Friday, January 23, 2009

Scott Walker: 30 Century Man

The music industry has borne witness to many a strange career arc, but few are equal to that of Scott Walker. His unlikely sojourn from '60s teen idol to Garbo-like recluse to contemporary avant-garde composer is the subject of a fascinating new documentary by Stephen Kijak (Never Met Picasso, Cinemania). Scott Walker: 30 Century Man premiered well over two years ago at the London Film Festival and is just now getting a Bay Area release. It opens this week at Landmark Theaters' Opera Plaza Cinema in San Francisco and Shattuck Cinemas in Berkeley. (Director Kijak will appear in person for both opening night screenings in San Francisco).

Ohio-born Scott Engel was one-third of The Walker Brothers, a band which contained no real brothers or anyone named Walker. They found modest success working the clubs of Sunset Strip in the early '60s, and the film introduces them with a clip of their first TV appearance on "Hollywood A Go Go." A move to London in 1965 proved extremely fortuitous, with Scott's handsome looks and dreamy baritone croon providing their ticket to success. Never more than a two-hit wonder in the U.S. (the Righteous Brothers/Phil Spector-sounding "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore" and "Make It Easy On Yourself"), they exploded in the U.K., at one point having more fan club members than The Beatles. Before one Dublin concert date, their tour van was literally turned upside down by a mob of rioting teenage girls.

The pressures of stardom and intra-band tensions led to a 1968 break-up, which afforded Scott the opportunity for artistic growth. He became the first English language interpreter of Jacques Brel, and his first immensely popular solo albums were a mix of Brel, eclectic standards and his own self-penned ballads. These
compositions reflected the American transplant's adopted English-ness and were steeped in the "beautiful gloom" aesthetic of British kitchen sink realism. 1969's "Scott 4," his first album composed of all original material, was considered a masterpiece by many, but was an unfortunate commercial failure. In the film, Scott reveals that the following half-decade constituted his "artistic lost years," during which time he recorded mostly covers and dallied with country and western.

To everyone's surprise The Walker Brothers reunited in 1975, but the reconciliation produced two undistinguished albums. With their record company about to go under, they were instructed to do whatever the hell they wanted on their third and final release. The result was 1978's groundbreaking "Nite Flights," the title song of which was later covered by David Bowie on his "Black Tie White Noise" album (Bowie also executive-produced this film). Since then, Scott has released only three more albums, each more atonal and experimental than the next. Personality has been drained from his vocals, and the music exists in a sonic realm somewhere between "chord and dis-chord." For example, during a studio recording session in the film, a bass line is obtained by banging trash cans and punching a slab of meat. Scott also composed the original music for Leos Carax' 1999 film Pola X, as well as music for the ballet "And Who Shall Go To The Ball? And What Shall Go To The Ball?" Soundtracks for both of these were released, and excerpts are seen in the documentary.

To tell this incredible tale, director Kijak has assembled a wealth of archival material, as well as some surprisingly forthcoming interview footage of his notoriously reclusive subject. He's also enlisted testimonials from a partial Who's Who of British music of the past 40 years, including Bowie, Marc Almond, Johnny Marr, Jarvis Cocker, Radiohead, Brian Eno, Julian Cope, Damon Albarn and Lulu. In the film's most memorable sequence, we're taken chronologically through Scott Walker's discography, watching as the above-mentioned musical luminaries listen and react to their favorite songs. Their enthusiasm and delight for this modern day "poet and composer of the unconscious" is thoroughly contagious.

For a bit of Compare and Contrast, I offer a clip of The Walker Brothers performing "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore" on German TV, followed by a clip from
Pola X, in which an industrial warehouse orchestra performs one of Scott Walker's cacophonous compositions. And after that, the trailer for Scott Walker: 30 Century Man.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Berlin and Beyond 2009 Preview

"When I left Havana, nobody saw me but me."

And so begins the most oft-recorded song in the history of music – Sebastián de Iradier's ode to desire, wanderlust and melancholy – "La Paloma." Composed in Spanish Basque country in the 1860s, the melody has been adapted by scores of countries and cultures over the past century and a half. Over 2,000 recorded versions are known to exist, which is the subject of Sigrid Faltin's lovely bit of movie musicology, La Paloma – Longing Worldwide, my favorite of the films previewed for this year's Berlin & Beyond film festival.

