Palm Springs Film Festival opens with focus on international films

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With its proximity to Los Angeles, the Palm Springs International Film Festival attracts a strong showing of stars, savvy filmgoers, and film industry members, drawing 129,000 attendees, contributing to its success. This year, the festival presents awards to British actress Helen Mirren who stars in The Last Station with Christopher Plummer about Leo Tolstoy, which opens up the festival, January 5-18.

In line with the festival's mission to showcase the best in international cinema, the program will screen 45 of the 65 films submitted in the foreign language category for the Oscars, which is timed prior to the balloting on January 23.

A feature of the festival includes the substantial international film selections in the program. The 194 films are from 70 different countries, with world premieres including Dark Resonance (Bangladesh), Dumbstruck (US/Japan/Bahamas), Paulista (Brazil), and a special presentation of the UK's Red Riding Trilogy, and the European hit The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Sweden/Denmark/Germany).

Also, each year there is a focus section dedicated to one country, and in 2010, Australia is highlighted, showing a lineup of 10 films, including the Cannes' Camera d'Or winner Samson and Delilah and actress Rachel Ward's directorial debut, Beautiful Kate. Among the juried awards for best documentary and first feature, there is an international critics' prize presented.

A series of panels with emerging filmmakers and films with Academy Award nominations will provide in-depth interviews, including French-Swiss Ursula Meier for award-winning Home; Yaron Shani and Scandar Copti of Israel's Oscar submission, Ajami, which received a Camera d'Or Special Mention from Cannes; Australia's Warwick Thornton, who won Camera d'Or at Cannes for his debut feature Samson & Delilah; and Belgium's Felix van Groeningen of The Misfortunates.

Also participating in this Talking Pictures series of discussions is Lee Daniels ( Precious), Rob Marshall ( Nine), Denmark's Lone Scherfig ( An Education), and Kathryn Bigelow ( The Hurt Locker).

The 2010 Palm Springs Film Festival closes with The Lightkeepers, starring Richard Dreyfuss and Blythe Danner.