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As festival season heads into full swing, I can’t help but wonder: How involved is the average Coachella Valley local in these big events?

Take the Palm Springs International Film Festival, for example. I’ve heard grousing that the festival, which started out as a smaller event designed primarily for locals, has grown into an event that’s more for L.A. and film-industry folks, and less for Coachella Valley residents. (When you consider how hard it is for locals to get tickets to some of the bigger film-fest events and screenings, you may realize that those grousers have a point.)

This brings us to a couple of February’s bigger events—especially Modernism Week. I have a confession to make: I have never attended a Modernism Week event. The same goes for many of my friends.

Why haven’t I ever attended a Modernism Week event? While it’s true that many Modernism Week tours sell out weeks and months in advance, it’s also true that a lot of other events—good events, some of which are low-cost or free—don’t sell out. Therefore, I can’t blame a lack of availability.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that when it comes to the behemoth series of events that is Modernism Week (which includes many hundreds of things to do), I didn’t really know where to start. Hence the “Modernism 101” story.

My goal in doing this piece was to answer a lot of the questions I (and, presumably, other locals) have about Modernism Week—and modernism in general, for that matter. Did I succeed? Judge for yourself.

Our great arts coverage coming to CVIndependent.com this month (and already out in our February print edition): a story on renowned local designer Christopher Kennedy; a piece on the neighborhood tours offered during Modernism Week; and a primer on another cool arts event happening this month: the Palm Springs Fine Art Fair.

I promise: I will attend at least one or two Modernism Week events this year. If you’re in the same boat that I am, I hope these stories will help you decide to take part in this year’s Modernism Week, too.

I hope you enjoy all of our coverage. As always, thanks for reading.

Published in Editor's Note

In 2007, neuroscientist and writer Lisa Genova released her novel Still Alice; it would find a home on The New York Times best-seller list for more than 40 weeks.

That book has been adapted into a film starring Julianne Moore, and the Palm Springs International Film Festival honored her with the Desert Palm Achievement Award for her performance. I caught a screening of Still Alice as part of the PSIFF on Wednesday afternoon, Jan. 7, at the Palm Springs Regal 9.

The film begins at a conference at UCLA, where Dr. Alice Howland (Moore), a Columbia University professor of linguistics, is due to give a speech. She takes the podium sounding confident and knowledgeable—until she stumbles on a word that she can’t seem to remember.

After she arrives home in New York, her husband, John (Alec Baldwin), is nowhere to be found. She later decides to take a run through the campus of Columbia University—when she discovers she doesn’t know where she is. When she’s at home cooking a holiday dinner, she struggles to remember a bread-pudding recipe.

Because of all these problems, she nervously meets with a neurologist (Stephen Kunken). Shortly after, it’s revealed to Alice and John that she has early onset Alzheimer’s disease. The news is a crushing blow to Alice, who struggles to maintain her position at Columbia. She attempts to retain her memory through the use of her iPhone; she also has bullet points typed out for her courses. However, these steps don’t necessarily work.

Alice isn’t the only one directly affected by the diagnosis: It’s explained that the disease is genetically passed on, and therefore, her children could be at risk for the disease. Her pregnant daughter, Anna (Kate Bosworth), and her son, Tom (Hunter Parrish), both get tested, while her daughter Lydia (Kristen Stewart) explains that she doesn’t care to know.

Alice later decides to pose as a woman who wants to put one of her elderly parents into a home for people with Alzheimer’s, and gets a glimpse of patients struggling with the disease.

While there have been films made about Alzheimer’s disease before, Still Alice is unique in that it’s told mostly from the perspective of the character with the disease. We see Alice struggling to maintain her composure while her husband and children watch her slip away; the audience gets a taste of what it feels like to lose one’s memory.

Moore is masterful; she’s rightfully earning Oscar buzz for her acting here. Stewart (Twilight) offers a surprisingly good performance as the outcast who fights her mother on going to college, because she’s determined to make it as an actor.

Still Alice is a compelling film that tells its story without any added drama or plot twists. The emotional hardships Alice and her family go through are real and heartbreaking enough.

The film opens in Los Angeles and New York on Friday, Jan. 16, and will later open in a wider release.

Published in Reviews

Walter was a big hit at the Palm Springs International Film Festival on Sunday afternoon, Jan. 4. The quirky comedy/drama with a solid cast and a unique storyline was screened in three theaters at once at the Palm Springs Regal 9, with the director and various members of the cast present.