The documentary begins, appropriately enough, at the Havana Music Museum, with a version played on an enormous 19th century music box that belonged to the wife of poet/writer/revolutionary José Martí. From Cuba, the song's popularity quickly spread to Mexico, where it became the beloved favorite of Emperor Maximilian. The film features some choice clips from William Dieterle's 1939 film Juarez, including Bette Davis' Empress Carlotta on a Chapultepec Castle balcony, listening wistfully as the tune drifts through the night air. Flash forward to contemporary Mexico, where "La Paloma" has become a rousing nationalist anthem decrying election fraud and social injustice, as interpreted by singer Eugenia Léon.

The film's globe-trotting continues with stops in Hawaii (Elvis crooning his version titled "No More"), Germany (as performed by a concentration camp combo known as the Ghetto Swingers) and Romania, where the
song has become a brass band funeral dirge. The most distinctive interpretation is discovered in Zanzibar, Tanzania, where it's traditionally sung at the end of weddings to wish the bride, groom and all their guests farewell. Sung in Swahili and set to a swaying Orientalist rhythm, it contains these two wonderful closing lines: "Forgive those who said anything nasty. Nobody should be offended or sad."

"La Paloma makes you open up and feel yourself. It's the great song of life," proclaims one interviewee – a sentiment this documentary does a nice job of affirming. For those who aren't sure how the melody of "La Paloma" goes, I offer a clip from 1961's Blue Hawaii. La Paloma – Longing Worldwide contains an Elvis clip, but it's big-haired, bell-bottomed jumpsuit Elvis. This is Elvis in a pair of white swim trunks crooning alongside a quartet of bongo-playing beachcombers. Incidentally, the film's website is also well worth a look. Among other things, you can watch the trailer, listen to song clips, read translated lyrics and even download a "La Paloma" ringtone.

Another Berlin & Beyond documentary I thoroughly enjoyed was David Assmann and Ayat Najafi's Football Under Cover. This rousing film documents a frustrating, but ultimately fruitful endeavor to stage an all-female soccer match in Tehran between an amateur Berlin team and the Iranian national women's team. Right at the start, the organizers are told that in Iran, "nothing is possible and everything is possible," a dictum that holds true right up until game day. It takes a year of bureaucratic hoop-jumping to make the event happen, during which time the filmmakers shoot a series of poignant team member portraits. Most memorable of these is Niloufar, a David Beckham-obsessed young Iranian woman who prides in her ability to masquerade as a boy in order to clandestinely practice soccer in a public park. In one of the film's few ominous moments, she's mysteriously cut from the team at the 11th hour.

Game day arrives and the German team struggles with their cumbersome, skin-covering uniforms. As only women are permitted into the stadium, the film's two male directors are thrown out and forced to watch through a crack in the fence. (The film would make a great double bill with Jafar Panahi's Offside, about a group of girls who run afoul of the law when they sneak into a soccer stadium disguised as boys). Freed from the glare of patriarchal oppression, the jubilant Iranian spectators get loose and rowdy, cheering their team with shouts, chants and dancing. It's really a thrill to watch. At half time they're reprimanded over the loudspeakers, and reminded that anyone whose veil is askew will be removed by the "moral guardians" patrolling the crowd. "If you want to dance, go to a disco." As if… These admonishments only makes the crowd more agitated, and they start chanting in unison, "We women only have half the rights!" Fortunately, no one appears to get hauled off to jail, and the game's final score is a diplomatic 2 – 2.

As with all the films at Berlin & Beyond, Football Under Cover only gets one screening during the week-long festival, and it's at the unfortunate time of 12 noon on a Wednesday. If you can take a long lunch, I'm confident it would be worth your while. If not, the trailer below offers a small taste. Finally, it's interesting to note that this film won the Teddy Award for Best Documentary at last year's Berlin Film Festival. The award is given to films of LGBT interest, and unless I missed something, the queer connection to Football Under Cover is strictly a presumptive one.

