. Michael Stern of The Modern Tour is knowledgeable and enthusiastic. The 2-hour tour costs $150 and takes you inside some of the community’s most notable residences.

Palm Springs Modern Architecture

  • Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. A scenic ride up the mountain with pleasant walking paths through the alpine surroundings at the top.

Palm Springs Arial Tramway

• Indian Canyons Oasis. A lovely tranquil spot just a short distance out of town. Picnic tables are set up creekside, and there are hiking trails of varying difficulty.

Indian Canyons

Mood Movies: Films set in Palm Springs you might want to watch before you go.

3 Women. Robert Altman claimed that this mysterious 1977 film was inspired by one of his dreams. The movie’s otherworldly qualities hardly provide a tourist-friendly view of Palm Springs, but it was shot there.

3 Women

The Festival Year by Year


2005 Program Book

Best Film I Saw: Nobody Knows. Another haunting study of loss and alienation from Japan’s Hirokazu Kore-eda (Maborosi).

Nobody Knows


2006 Festival Program Book

2006 Program Book

Best Films I Saw:

  • Shanghai Dreams More low key than his 2001 arthouse hit Bejing Bicycle, Wang’s Xiaoshuai’s tale traces the viscissitudes suffered by a Shanghai family relocated to the provinces as a result of the father’s adherence to a now-outdated political idealism. In part an homage to Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami, with long takes of characters traversing hillside paths and a slow, ambiguous ending.

Shanghai Dreams

  • My Nikifor. Polish director Krysztof Krause’s portrait of an outsider artist becomes a commentary on art itself. The film features a memorable performance by octogenarian actress Krystyna Feldman (playing a male).

My Nikifor

  • Barrio Cuba. The venerable principles of imperfect cinema are updated in this warm, multi-stranded tale of life in Havana’s poor neighborhoods from veteran Cuban master Humberto Solas.

Barrio Cuba

  • Look Both Ways. An arresting look at the meaning of death to a group ordinary people in Adelaide, Australia, with fanciful animations providing access to the inner lives of its characters. Sarah Watt, who died shortly after the film was released, directed

Look Both Ways

Festival Review:


2007 Program Book

Best Film I Saw:

The Missing Star. A funny, penetrating examination of cultural divides and unexpected moments of connection from Gianni Amelio (L’America). The story focuses on a quixotic quest undertaken by an Italian engineer which takes him deep into untouristed areas of China.

The Missing Star


2010 Program book

Best Film I Saw: The White Ribbon. Austrian auteur Michael Haneke’s stark black and white  portrait of a deeply flawed social system in a small village in early 20th Century rural Germany.

The White Ribbon

Unexpected Pleasures

  • Male synchronized swimming in The Swimsuit Issue (Allt flyter), a  diverting piece of fluff from Swedish director Måns Herngren (who co-wrote the screenplay with Jane Magnusson).

The Swimsuit Issue

  • The dignified presence of Malian actor Sotigui Kouyaté in London River, Rachid Bouchareb’s small-scale study of ethnic differences and familial bonds .

London River

  • A mesmerizing turn from Noomi Raspace as the title character in the Swedish thriller The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Män som hatar kvinnor).

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

  • The oddball antics of the buffoonish band of postal workers in Ken Loach’s comedy Looking for Eric.

Looking for Eric

  • The exquisitely calibrated  vision of redemption in Klaus Härös intimate drama Letters to Father Jacob (Postia pappi Jaakobille).

Letters to Father Jacob

Shock and Awe: The FIPRESCI award to the Swedish film Involuntary.

Review of 2010 Palm Springs Fest:


2011 Program Book

Best Films I Saw

  • Road to Nowhere. Seventies cult director Monte Hellman returns after a 21 year absence with a mise-en-abime of a movie that out-Lynches Lynch.

Road to Nowhere

Road to Nowhere
  • Haru’s Journey (Haru Tono Tabi).  The music may be sentimental and the ending maudlin, but the formal elegance of this quirky Japanese road movie from Masahiro Kobayashi about a sick old man and his granddaughter more than compensates for its weaknesses.

Haru's Journey

Unexpected Pleasures

  • Colin Farrell’s Russian accent in The Way Back.

Colin Farrell in The Way Back

  • Juliet Stephenson’s over-the-top portrait of a fashion agent in Desert Flower.

