'The Fencer' to Open Palm Springs Film Festival

The Fencer Still 2 - H 2015
Courtesy of Making Movies

Jeremy Sim's 'Last Cab to Darwin' will screen as the closing-night film.

Klaus Haro’s The Fencer has been selected to open the Palm Springs International Film Festival, which kicks off Jan. 1. Jeremy Sim’s Last Cab to Darwin, set to screen Jan. 10, will serve as closing-night film at the event, which will unspool 176 films and run through Jan. 11.

The Fencer, Finland’s submission for Academy Award consideration as best foreign-language film and a Golden Globe nominee for best foreign-language film, concerns a young fencer in the early 1950s who, hiding from the Russian secret police, becomes a physical education teacher in an Estonian village. Last Cab to Darwin, starring Michael Caton and Jackie Weaver, concerns a man who is dying who takes a road trip through the Australian outback.

“Bookending the festival are two films from opposite sides of the globe, both of which promise an emotionally stirring film-going experience,” said PSIFF artistic director Helen du Toit. “The Fencer is the ideal opener for Palm Springs — not just because it is a beautifully made film, and a crowd-pleaser, but also because Finnish director Klaus Haro has become a festival favorite over the years. We are equally excited to be wrapping the festival with the U.S. premiere of Jeremy Sims’ Last Cab to Darwin, a road movie/comedy set in the Australian outback and featuring the irresistible Michael Caton as a man who, while trying to expedite his own demise, finally learns how to live.”

The fest also announced Thursday that participants in its Talking Pictures lineup, a series of special programs focusing on the careers of top talent, will include Lily Tomlin, who will appear with her film Grandma, and director Asif Kapadia, who will screen his documentary Amy, which focuses on the late singer Amy Winehouse.

The fest has also lined up three special presentations: Jaco Van Dormael’s The Brand New Testament, Belgium’s Oscar submission; Gavid Hood’s thriller Eye in the Sky, starring Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman and Aaron Paul; and Alejandro G. Inarritu’s The Revenant.

As part of its “Dinner & a Movie” program, the festival will screen the documentary Cooking Up a Tribute, directed by Luis Gonzalez and Andrea Gomez, followed by a dinner at Palm Spring’s Mr. Lyons restaurant.