I previewed five narrative features in the Berlin & Beyond line-up and my clear favorite was Dennis Gansel's pop political allegory The Wave. Inspired by a 1967 Palo Alto high school social experiment in autocracy, the film considers the question, "Is fascist dictatorship within the realm of possibilities for modern day Germany?" A week-long autocracy class is taught by the coolest teacher in school, Mr. Wenger (we know he's cool because he wears a Ramones t-shirt, lives on a houseboat and has a Fuck Bush sticker on his mailbox). By mid-week he's goaded his class into adopting a group uniform and salute, and stands by as they ostracize those who refuse to conform. They name their movement The Wave and spread their message via a MySpace page. (Mr. Wenger also coaches the school's water polo team, whose dynamics parallel the classroom autocracy theme). Needless to say, by week's end the experiment gets completely and somewhat ludicrously out of hand. It's all a bit much, but I was never less than fully engaged by the films tight script, energetic direction and attractive cast.

In Micha Lewinsky's sweetly unsettling The Friend, a sad-eyed, milquetoast-y young man is asked to be the pretend boyfriend of a rocker chick he's secretly in love with. When she kills herself by electric shock (she removes the ground wire of her guitar amp), he surprisingly finds himself able to comfort the girl's family in his own odd, unassuming way. This leads to a new assertiveness, a new girlfriend (the dead girl's sister) and a new ability to stand up to his passive/aggressive mother. The Friend tells an uncommon tale of how the dead can sometimes bestow the gift of life upon the living. This is Switzerland's submission for 2008's Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, and director Lewinsky has won the festival's MK Award for Best First Feature.

Cross cultural misunderstandings as they pertain to courtship and marriage is the leitmotif for Sinan Akkus' lightly comic Evet, I Do! In four tangentially connected storylines, four couples find their love lives in conflict. A German man wants to marry his Turkish girlfriend, but must first convert to Islam and be circumcised. A Kurdish radio DJ and his Turkish on-air partner find their respective orthodox and secular families at war with each other. A gay Turkish car mechanic has a German boyfriend, but his parents have set up an arranged marriage. And finally, a poor Turkish immigrant needs to secure a green-card marriage, but the prospective bride is hardly the one of his dreams (and he's no prize himself). Not particularly great stuff, but agreeable and reasonably entertaining nonetheless. The same can almost be said for André Erkau's Come In and Burn Out, a comedy or sorts about misfits working in a new-economy call center. Some of the characters are interesting, but their individual, disparate storylines are strained and fail to integrate into any kind of meaningful whole.

Last and least we have Wim Wenders' Palermo Shooting, a film that was universally reviled when it premiered last year at Cannes. Variety's Todd McCarthy pretty much summed it up when he called it "both pretentious and inconsequential." 20 minutes have been excised from the Cannes edit for this, the film's U.S. premiere, but to little effect. German pop singer Campino stands in as the director's alter-ego, an "art" photographer suffering some kind of spiritual crisis as the result of too many soul-destroying fashion shoots. At the urging of a very pregnant Milla Jovovich (playing herself), he travels to Sicily where he's hounded by a bow-and-arrow shooting apparition of Death (Dennis Hopper). Loaded with clunky dialogue and voiceovers of the protagonist's tortured inner musings, the film is borderline it's-so-bad-it's-good. The best thing I can say is that it's beautifully shot and will look spectacular on the Castro Theater's huge screen (which is where I caught the press screening). But it's truly unfortunate that Wenders is coming to San Francisco for a tribute and this is the film that will accompany him.

As per usual, I've saved the films I'm most anticipating for a big-screen experience at the festival proper. These include Revanche, Jerichow and Cloud 9, which I briefly described in my Berlin & Beyond line-up post. I'm also hoping to catch the new 35mm print of Wenders' 1976 New German Cinema classic, Kings of the Road, as well as the English language version of Josef Von Sternberg's The Blue Angel. Also as per usual, Berlin & Beyond is bringing quite a number of filmmakers to the festival, including the directors of Cloud 9, Evet, I Do!, Football Under Cover and The Friend. Legendary German actress Barbara Sukowa will also make the trip with her latest film, The Invention of Curried Sausage. Another special guest is former Palo Alto high school teacher Ron Jones, whose story inspired The Wave.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Che Hits the Revolutionary Road (Show)

As you may know, Steven Soderbergh's 2-part, 4 ½ hour Che epic was scheduled to open across the country last Friday, January 9 as two separate films requiring two separate admissions. At the last minute, however, IFC Films changed its game plan and will now release it a week later in the "Special Roadshow Edition" that played to sold-out crowds in NYC and LA in December.

