'Outsourced' opens Palm Springs fest

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The Palm Springs International Film Festival, which continues to expand its lineup, will launch Jan. 4 with John Jeffcoat's "Outsourced," a romantic comedy set in India in which an American novelty-product salesman is sent to train his replacement. The 18th edition of the fest, which runs through Jan. 15, will screen a record-setting 254 films, representing 73 countries.

The schedule, which concludes with closing-night film "The Tiger's Tail" -- a thriller directed by John Boorman -- will include three world premieres, 47 U.S. premieres and 29 North American premieres.

One of the fest's calling cards is the attention it pays to the films that have been officially submitted to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for consideration for the foreign-language film Oscar, and this year, it will present 55 of the 61 films that have been entered in that category.

"The festival this year represents a heady blend of star power and cinematic excellence," festival director Darryl Macdonald said. "The film lineup is exceptionally potent and diverse, reflecting the emergence of vibrant new voices in unexpected corners of the world, even as it spotlights established masters like Paul Verhoeven, Lars von Trier and John Boorman.

"At the same time, our awards gala roster celebrates a return to excellence in the realm of Hollywood studio filmmaking and a move away from the genre conventions that have dominated American movies for far too long."

Speaking of the emphasis the fest puts on foreign-language films, director of programming Carl Spence said, "This selection of films showcases the best the world has to offer including the new program Skol Scandinavia, which spotlights some of the best films being made in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland as a result of the strong creative and financial support filmmakers receive in the region."

In addition to "Outsourced" and "The Tiger's Tail," the fest will present seven international gala screenings. The other titles include von Trier's "The Boss of It All," Verhoeven's "Black Book," Antoine de Caunes' "Twice Upon a Time," Emanuele Crialese's "The Golden Door" and Q. Allan Brocka's "Gay-la."

Two films have been selected as special presentations: Rob Stewart's "Sharkwater" and David Lynch's "Inland Empire." The fest also will feature two special archival presentations, "Marketa Lazarova," directed by Frantisek Vlacil, and "The Damned Don't Cry," directed by Vincent Sherman.

Under the fest's "Talking Pictures" banner, it will also host a series of seminars, panel discussions and master classes. On Jan. 7, two "Critical Perspectives" programs are planned: Newsweek critic David Ansen will screen "Little Miss Sunshine" and lead a discussion with its writer Michael Arndt and directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. Los Angeles Times critic Kenneth Turn will present a screening of "Pan's Labyrinth," followed by a discussion with director Guillermo del Toro, who will also receive the fest's International Filmmaker Award.

On Jan. 13, the fest will host a directors' panel called "Courting Controversy," and a screenwriter seminar titled "How to Write for the Independent Film" will be held Jan. 14.

In addition, the festival will host a directors panel called Courting Controversy on Jan. 13 and a screenwriting seminar Jan. 14 featuring Writers' Boot Camp presenting a program titled How to Write for the Independent Film.

The fest's three world premieres are Steven Sawalich's "Music Within," John Irvin's "The Moon and the Stars" and Eric Breitenbach and Phyllis Redman's "When Pigs Fly."

There will be two juried competitions. The New Voices/New Visions Award will honor one of 13 features from new international talents making their first or second films. The John Schlesinger Award for Outstanding First Feature or Documentary will acknowledge the work of a first-time filmmaker whose narrative or documentary feature also will be presented at the festival.
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