Harold Matzner Closes Film Festival, Setting Stage For Oscars

By Betty Francis

This year’s closing film, “Last Cab To Darwin” (Australia) and the after party at the Palm Springs Renaissance were impressive but drew a crowd slightly smaller than last year’s final events.

My observation was that this was caused by a perfect storm of circumstances including unseasonably cold weather, competition with the Golden Globes that night, and the earlier-than-usual positioning of the entire Palm Springs International Film Festival.

PSIFF chairman of the board Harold Matzner opened the closing-night program in the Annenberg and Camelot theaters by describing the Festival as a “tremendous success” in the face of cold and wet weather and the loss of the 1,100-seat high school audi- torium that is going through a remodel. He explained that the early start results from the Festival’s desire to give voters an opportunity to absorb the press generated by the Awards Gala before voting for the Academy Award nominations which close on January 9.

His statement was born out later that night when 11 of our festival honorees also received Golden Globe nominations.

Harold Matzner Closes Film Festival, Setting Stage For Oscars 1


Other PSIFF officials who spoke at the opening were acting director Helen du Toit and lead programmer David Ansen. They joined Matzner in wishing a speedy recovery to director Darryl Macdonald who is on medical leave.

Among all the mind-boggling figures being repeated, Matzner seemed most impressed by the number “2.5 billion” – which is the estimated number of positive Palm Springs and palm tree impres- sions this festival delivered to world-wide to potential visitors and second-home owners.

The film’s director, Jeremy Sims also spoke, saying that his film was based on a true story but enhanced by several situations which sprang from asking the question “What if….”

The film was exquisitely written, filmed and directed even though it tackled the controversial subjects of right- to-die and euthanasia. It also addressed delicate questions of love, loyalty, racism, and duty, yet incorporated many moments of comic relief.

The speakers also praised some of the festival’s activities which we tend to take for granted, such as the nearly 900 volunteers who are absolutely essential to its success and its far-reaching educational contributions.

Over 1,000 school children and college students in both public schools and on Indian reservations were treated to movies and motivating discussions with famous filmmakers. The after party was just that – pure party! No speeches. The Palm Springs Renaissance came up with the most efficient food service to date, with four identical serving tables which totally eliminated any waiting. The spacious ballroom was filled with inviting round marble tables, two busy bars and searchlights sweeping the walls – very Hollywood! A non-intrusive DJ and outsized dance floor completed the perfect end to a perfect festival.

As posted in The Desert Sun, Sunday, January 17, 2016