Nine U.S. cities have been selected for this exclusive one-week presentation, including San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Minneapolis, Seattle, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. But here in San Francisco we're getting something extra these other cities are not, and that's the opening night appearance of director Soderbergh. He'll be on hand to do a Q & A at the 7:30 show on Friday, January 16 at the Landmark Embarcadero Cinema. Soderbergh's Q & A in NYC was reported to be a lively, contentious affair that went on until 1:00 in the morning, and I'm predicting this screening will be one of the Bay Area's biggest, not-to-be-missed movie events of 2009. Admission is $18.00 and advance tickets can be purchased here.

Anyone younger than 50 is probably wondering just what the hell's a "Special Roadshow Edition" anyway. Well, back in the 1950s when the advent of TV spelled potential disaster for movie theaters, Hollywood came up with a number of gimmicks to attract audiences. These included new widescreen formats like Cinerama and Cinemascope, 3-D and the limited engagement Roadshow release, which sought to duplicate the experience of attending live theater. Blockbusters like The Ten Commandments, Ben-Hur, Lawrence of Arabia or The Sound of Music would open in a handful of large cities with reserved seating, a pre-screening musical overture, an intermission, exit music and a printed souvenir program. Occasionally the roadshow version of a film might even contain extra scenes that would be cut for the film's general release (note to self: it's time to finally watch the roadshow DVD of South Pacicfic I purchased two years ago – with 20 extra minutes not in the version I've seen a zillion times). Wikipedia has a terrific entry on the whole roadshow phenomenon.

As I understand it, the roadshow edition of Che will be shown without trailers, PSAs or artsy Stella Artois beer commercials beforehand. An overture is played before each of the two films, during which time an on-screen map provides a brief geography lesson for the country in which each film takes place – i.e. Cuba for Part One (a.k.a. The Argentine) and Bolivia for Part Two (a.k.a. Guerrilla). There will be an intermission in between, and every ticketholder receives a nifty 32-page souvenir program (16 pages per film that meet in the middle thanks to a reverse, dual cover design).

Che world-premiered at last year's Cannes Film Festival, where Benicio Del Toro won the Best Actor prize for his portrayal of Ernesto Guevara. I caught it at a press screening two weeks ago, and found it engaging enough to warrant a second look – especially in its roadshow presentation with Mr. Soderbergh in attendance. Some people will be disappointed that Che isn't a straight-up biopic, although Part One leans somewhat in that direction. Instead, as Michael Guillén articulated in his review of the film from the Toronto Film Festival, it's more of a discourse on revolutionary philosophy and guerrilla warfare tactics. In the two films we get to experience how these ideals succeed brilliantly in one environment (Cuba) and fail disastrously in another (Bolivia).

If you're unable to attend the opening night screening with the director in attenance, the "Special Roadshow Edition" of
Che will continue at the Embarcadero Cinema through Thursday, January 22, with two shows daily at 1:30 and 7:30 (the matinee tickets are $15.00). Starting January 23, the two films will be shown separately at regular ticket prices.

Worth a look:

IFC Films Che website, which includes the U.S. trailer

Wikipedia entry for the film, with extensive material on the film's development, screenplay, financing, shooting, distribution and critical reaction.

Michael Fox's write-up at SF360

Monday, January 5, 2009

2009 Palm Springs Line-Up

25 films I'd see if I were going to Palm Springs. . . .

The benchmark 20th anniversary edition of the Palm Springs International Film Festival (PSIFF) gets going on Tuesday, January 6 and runs until Monday the 19th. During the past two decades, this annual celebration of cinema in the California desert has established itself as the first major U.S. film festival of the calendar year. I had the great pleasure of attending as press in 2007 and 2008, but will regrettably have to miss out on 2009.

When I learned that I couldn't come this year, I vowed not to torture myself by looking at the schedule when it was announced December 27 – a prohibition that lasted all of two days. The good news is that of the 80-some films still lingering on my 2008 wish list, only 25 of them are being screened at Palm Springs. The bad news is exactly the same as the good news. So here's a somewhat forlorn, section-by-section look at what I'll be missing at PSIFF 2009, along with a fervent hope that these 25 films will turn up in the Bay Area in the months to come.


The first thing I noticed about this year's program is that it's considerably leaner – down to 209 features from 2007's all-time high of 252. This particular section, which compiles the submissions for Best Foreign Language Film Oscar and is PSIFF's claim to fame, is no exception. Last year, 55 out of 63 possible submissions were screened, and this year it's down to 50 out of 67. Still, there's an amazing selection of films here, including nine from my list.

