21 November 2013 6:44 AM, PST | Variety - Film News | See recent Variety - Film News news »

Steve McQueen will receive the director of the year award at the 25th annual Palm Springs Intl. Film Festival. The helmer is being honored for “12 Years a Slave” at the Jan. 4 gala, where the previously announced Sandra Bullock, Bruce Dern and Matthew McConaughey will also be honored.

The fest, which boasts 135,000 attendees, has become a key stop on the awards circuit. For years it was a local affair and then became synonymous with Oscar’s foreign-language films, screening the vast majority of pics submitted by the countries.

However, with an earlier Oscar balloting, the timing of the fest became very important to strategists and the gala is crowded with potential contenders. This year, the Academy sends out ballots Dec. 27 and nominations are unveiled Jan. 16.  The Festival runs Jan. 3-13.

“Director Steve McQueen captivates his audiences by challenging them with often unorthodox and unrelenting subject matter and technique,” said festival chairman Harold Matzner. »

- Tim Gray

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