Liya Kebede, Timothy Spall and Juliet Stevenson in Desert Flower

  • Various members of a Chinese family serenading one another with traditional folk songs in Apart Together (Tuan Yuan).

Apart Together

  • Paul Diaconescu’s hilarious turn as a teenage Lothario in the Romanian comedy Hello. How Are You (Buna, ce faci?).

Paul Diaconescu in Hello. How Are You?

  • The appearance of octogenarian movie legend Roger Corman to support his former protege Monte Hellman at the screening of Road to Nowhere.


2012 Festival Poster

Best Films I Saw

  • The Kid with a Bike. Belgium’s masters of naturalism, the Dardenne Brothers have produced an enchanting fable of redemption–though the harsh social realities that have always defined their oeuvre remain in place.

The Kid with a Bike

  • Las Acacias. An exquisitely observed chamber piece from first-time Argentinian director Pablo Giorgelli.

Las Acacias

Unexpected Pleasure: Mark Cousins’s masterful 15-hour documentary The Story of Film: An Odyssey.

Mark Cousins shooting The Story of Film


2013 Program Book

Best Films I Saw

  • In the Fog (V Tumane). Sergei Loznitsa’s grim, relentless portrait of life in Nazi-occupied Belarus, marred only by an overly pat resolution.

In the Fog

  • The Angels’ Share. Though some found this latest offering from veteran Leftie filmmaker Ken Loach and his longtime collaborator, scriptwriter Paul Laverty, insufficiently radical, its charm, humor, and sympathy for its lowlife Glasgow characters won me over.

The Angels' Share

  • Barbara. Christian Petzold’s tense character study of a woman trapped in 1980s East Germany veers off into melodrama in its final act but is rescued by Nina Hoss’s riveting performance in the title role.

Nina Hoss in Barbara

Unexpected Pleasures

  • Maribel Vedu chewing the scenery as an Anna Wintour wannabe villainness in Blancanieves.

Maribel Verdu in Blancanieves

  • Matteo Garrone’s over-the-top equation of modern-day celebrity culture with traditional Catholocism in Reality.


  • Lalique Gonzales’s smart, spunky turn as the hero’s tough-talking tomboy sidekick in 7 Boxes (7 Cajas).

7 Boxes

  • Cinematographer Guillermo Nieto’s virtuouso tracking shots around a notorious Buenos Aires slum teeming with activity in White Elephant (Elefanta Blanco).

White Elephant


Best Film I Saw. The Broken Circle Breakdown. Adapted by writer-director Felix Van Groeningen  from star Johan Heldenbergh’s play, this moving portrait of a crumbling marriage from Belgium is marked by bravura performances and  affecting renditions of several bluegrass songs.

the Broken Circle Breakdown

  • Unexpected Pleasure. The cornucopia of visual delights in Hayao Miyzaki’s animated treasure The Wind Rises (Kaze tachinu).

The Wind Rises


Best Films I Saw:

  • Li’l Quinquin (Pet’t Quinquin). A comedy from Bruno Dumont! And it’s very funny–as well as dark and disturbing.

Li'l Quinquin

  • Red Amnesia (Changru zha). Wang Xiaoshuai’s poignant portrait of life in a modern China still haunted by the fallout from the Cultural Revolution.

Red Amnesia

Unexpected Pleasures

  • The astonishing energy and clarity of The Tribe (Plemya). Miroslav Slaboshpitsky‘s harrowing tale about a  school for the deaf in the Ukraine  features dialogue in sign language with no subtitles.

The Tribe

  • The sheer exuberance of Wild Tales (Relatos salvajes), a madcap romp from Argentinian TV auteur  Damián Szifrón.

Wild Tales

  • The ravishing images in The Salt of the Earth, co-directed by Juliano Ribeiro Salgado and Wim Wenders as a tribute to Salgado’s famed photographer father Sabastiao Salgado.

The Salt of the Earth


Best Films I Saw

  • The Clan (El Clan). An Argentinian take on The Godfather, Pablo Trapero’s latest is chilling in its depiction of  kidnapping as an everyday activity in a politically connected Buenos Aries family.

The Clan

  • The Brand New Testament (Le tout nouveau testament). Audacious and delicious, Jaco Van Dormael‘s satire on religious orthodoxy keeps the energy high and the laughs coming.

The Brand New Testament

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