1. The Baader-Meinhof Complex (Germany) A historical drama about the 1960s/1970s German terrorist group RAF (Red Army Faction), starring my favorite German actor, Moritz Bleibtreu as Andreas Baader.

2. Eldorado (Belgium) A junkie and a car dealer hit the road in a film that won rave reviews when it screened in Cannes' Director's Fortnight. With French boogeyman Philippe Nahon (I Stand Alone, Calvaire, High Tension) in a featured role.

3. Last Stop 174 (Brazil) Veteran director Bruno Barreto (
Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, Four Days in September) has made a narrative feature of the events depicted in José Padilha's astounding 2002 documentary Bus 174 (about a Rio bus hijacking that became a major media event).

4. Lion's Den (Argentina) It seemed as though every major Argentine director released a new film in 2008, making it an unenviable task to choose just one for Oscar consideration. The winner was this women's prison drama from Pablo Trapero (
Crane World, Rolling Family).

5. Snow (Bosnia and Herzegovina) A Bosnian village populated by war widows is the setting for this Cannes' Critics Week Grand Prize winner.

6. Three Monkeys (Turkey) The country's leading auteur Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Distant, Climates) left Cannes with the Best Director's Prize for this familial thriller. One of the films I'm most desperate to see.

7. Tony Manero (Chile) Another must-see. In 1978 Santiago, a
Saturday Night Fever-obsessed psychotic is determined to win a John Travolta look-alike contest, even if it means bumping off the competition. And during Augusto Pinochet's reign of terror, who'd notice?

8. Tulpan (Kazakhstan) A young sheepherder recently released from the army struggles to find a wife in this top prize winner from Cannes' Un Certain Regard.

9. White Night Wedding (Iceland) The latest from Baltasar Kormákur (
101 Reykjavik), whose Jar City was one of my ten favorite films of 2008.

Also screening in this section are several films I've already seen. Strongly recommended are France's Palme d'Or-winning The Class, Italy's Neapolitan mafia exposé Gomorrah and Israel's genre-busting animated documentary Waltz With Bashir (seen respectively at the SF Film Society's French Cinema Now, New Italian Cinema and SF International Animation Festival). Less successful, but still of interest are Switzerland's The Friend and Jordan's Captain Abu Raed. Austria's Revanche is one I look forward to seeing later this month at our local Berlin & Beyond festival.

If I'd found myself with extra time on my hands in Palm Springs, I might have been tempted to also look at these: Everlasting Moments, the latest from Swedish master Jan Troell (
The Emigrants, The New Land); Norway's O'Horten from Kitchen Stories director Bent Hamer; Iran's The Song of Sparrows by Majid Majidi, a director I've both loved (Children of Heaven, Baran) and loathed (The Color of Paradise, The Willow Tree); Spain's The Blind Sunflowers, a Spanish Civil War film that just received a hefty 15 Goya Award nominations; and Tear This Heart Out, the big-budget historical epic Mexico bizarrely chose as its submission instead of its smaller, international prize winners.

It's worth mentioning here that the Bay Area has its own series of Best Foreign Language Film contenders at the Smith Rafael Film Center. For Your Consideration runs from January 15 to 22, and features 13 films. Unfortunately, the series runs about a week shorter than in years past, and of the nine films mentioned above, only
Eldorado has been included.


Three films from this section are on my list:

10. Four Nights with Anna (Poland) Jerzy Skolimowski, last seen playing Naomi Watt's uncle in Cronenberg's Eastern Promises, directs his first film in 15 years.

11. Of Time and the City (UK) Terrence Davies' (
Distant Voices/Still Lives, The Long Day Closes) love/hate cinematic ode to his native Liverpool, England. Highly anticipated.

12. The Window (Argentina) I mentioned 2008's wealth of new releases from this country's top directors – here's another one, the latest from Carlos Sorin (
Intimate Stories, Bombón el Perro, The Road to San Diego).

There are two additional films in this section I would also be tempted to see: Modern Life, Raymond Depardon's most recent documentary on rural living in contemporary France; Kabei, in which Yôji Yamada follows up his recent Samurai trilogy (
The Twilight Samurai, The Hidden Blade, Love and Honor) with this, his 80th feature film. There are also new films from Paul Schrader (Adam Resurrected) and Germany's Doris Dörrie (Cherry Blossoms), which I would not be tempted to see.