Walter begins with an introduction to the title character (Andrew J. West), shown as a child at his father’s funeral. The self-narration explains that Walter is the son of God and judges whether or not a person goes to heaven or hell. He’s then shown waking up in the morning to three separate alarm clocks in a room that is an obsessive-compulsive’s paradise. Walter lives with his mother (Virginia Madsen), who is always cooking him scrambled eggs, and he begins his day by getting dressed for his job as a movie-theater usher.

At the theater, he works with a verbally abusive and crass co-worker named Vince (Milo Ventimiglia); his boss, Corey (Jim Gaffigan); and a beautiful concession-stand worker, Kendall (Leven Rambin). Walter’s OCD comes into play as he vacuums the lobby and uses a magnifying glass to inspect his usher stand for spots. As he takes tickets, walks down the street or otherwise encounters people, he usually utters “heaven” or “hell” with every person he sees.

One day, after the movie theater closes and he begins his trek home, he encounters a mysterious ghost. Greg (Justin Kirk) explains that he is dead, but hasn’t been sent to heaven or hell, and harasses Walter to send him to either one. Walter responds that he cannot do that, given he can’t make a judgment about him. Greg annoys Walter so much that he winds up going to therapy with Dr. Corman (William H. Macy).

Walter and his back-story are revealed in a series of flashbacks involving his father (Peter Facinelli). It isn’t long before Walter begins to understand himself better.

Walter mixes comedy and drama in a way that isn’t often done. Most of the comedic scenes involve his time spent at the theater with Vince, Corey and Kendall, while his relationship with his mother—and his relationship with himself—are certainly troubled. After an intense story climax, you’ll walk away agreeing: Walter is outstanding,

During a Q&A (see the photo below), producer Brenden Patrick Hill explained the film was based on a short done in 2010 that was written by Paul Shoulberg, who also wrote the full-length film.

“Paul (Shoulberg), Andy (West) and I all went to Indiana University together, and Paul sent me some stuff he was working on. I said Walter would be a great short film, but he said it would never work,” Hill said. “We turned it into a short film that Andy was the lead of, and then because we had a short, we knew we wanted to make a feature, and to show people like (director) Anna (Mastro) how great Andy was as Walter, and sort of build off on that short film.”

Mastro said she was immediately drawn to the project.

“I fell in love with the script, the character and the themes of it,” she said. “This is a quirky movie that falls into no genre and is hard to be made into a film, but luckily, we had a couple of actors who believed in it enough to help us on this journey.”

In response to a question, West said he’d never have another role like Walter.

“(Walter) is probably the most unique character I will ever play,” he said. “Paul (Shoulberg) has a knack for creating the most vivid characters on the page, and you have to fill in the blanks. That wasn’t the case with this. For me, the trick to this guy is that he’s profoundly uncomfortable.”

Published in Reviews

Some films arrive at the Palm Springs International Film Festival virtually unknown; others show up after receiving serious acclaim at other festivals.

Mommy falls into the latter category: It’s received a bunch of honors, and reportedly earned a 10-minute-long standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival.

On Sunday night, Jan. 4, Mommy was screened to a full house at the Annenberg Theater. Director Xavier Dolan was not in attendance, but one of the film’s producers told the audience that at the age of 25, Dolan has already directed five feature films—and that Mommy was his second film to be shown at the PSIFF.

Mommy is set in Quebec in 2015, after a new law that allows parents to commit their children to a psychiatric facility goes into effect. Die (Anne Dorval), a widowed mother, receives a phone call with bad news: Her son, Steve (Antoine-Olivier Pilon), has set fire to the cafeteria at his school for troubled teenagers. He’s being expelled and released to her care; when Die tells the school official she has no options, the official reminds her of the new law. She replies that it isn’t an option.

Steve, to put it mildly, is troubled. He has an extreme case of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, as well as a violent streak. When Die loses her job because she has to care for him full-time, they meet their mysterious neighbor, Kyla (Suzanne Clément), a stutterer who explains she is on sabbatical from her high school teaching position. Kyla befriends Die and takes on the task of educating Steve.

