Awards for 2016

New Voices/New Visions Grand Jury Prize


Death by Death: Xavier Seron
"The jury lauded this Belgian dark comedy for its humor and unique, unexpected approach to narrative storytelling that pushes form and structure within a story that follows themes that are common to many films."


New Voices/New Visions Special Jury Mention


Thithi: Raam Reddy
"The jury commended director Raam Reddy for taking his audience on a happily rambling journey, weaving a complex and layered narrative into an inviting film whose structure mirrors the content of the story."

Breakthrough Performance Award


Room: Brie Larson
"Brie Larson breathes vibrant life into the character of Ma from Emma Donoghue's best-selling novel Room. Larson delivers a performance of great warmth, deep reserves of courage and strong empathy as a committed parent determined to make sure her son is taken care of under unimaginable circmstances," said Film Festival Chairman Harold Matzner. "For this stand-out performance, it is an honor to present her with the 2016 Breakthrough Performance Award."

Ensemble Cast Award


The Big Short: Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, Melissa Leo, Hamish Linklater, John Magaro, Rafe Spall, Jeremy Strong, Finn Wittrock, Marisa Tomei
"Wall Street greed and its reverberating effects on the U.S. economy offer a modern backdrop for director Adam McKay's smart and funny film The Big Short, adapted from the best-selling book by Michael Lewis," said Film Festival Chairman Harold Matzner. "Taking a complicated subject - the 2008 subprime mortgage bond crisis - McKay and his perfectly cast stars weave an engaging comedic story of a group of oddball money managers who see the train wreck coming and conspire to benefit. For this wildly entertaining ride and the fine group of actors who propel it along, the Palm Springs International Film Festival presents The Big Short with its Ensemble Performance Award."

John Schlesinger Award


The Birth of Saké: Erik Shirai
"With its aesthetic approach, patience and intimacy, The Birth of Saké mirrors the craft of making saké, and the director's singular passion for his subject embodies the spirit of the John Schlesinger Award."

Bridging the Borders Award


Spotlight Award


Trumbo: Bryan Cranston
"Whether on film, television or Broadway, Bryan Cranston is an outstanding actor who delivers an extraordinary and memorable performance with each character he takes on," said Film FestivalChairman Harold Matzner. "In Trumbo, Cranston brings his amazing talent to his portrayal of blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. For this brilliant performance, worthy of the awards recognition it has been receiving, it is an honor to present Bryan Cranston with the 2016 Spotlight Award, Actor."

Rising Star Award


The Danish Girl: Alicia Vikander
"In The Danish Girl, Alicia Vikander delivers a superb performance as Gerda Wegener, the wife of transgender pioneer Lili Elbe," said Film Festival Chairman Harold Matzner. "She projects so much love and pain as she goes on a journey with Lili during an era when there was no precedent for it. Gerda's own transformation as a character speaks to the story's themes of courage and self-acceptance. For her astonishing screen presence and masterful performance, we are delighted to present Alicia Vikander with the 2016 Rising Star Award."

Sonny Bono Visionary Award


Carol: Rooney Mara
"Rooney Mara's nuanced portrayal of Manhattan shopgirl Therese Belivet opposite Cate Blanchett's Carol Aird, brings integrity and depth to this story of forbidden love set against the sexual mores of the early 1950s," said Film Festival Chairman Harold Matzner. "For this brilliant performance, which adds yet another laurel to her diverse career, it is an honor to present Rooney Mara with the 2016 Spotlight Award."

Spotlight: Tom McCarthy
"Tom McCarthy's latest feature is the critically acclaimed Spotlight, a remarkable film that creates cinematic tension between two institutions, as The Boston Globe investigates the Catholic Church," said Festival Chairman Harold Matzner. "For his expert storytelling of this subject matter, The Palm Springs International Film Festival is proud to present Tom McCarthy with the Sonny Bono Visionary Award."

Chairman's Award


The Martian: Matt Damon
"Since his breakthrough role in Good Will Hunting, Matt Damon has taken on a series of challenging roles through his career," said Film Festival Chairman Harold Matzner. "In his latest film, The Martian, Damon dazzles yet again as Mark Watney, an astronaut desperately trying to survive on Mars, yet still finding a way to laugh and bring hope to an impossible situation. It is an honor to present Matt Damon with the 2016 Chairman's Award."

