What to See at the 2018 Palm Springs International Film Festival

Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Palm Springs International Film Festival

Nearly 30 years after the Palm Springs International Film Festival was spearheaded by the city’s former mayor, the late singer Sonny Bono, the annual event is going strong. The 2018 festival will kick off on Jan. 2 with the Film Awards Gala at the Palm Springs Convention Center. Films will be shown in six venues from Jan. 5–14.

The unique pleasure of film festivals is being able to immerse yourself in movies that may not be shown to the public for many months, if ever. Or you can just choose a few from the nearly 200 carefully curated offerings that will be screened over the ten days of the festival. Many of the events will give festivalgoers the opportunity to hear from filmmakers and actors after the showing and to engage with them to discuss their insights and observations.

Special events include dinner and a movie, cleverly pairing two food-related films with a post-film meal at a nearby restaurant. Constructing Albert follows the famed chef Albert Adria of Spain’s Michelin-starred elBulli as he embarks on a new culinary adventure. The Cakemaker is the story of a gifted pastry chef and his passionate secret affair with a married man.

With so many films to choose from, the festival’s website makes it a bit easier by arranging them by genre, region, director, and program as well as by venue and date. Here are our recommendations for a fulfilling and enlightening week at the movies.


Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Palm Springs International Film Festival

The Highlights

Nostalgia
The value of the material things we leave behind and the nature of family generations are examined through emotional performances by John Hamm, Ellen Burstyn, and Catherine Keener.

Phantom Thread
Daniel Day-Lewis—in what he says will be his last role—plays a perfectionist couturier whose life unravels when he falls in love with a client.

The Polka King
Jack Black, as the self-proclaimed “Polka King,” struggles to keep his band going, but his good intentions go awry when he solicits investments from his elderly fans.

In The Fade
This heart-pounding thriller stars Diane Kruger as a grief-stricken mother fighting for justice for her murdered family.

The Last Movie Star
Burt Reynolds plays the role of an octogenarian movie star who is invited to a film festival to receive a lifetime achievement award. This poignant film will close the festival on Jan. 14.

Liyana
This beautifully animated film tells a story created from the collective memories of a group of Swazi orphans about a girl who embarks on a journey to rescue her younger twin brothers.

Parties, Too

Festivalgoers have many choices for celebrating into the night once the films are over for the day. There’s the Truth or Dare Party at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club on Jan. 5 with a fun, retro vibe. At the Jan. 6 Argentine Flight Party, guests can tango among the World War II airplanes at the Palm Springs Air Museum. Canada is the focus at the Telefilm Canada Party on Jan. 7 at Lulu’s, a popular downtown spot. The Gay!La Party at Toucan’s Tiki Lounge is an annual highlight set for Jan. 11. The Spa Resort and Casino will host the Vision Quest Party on Jan. 12 with dancing in the Cascade Lounge. The Rock’n Film Party on Jan. 13 will be held at the Hard Rock Hotel. Tickets for the parties are $25 through the festival website.

And the Winner Is…

Each year, awards are presented to recognize achievement in film. This year’s recipients will be honored at the Jan. 2 Film Awards Gala. They are Saoirse Ronan, Jessica Chastain, Mary J. Blige, Sam Rockwell, Gary Oldman, and Allison Janney. Holly Hunter will receive a Career Achievement Award, and newcomers Gal Gadot and Timothee Chalamet will be recognized with the Rising Star Award. This year’s Vanguard Award will go to The Shape of Water.

For more information, tickets, and schedules, visit psfilmfest.org.