Kyla’s own home life also seems to be troubled; she’s emotionally distant from her husband and young daughter at the same time she’s getting closer to Die and Steve. Meanwhile, Steve’s episodes begin to ease, and he eventually develops a goal of applying to Juilliard. However, it isn’t long before a situation arises that makes it hard for Die to care for her son; she has to make a tough choice.

This is not an easy film to watch. Steven’s episodes are powerfully depicted—they’re disturbing and violent—and the ending is extremely heart-wrenching. Dorval and Pilon reportedly amplified their emotional responses at the request of Dolan, and the result is a no-holds-barred experience. Both of them are outstanding.

Mommy was Canada’s submission for the Best Foreign Language Oscar, but shockingly did not make the short list. This film delves into uncharted territory; Dolan should have a long and successful career ahead of him.

Published in Reviews

Horror films tend to repeat the same themes and character types (see: vampires, werewolves, disfigured slashers in masks, etc.). However, the film Spring—which received a late-Saturday night, Jan. 3, showing at the Palm Canyon Theatre as part of the Palm Springs International Film Festival—shows that horror films can be created that feel new and different.

As the film opens, a woman on her deathbed is being cared for by her son, Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci). She begins to tell Evan a joke—but dies before she can complete it. Next, we see Evan pounding drinks after the funeral at the bar where he works. Evan gets in a fight with another customer; the following morning, after discovering the man filed charges, he’s shown in an airport shuttle van talking on his cell phone to an airline. He decides to flee to Italy.

After Evan arrives, he meets up with two backpackers in a hostel; they decide to invite him on a road trip to a coastal tourist town. After spending time in the mysterious coastal city, he encounters a beautiful Italian woman named Louise (Nadia Hilker). Evan decides to stay behind and finds a room in exchange for working on a man’s farm. Before long, Evan and Louise are in the midst of a passionate love affair.

Of course, this is a horror film, so things won’t quite be happily ever after. Evan discovers something strange about Louise; we see scenes in which Louise transforms into various monsters, feeding on animals and an even American tourist who rudely propositions her in an alley. Evan tries to understand what Louise is going through; when she reveals herself and begins to tell him the truth, their love only seems to strengthen.

Yes, Spring includes a love story, but it’s not overly sappy—and it’s certainly not a “normal” tale of romance. The film does an excellent job with entertaining and meaningful dialogue that doesn’t detract from the main sci-fi/horror storyline. Both Pucci and Hilker turn in brilliant performances, and the two have great on-screen chemistry.

In the program for the film festival, Spring is described as “Richard Linklater meets H.P. Lovecraft.” That sounds about right. In any case, Spring offers a breath of fresh air to sci-fi/horror fans, reviving a genre that far too often relies on remakes, gimmicks and repetitive writing.

Watch www.facebook.com/springmovie for updates on release information.

Published in Reviews

As the Hollywood A-listers began arriving at Palm Springs Convention Center for the 26th Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival's Awards Gala on Saturday, Jan. 3, hopes ran high among the fans gathered along the sidewalks across from the red-carpeted entryway.

Whether the fans were locals or visitors to the Coachella Valley, they all had favorites they were hoping to see.

Palm Springs resident Diana Doyle has joined the crowd for three years running. “I’m one of those people now,” she said. “I’m hooked!”

Has she had luck meeting celebrities in the past?

“Last year, I had a great picture taken with Bradley Cooper, and it went into the Los Angeles Times, and now it’s my screensaver,” she laughed. This year, her good luck continued as she got a chance to grab “selfies” with Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell.

For Connie Hale of Palm Desert, this was her eighth year of braving the crowd.

“We got her about 12 noon today,” she said. “I’ve met lots of celebrities over the years, and this is the spot to do it. I’ve met Brad Pitt and Robert Downey Jr. already, but this year, I’d like to meet any of the stars coming.”

At one point, Hale found herself face-to-face with Michael Keaton—but the moment passed without her getting the autograph she wanted.

KESQ/CBS Local 2 meteorologist Rob Bradley and fiancée Kristina Guckenberger were among the fortunate fans who obtained access to the grandstand seating area next to the red-carpet entrance.

“I’ve had to work in the studio the last two years doing weather updates during down time in our Awards Gala red-carpet live special coverage, so this is my first time being here at the event,” Bradley said.

Did they have any favorites they wanted to see up close this evening? “My mom said I should meet Robert Downey Jr. and Brad Pitt. And for my dad, Reese Witherspoon,” Guckenberger said. Unfortunately, neither Downey nor Pitt appeared out front to greet fans.

