Fests Of The West: Film Festivals In Greater Palm Springs

The logo for the 2020 Palm Springs International Film Festival
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Everyone knows it’s always sunny in Palm Springs, but did you know it’s always teeming year round with film festivals too? 

They’re all fantastic and they’re all very different. So, I’m going to tell you about them. But first I’m going to tell you — in other people’s words — why the ones in Palm Springs are always held at the Palm Springs Cultural Center (PSCC).

Beth Fromm, the executive director of the Desert Film Society, says the buzz in the festival community is not only about the very cool space; for filmmakers and cinephiles, it’s about the tech specs that make the viewing so much better than your average screens. The PSCC has “theatrical grade HD digital projection on a 58-foot screen along with great sound — a combo not easy to find at other festivals or cities,” Fromm said. Yes, that’s screens with an “s” as in a cineplex. It’s retro-chic with great memorabilia decorating every space that will have them. 

Alan K. Rode, executive director and curator of the Arthur Lyons Film Festival (now in its 22nd year!), is pretty sweet on the space too. “You have a projection booth that has no equal in terms of capability,” he said. “I think you have to go to Los Angeles to find a projection booth that can project 70mm film, 35mm film, and all manner of both the digital DCP digital control pack, which is the nominal way of projecting films and theaters on the stage, and also physical media projection all in one building.” On top of all that, he added, there are “three theaters, a restaurant, two bars, an elevator and a spiral staircase!”

You heard the man correctly: two bars and a restaurant (sounds vaguely like a Beck song — “two turntables and a microphone…”). Upstairs you’ll find the best of the best local live entertainment on *gasp* weeknights. We have a lot of talent out here, you’re missing out if you haven’t seen any of it.

I could give you a ton more testimonials about the space, but let’s get to those festivals.

Festivals At The Palm Springs Cultural Center

The wildly popular Cinema Diverse celebrating LGBTQ+ films started on Sept. 21 and is running on the weekends through October 1. Click that there link for the full schedule. The festival is dedicated to advancing and further strengthening our diverse gay community through the establishment of a world-class film festival presenting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender cinema from around the world. Got it? Go!

A banner for Cinema Diverse

Courtesy of Cinema Diverse

Planned Parenthood Women’s Fest — Nov. 12, 2023. As described on its website: “This special event directly benefits Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest, raising funds directed toward local programs and services throughout San Diego, Riverside, and Imperial Counties.” Telling women’s stories.

Jewish Film Fest — Stories being told about and by Jews from around the world. They have not yet announced for next year, but last year it was held in March.

Arthur Lyons Film Noir — This fest, founded in 2020 by the late mystery author, “includes acclaimed and obscure black and white ‘B’ movies from the 1940s and 1950s, as well as a few special appearances from some of the stars.” Generally held in May.

Palm Springs International Film Festival — All the big names come in for this huge fest, and it’s quite a production. If there’s a new hot spot in the Coachella Valley in the first week of January, you’ll likely see a celebrity or two dining there. 

Courtesy of the Palm Springs International Film Festival

Palm Springs International ShortFest — Designated by AMPAS, BAFTA, BIFA, and the Goya Awards as an award-qualifying festival, and accredited by the International Short Film Conference, the Palm Springs International ShortFest & Short Film Market is one of the most acclaimed short film showcases in the world.

Desert Film Society  — The Desert Film Society says it “promotes the appreciation of film in the Coachella Valley by providing Society members a unique opportunity to view the latest in art, international, and cutting-edge independent cinema and educating members by providing a platform for discussion of the art of film and film craft.” 

Bow Wow Film Festival — All for the love of dogs. No canine filmmakers that I’m aware of. Held in May last year.

Cinema Français — Feb. 2-4, 2024. New award-winning, French-language films and filmmakers.

Amdocs — March 21-25, 2024. American documentary and animation film festival.

More Festivals

Down Syndrome International Film Festival — Oct. 6, 2023, at Mary Pickford D’Place in Cathedral City.

Yucca Valley Film Festival — In it’s fifth year. Nov. 10-12, 2023

Idyllwild Cinema Festival — March 5-10, 2024. The Hollywood Reporter called it “The Greatest Little Film Festival on Earth.”

And that’s a wrap, folks! See you at the movies.