The Palm Springs International Film Festival, which just celebrated its 25th anniversary, may be the grand-daddy of them all, but our beloved valley is host to enough such celluloid celebrations to quench the thirst of any cinephile. The latest of these is the American Documentary Film Festival, which will be held in a variety of venues from Palm Springs to Rancho Mirage between March 27 and 31, 2014. Now in its third year, this popular event was, in 2013, named by MovieMaker Magazine one of the top 5 coolest documentary film festivals in the world as well as one of the top 25 film festivals worth its price of admittance.
As its name implies, this film fest keeps it real. Nary a narrative motion picture figures in the event’s slate. Over five days, more than 125 documentaries of varying lengths and from around the globe will unspool on six screens at three sites: the Camelot Theatres in Palm Springs, the Indian Wells Theatre and Oliphant Auditorium in Palm Desert, and of course, right here in Rancho Mirage at the Helene Galen Theatre on the campus of the Rancho Mirage High School. There will be both world and North American premieres, not to mention post-film Q&As, galas and other parties, pitch opportunities, industry panels, and a closing night awards ceremony.
Of special note this year, following the opening night film—Emmy-winning director Julie Cohen’s South African- and opera-themed “Ndiphilela Ukucula: I Live to Sing!”—sopranos who appear in the film, students at the University of Cape Town’s once-all-white opera school, will perform live! I’m not missing that, and I suggest neither do you.
While individual tickets are available, the smart folks—like me!—go for the packages such as The Big Deal (which includes everything!), the Flex Express Film Pass, or the 6-for-5 Hole Punch. I sure hope to see some of you as the lights go down and we sit together in the dark marveling at the latest crop of true stories told via the moving image during what has become the largest documentary film fête on the west coast.