Still, the crowd’s mood remained festive as the almost-full moon rose and the temperature dropped, before the fans dispersed as the awards dinner got under way inside.

Scroll down to see some pictures from the red carpet.

Published in Snapshot

The term “Leviathan” is used in the Old Testament to refer to a large sea creature; the word has been used to refer to Satan as well. Leviathan is now also the name of an acclaimed film out of Russia that’s a modern retelling of the Book of Job. It’s no surprise that a packed crowed showed up on Saturday, Jan. 3, to see it at the Camelot Theatres as part of the Palm Springs International Film Festival.

Leviathan begins on a peninsula near the Barents Sea. Nikolay (Aleksey Serebryakov) is driving to a train station to meet his friend, Dmitry (Vladimir Vdovichenkov). Dmitry is Nikolay’s old Army buddy, and he’s come from Moscow to act as Nikolay’s attorney. Nikolay’s wife, Lilya (Elena Lyadova), and his teenage son, Roma (Sergey Pokhodaev), have a troubled relationship, and there’s also tension with Nikolay, given their situation: Nikolay’s home is in danger of being taken by the town’s corrupt mayor, so a communication center can be built.

Dmitry reveals that he has information on the mayor that he believes will help save the home. However, Nikolay loses his case, and the mayor, Vadim (Roman Madyanov), shows up that evening drunk, angry with Nikolay for causing delays; he humiliates Nikolay in front of his family as Dmitry tries to intervene and send the mayor away. Nikolay begins to fall apart as Vadim uses his political clout to destroy him; Nikolay finds himself losing everything, questioning God, and unaware of what horrible fate lies ahead.

Religion is present throughout Leviathan. A Russian Orthodox priest has ties with both Vadim and Nikolay. During a scene in which Roma goes off to be by himself along the shore, a skeleton of what appears to be a sea monster appears right in front of him. Later on, we see a living version of it in the water.

Leviathan has made the rounds at other film festivals and is a favorite to earn an Oscar nomination in the Foreign Film category, but the film isn’t without flaws. The pace is slow, and major plot events are often merely discussed rather than depicted. However, the film succeeds because of the mesmerizing characters, who are each engaged in their own personal struggles with morality.

The film covers a lot of hot topics in modern-day Russia, including political corruption and the resurrection of the Russian Orthodox Church. One humorous scene references the Soviet Union, when one of Nikolay’s friends breaks out several framed pictures of leaders, including Stalin and Gorbachev, for target practice. He adds: “I have Yeltsin, too.”

It’s a film worth seeing. It’ll return to the valley on Friday, Feb. 13, at the Cinémas Palme d’Or.

Published in Reviews

The film Selma is one of the most acclaimed movies heading into awards season. It’s nominated for four Golden Globes, including Best Drama, even though it doesn’t open in wide release until Jan. 9.

A week before that opening date, the film was the star attraction as the official opening night screening of the 26th Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival, at Palm Springs High School, on Friday, Jan. 2.

On the unusually crowded red carpet, director Ava DuVernay and two of the film’s actors, David Oyelowo and Common, graciously posed for photographers and spoke with news crews and reporters about the controversy stirred by the powerful film.

“We couldn’t have prepared for this. I’m just thankful that we made a truthful enough film that it is meeting this moment in a real and potent way,” said Oyelowo, who portrays Martin Luther King Jr. in the film, referring to current tension happening after the deaths of black men at the hands of law enforcement officers in Ferguson, Mo., and many other areas across the nation.

“Seven years ago when I first read this script, I felt God tell me that I was going to play this role,” Oyelowo continued. “There were very frustrating moments along the road where the film just wouldn’t get made, so to look at this divine timing of it coming out now, for me, I don’t think it’s an accident at all. I just feel very honored and humbled to be at the center of it.”

Scroll down to see some photos from the red carpet.

Published in Snapshot

Film

The Palm Springs International Film Festival

One of the largest film festivals in North America welcomes 135,000 attendees for its lineup of new and celebrated international features and documentaries. The festival is also known for its annual Black Tie Awards Gala, honoring the best achievements of the filmic year by a celebrated list of talents who, in recent years, have included Ben Affleck, Cate Blanchett, George Clooney, Daniel Day-Lewis, Leonardo DiCaprio, Clint Eastwood, Sean Penn, Brad Pitt, Natalie Portman, Charlize Theron and Kate Winslet. This 25th anniversary edition features an exciting lineup of the best of international cinema. Various times and prices from Friday, Jan. 2, through Monday, Jan. 12. 760-322-2930; www.psfilmfest.org.