Desert Palm Achievement Award


Black Mass: Johnny Depp
"Johnny Depp is one of the most versatile and dynamic actors of our time," said Festival Chairman Harold Matzner. "In his latest film, Black Mass, Depp, in a stunning transformation, creates a gripping and multi-layered portrait of infamous gangster James 'Whitey' Bulger. He delivers an astounding performance that has earned raves from both critics and audiences and is sure to garner awards attention. It is our honor to present the 2016 Desert Palm Achievement Award, Actor, to Johnny Depp."

Carol, Truth: Cate Blanchett
"Cate Blanchett is one of the most award-winning and outstanding actresses of her generation, delivering extraordinary performances throughout her career including her Academy Award-winning roles as Katherine Hepburn in The Aviator and the title role in Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine," said Festival Chairman Harold Matzner. "In her latest films Carol and Truth, Blanchett yet again brings to life two vibrant characters, both worthy of awards recognition. It is our honor to present the 2016 Desert Palm Achievement Award, Actress, to Cate Blanchett."


Best Actor


Rams: Sigurður Sigurjónsson, Theodór Júlíusson
"For the darkly comic urgency and sense of shared past with which they imbued their performances, and for the graceful way in which they guided their characters from animosity to interdependence, the award for Best Actor is shared by Sigurður Sigurjónsson and Theodór Júlíusson for the Icelandic film Rams."

Best Actress


Home Care: Alena Mihulová
The jury said, "The FIPRESCI prize for best female actress goes to Alena Mihulová for her multi-faceted performance in Home Care. Mihulová's portrait of an over-extended nurse - and woman - reflects the film's key merits of humor, despair and, most importantly, a true quest for a decent existence."

Best Foreign Language Film


The Assassin: Hsiao-Hsien Hou
The jury presented the award, "As one of the best films of a master director, and an example of the martial arts genre which is elevated into the realm of art by its superb visual style."

International Star Award


Brooklyn: Saoirse Ronan
"From her unforgettable roles in Atonement, The Lovely Bones, Hanna and The Grand Budapest Hotel, we have seen Saoirse Ronan grow from a young girl to the accomplished actress she is today," said Festival Chairman Harold Matzner. "In John Crowley's new film Brooklyn, Ronan gives a mesmerizing performance as a young woman from Ireland who is offered the chance of a new life in New York. In this role, Ronan embodies the grace and depth of a classic Hollywood screen star. The Palm Springs International Film Festival is honored to present the 2016 International Star Award to Saoirse Ronan."

Steve Jobs: Michael Fassbender
"Throughout his career Michael Fassbender has brought to life riveting performances on the screen in films such as Hunger, Shame, 12 Years a Slave, Inglorious Basterds and Prometheus," saidFestival Chairman Harold Matzner. "In his latest film, Steve Jobs, Fassbender delivers another stunning performance of subtlety and power, presenting the Apple co-founder as both a witty and engaging person and a conflicted Machiavellian. For his masterful performance in this film, we are honored to present Michael Fassbender with the 2016 International Star Award, Actor."

Creative Impact in Directing Award


Anomalisa: Charlie Kaufman
"It's been 16 years since Variety noted Charlie Kaufman as one of 10 Screenwriters to Watch," said Steven Gaydos, Vice President and Executive Editor at Variety. "His three Oscar nominations, including a win for 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' more than validated our prediction of success, but more importantly, Kaufman has only increased his capacity for startling us with original works like breakthrough, the mind-bending 'Being John Malkovich,' the edgy Philip Seymour Hoffman-starrer 'Synecdoche, New York' and this year's breathtaking reinvention of the animated feature, 'Anomalisa.'

Creative Impact in Acting Award


Concussion: Will Smith
"Will Smith's status as one of the world's biggest box office stars has never obscured his strengths as one of American cinema's finest actors, a point not lost on Oscar voters who've nominated Smith as Best Actor twice, for 'Ali' and 'The Pursuit of Happyness.' His penchant for taking on tough thesping assignments won't surprise those who've paid attention to Smith's range, which was vividly on display from the beginning of his career. While still cutting his comedic teeth on the breakout TV hit 'Fresh Prince of Bel Air,' 25 years ago, Smith was stepping up to acting challenges in dramas such as 'Where The Day Takes You' and the complex central role of Paul in the film version of John Guare's Pulitzer Prize-nominated 'Six Degrees of Separation.' With this year's 'Concussion' Smith rings true as real life Dr. Bennet Omalu, the David to the National Football League's Goliath, a role very much in the tradition of James Stewart's famed 'Mr. Smith' and Gregory Peck's Atticus Finch.

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