It's worth noting here that the PSIFF has eliminated its Cine Latino section for 2009 (not that there's a dearth of Latin American films to be found). Also, there are no special sidebars, such as 2007's SKØL: Scandinavia and 2008's New Israeli Cinema: L'chaim! That said, World Cinema Now is where I'd be spending most of my time this year, with 12 films from my list.

13. The Desert Within (Mexico) Rodrigo Plá's follow-up to
La Zona, this tale of religious madness won all the major awards at last year's Guadalajara Film Festival.

14. Goodbye Solo (USA) An unlikely friendship develops between a suicidal, 70-year-old white southerner and a Senegalese taxi driver half his age in this Venice FIPRESCI prize-winner from Ramin Bahrani (Man Push Cart, Chop Shop)

15. Heaven on Earth (Canada) An unhappy woman in an arranged marriage enlists sorcery to solve her problems in Deepa Mehta's follow-up to 2006's Oscar-nominated

16. Hunger (UK) The last six weeks in the life of Irish republican hunger striker Bobby Sands is the subject of this Cannes Camera d'or winner for best first film.

17. Il Divo (Italy) Director Paolo Sorrentino won Cannes' Prix du Jury for this saga of infamous Italian politician Giulio Andreotti.

18. It's Not Me, I Swear! (Canada) A 10-year-old boy wildly acts out against his dysfunctional family in Philippe Falardeau's follow-up to 2006's fanciful Congorama.

19. Lake Tahoe (Mexico) A small town car crash is the catalyst for this minimalist, deadpan comedy from Fernando Eimbcke, director of 2004's wildly creative
Duck Season. Winner of the Alfred Bauer Award and FIPRESCI Prize at Berlin, it's the 2008 film I'm anticipating most.

20. Moscow, Belgium (Belgium) A Cannes' Critics Week favorite, in which a 40-year-old working class Mom is romanced by a young truck driver. This dramedy has been favorably compared to early works of Mike Leigh.

21. Pedro (USA) Biopic about Pedro Zamora, the openly gay, HIV-positive AIDS activist and cast member of
MTV's Real World – San Francisco.

22. The Sea Wall (France) Acclaimed documentary filmmaker Rithy Panh (S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine) directs Isabelle Huppert in an adaptation of Marguerite Duras' novel set in 1930s Indochina.

23. Sugar (USA) Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck's follow-up to
Half Nelson, in which a Dominican baseball player emigrates to Iowa to play for the minor leagues.

24. Tokyo Sonata (Japan) Genre master Kiyoshi Kurosawa leaves the metaphysics behind for a different brand of modern day horror: the unraveling of a family caused by a father's loss of employment. Also highly anticipated.

I've seen two films in this section that I can easily recommend: Turkey's My Marlon and Brando and Italy's Black Sea. Cloud 9 is another film I look forward to catching at Berlin & Beyond.


25. Public Enemy Number One (Parts I and II) This is the epic tale of notorious French career criminal Jacques Mesrine, who was gunned down on the streets of Paris in 1979 after 20 years of bank robberies and prison breaks. Starring Vincent Cassel, with an all-star supporting cast that includes Ludivine Sagnier, Mathieu Amalric, Olivier Gourmet, Anne Consigny, Cecile de France and Gerard Depardieu.


Another program you won't find at this year's PSIFF is the Awards Buzz: Best Documentary Features and Shorts. In recent years the festival made it a point to screen all (or nearly all) of the docs shortlisted for Oscar consideration. This year they'll only be screening three of them: Blessed is the Match: The Life and Death of Hannah Senesh, The Garden and Pray the Devil Back to Hell. This section contains a total of 34 documentary features, of which I can recommend two I've seen: Be Like Others and Walt & El Grupo.

There are a few remaining PSIFF sections I should touch upon. ARCHIVAL TREASURES will feature three screenings, including John Schelsinger's Midnight Cowboy. A dozen films by first or second-time directors can be found in NEW VOICES/NEW VISIONS. VALLEY VIEWS offers eight films that have a major connection to Palm Springs and the surrounding Coachella Valley, whether they were shot or take place there, or were produced or directed by a long-time resident. Finally, there are five GALA SCREENINGS, including opening nighter Last Chance Harvey and festival closer The Burning Plain, which is the directorial debut of screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga (Amores Perros, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, Babel).