Music and More

Betty Buckley—The Vixens Of Broadway

Betty Buckley has been called “the voice of Broadway,” and is one of theater’s most respected leading ladies. She is an actress/singer whose career spans theater, film, television and concert halls around the world, and she was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame in 2012. 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 17. $60 to $75. Annenberg Theater at the Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 Museum Drive, Palm Springs. 760-325-4490; www.psmuseum.org.

Cabaret 88: Kevin Earley

Kevin Earley recently finished performing in Secondhand Lions in Seattle and Daddy Long Legs in Florida. A Drama Desk Award nominee for the title role in Death Takes a Holiday, his Broadway credits include Les Miserables, Thoroughly Modern Millie and A Tale of Two Cities. 6 p.m., Tuesday and Wednesday, Jan. 13 and 14. $88. Annenberg Theater at the Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 Museum Drive, Palm Springs. 760-325-4490; www.psmuseum.org.

Copa Events

Last Comic Standing star Iliza Shlesinger takes the stage at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Jan. 9 and 10. $30 to $40. Former Mouseketeer Lindsey Alley brings her blend of show tunes and comedy to the Copa at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Jan. 16 and 17. $25 to $35. American Idol and The Voice diva Frenchie Davis performs at 7:30 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 18. $25 to $35. Former X-Factor finalist Jason Brock performs at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Jan. 23 and 24. $25 to $35. All shows are 21 and older, with a two-drink minimum. Copa, 244 E. Amado Road, Palm Springs. 760-322-3554; www.coparoomtickets.com.

The USO Variety Show

The USO has been entertaining troops worldwide in times of peace and war for more 70 years. Now, the Bob Hope USO needs you to laugh, enjoy and have some fun remembering the good ol’ times. Join us for a live nostalgic tribute to Bob Hope and his band of Hollywood celebs; enjoy free tours of the museum pre- or post-show time. 2 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 22. $55 to $75. Palm Springs Air Museum, 745 N. Gene Autry Trail, Palm Springs. 760-778-6262; palmspringsvacationtravel.com.

Special Events

Dance for Life Palm Springs

A showcase of spectacular performances by renowned dance companies, all joining forces to help those in need. Now in its fourth year in Palm Springs, this event celebrates the art of dance to benefit AIDS Assistance Program. 6 p.m., Friday, Jan. 16. $95 performance; $200 with VIP reception. Annenberg Theater at the Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 Museum Drive, Palm Springs. 760-325-8481; aidsassistance.org.

Gourmet Food Truck Event

Try food trucks for lunch featuring burgers, barbecue, tacos, California cuisine, sushi and dessert. Outdoor seating is available, or bring a blanket. Dabble in the local farmers’ market; listen to music provided by The Coachella Valley Art Scene; enjoy a beer garden with some of the best craft beers from La Quinta Brewing Company and Coachella Valley Brewing Company. 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., the first Sunday of the month. Free. Cathedral City Civic Center Plaza, 68700 Avenue Lalo Guerrero, Cathedral City. Thecoachellavalleyartscene.com.

Hearts for Art Gala

Don’t miss the red carpet, celebrity sightings, cabaret show, exciting live and silent auctions, Hollywood glitz and glamour galore, and fun, fun, fun. Your attendance supports the nonprofit Old Town Artisan Studio’s mission to bring clay and glass art experiences to the underserved. 5:30 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 17. $150. La Quinta Resort and Club, 49499 Eisenhower Drive, La Quinta. 760-777-1444; www.oldtownartisanstudio.org.

Looking for Lost Ophir

This lecture by author/historian Nick Clapp is part of the Old School House Lecture Series, which started in 1999 and is run in partnership with the Twentynine Palms Historical Society. 7 p.m., Friday, Jan. 9. $5 at the door. Old Schoolhouse Museum, 6760 National Park Drive, Twentynine Palms. 760-367-5535.

Visual Arts

Art Under the Umbrellas

The event presents a diverse collection of 80 talented artists exhibiting their original creations along Old Town La Quinta’s picturesque Main Street. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 10 and 17. Free. Old Town La Quinta, Main Street, La Quinta. 760-564-1244; lqaf.com.

Desert Art Festival

This event features numerous artists presenting their original work in all mediums of two- and three-dimensional fine art, including paintings in acrylic, oils and watercolors, photography, etchings, sculpture in clay, glass, metal, stone and wood. Each artist will be present to meet with the public and discuss their work. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 17 and 18. Free. Frances Stevens Park, 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 818-813-4478; westcoastartists.com.

A Grand Adventure: American Art in the West

The epic 19th-century landscape paintings of Yosemite and Yellowstone by Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Moran introduced the American public to the grandeur of the West. By the turn of the century, a new genre of Western art had developed. A Grand Adventurebrings together 40 significant classic and traditional artworks from private collections. The artworks span nearly 100 years, dating from the latter half of the 19th century through the early decades of the 20th century. The exhibit closes Sunday, Jan. 4. Included with regular admission prices. Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Desert, 72567 Highway 111, Palm Desert. 760-346-5600; www.psmuseum.org/palm-desert.

Southwest Arts Festival

This festival sponsored by the Indio Chamber of Commerce, the City of Indio and the Indio Visitors Bureau features traditional, contemporary and abstract fine works of art by more than 250 acclaimed artists, and is celebrating its 29th year. The festival includes clay, drawing, glass, jewelry, metal works, painting, photography, sculpture and textile. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday, Jan. 23, through Sunday, Jan. 25. $9 general; $8 seniors; $12 three-day pass; free children 14 and younger. Empire Polo Club, 81800 Avenue 51, Indio. 760-347-0676; www.discoverindio.com/Southwest-Arts-Festival.

Town Square Art Affaire

The Town Square Art Affaire will feature numerous artists presenting their original work in all mediums of two- and three-dimensional fine art. Each artist will be present, and all work is available for purchase. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 10 and 11. Free. Cathedral City Town Square, 8700 Avenida Lalo Guerrero, Cathedral City. 818-813-4478; westcoastartists.com.

Submit your free arts listings at calendar.artsoasis.org. The listings presented above were all posted on the ArtsOasis calendar, and formatted/edited by Coachella Valley Independent staff. The Independent recommends calling to confirm all events information presented here.

Published in Local Fun

It’s rare experience for an audience to spontaneously break into full-throated laughter or even applause in the middle of a movie—but such visceral reactions were frequent during the 2014 Palm Springs International Film Festival’s Student Screening Day, on Monday, Jan. 13.

More than 1,000 students from nine valley high schools were selected by teachers and administrators to fill the auditorium at the Palm Springs High School on the final day of this year’s film festival for screenings of Wadjda and The Crash Reel. They also participated in Q&A sessions after each showing.

“It’s been a sensational day,” said PSIFF director Darryl Macdonald. “I’m willing to bet that for the vast majority of our audience today, this film (Wadjda) was the first subtitled film they’ve ever seen. … It teaches them how people of their generation live on a day-to-day basis in Saudi Arabia—and their response was just overwhelmingly wonderful.”

For the film’s writer and director, Haifaa al-Mansour, the student audience’s vociferous support of her film helped make the struggles she endured while making the film in her native Saudi Arabia worthwhile.

“My country is segregated,” said al-Mansour. “It doesn’t allow a woman to be on the streets. So if the Saudis don’t want women in the streets, then I’ll make the film from a van with a monitor and a walkie-talkie. But I don’t think they like me to make the film as well—so here we go.”

Did she model the film’s rebellious and hyper-entrepreneurial title character after herself?

“I’m shy. I’m not a hustler like Wadjda,” said al-Mansour. “My niece is amazing, and I based the character on her. She’s always scheming some way to make money. She’ll never take no for an answer. I grew up with girls like that who have great potential, but they give up and become conservative, because this is the way society wants them.”

Bank of America is the sponsor for the educational day.

“We’ve been doing this day for six years,” said Al Arguello, the Inland Empire’s market president. “It’s the highlight of our annual sponsorship, because we’re able to expose over 1,000 students in the Coachella Valley to the art of film-making.”

Macdonald said it was a special day for everyone involved.

“This is exactly what our student screening day is all about: opening (students’) eyes to the world and giving them an opportunity to engage in a dialogue with these filmmakers, and ask penetrating questions that are inspired by the movies.”

Published in Previews and Features

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