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  • Writer's pictureKathy Condon

Palm Springs Resident Reviews of Palm Springs International Film Festival 2024

Updated: Jun 8

Marquee on the front of the Palm Springs Cultural Center announcing films for the Palm Springs International Film Festival
Palm Springs Cultural Center Site of Palm Springs International Film Festival Photo by Kathy Condon

In January, the buzz begins. What stars will attend the Annual Awards Dinner for the Palm Springs International Film Festival? This year, the Awards Dinner has come and gone. People attending said it was an especially excellent event, and the award-winners' speeches were poignant and meaningful for today's world.

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Admittedly, I have been a groupie, standing behind the ropes watching as the stars arrive to walk the red carpet. For example, I've seen Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Meryl Streep, and Richard Gere. It is always a crowd guessing game about who will walk over to the waiting crowd to sign autographs and take selfies.

However, 135,000 plus people come to see films spread over 11 days. The Palm Springs Film Festival is one of the largest in North America. This year, 179 movies will be shown at various venues representing 74 countries.

Palm Springs Resident Reviews of Palm Springs International Film Festival

Two women who made documentary We Bomb New Mexico First. One in a long pretty gold coat
Director of First We Bombed New Mexico, Lois Lipman and Tina Cordova Founder of Downwinders at the film's screening at Palm Springs International Film Festival Photo by Kathy Condon

First We Bombed New Mexico

Director Lois Lipman follows the life of Tina Cordova, founder of Downwinders Consortium.

When a ticket surfaced to attend this film, I gladly accepted it, although I had no idea what I would learn. In the words of Tina Cordova, founder of the Downwinders Consortium, I can't unforget what the movie revealed.

For those of us who saw Oppenheimer, this film shows the other side of the repercussions of the event that changed the world. In Oppenheimer, we saw how the site's infrastructure was constructed and watched as millions of dollars poured into the area.

However, what was not considered was how the blast would affect the surrounding communities, some 15 miles away. Organizers did not even consider how the New Mexico winds can change direction rapidly. As a result, more communities and areas were engulfed with dust from the blast, floating to every crack and crevice in the area.

People aged 11 and 12 living in the area when the blast occurred gave their first-hand knowledge. One man said his mother was so angry because her newly laundered clothes on the line turned black from the dust. They were not alerted to the imminent test. Thus, when it happened, they wondered what it was.

Today, 75 years later, people who lived in the area wonder WHEN they will get cancer, not IF. Recent records uncovered showed 35 babies died within months of the test. Family trees reveal the cancer rate far outpaces the rate in other areas of the country.

So far, the government has not acknowledged that New Mexico residents were victims of the test, while other states where the debris drifted have been given medical help and reparation.

At the end of the film, the panel expresses disbelief that twice a year, the government opens the site, and hundreds of people, with their families, flock to the exact spot where the bomb was detonated, with Geiger counters still registering radiation.

You can read more about the movie and situation here:

Director of film Art for Everybody standing on stage talking about the movie Art for Everybody. She is wearing an burnt orange coat.
Miranda Youself Director of the film Art for Everybody--about the life of Thomas Kinkade. Speaking at the Palm Springs International Film Festival Photo by Kathy Condon

Art for Everybody

The directorial debut of Miranda Youself.

I was intrigued when I saw a documentary about Thomas Kinkade. I was aware of his art but was even more interested since I had visited Placerville where he grew up. I wasn't prepared for what the film Art for Everybody revealed.

First of all, I didn't know he died in April 2012 of alcoholism at 54 years of age. The movie takes us through his life, accompanied by audio tapes he recorded at age 16, in which he said, I want to be a famous artist like Van Gogh, but want to be recognized during my lifetime.

He married and had four girls, which were interviewed for the film. They watched as his father appeared addicted to attention and the need to keep spreading his name and marketing his art on everything from reprints to plates to armchairs.

 As pressure grew to produce at least one painting a month, appear at public events, make ads, and open his galleries spreading across the country, his family started to notice his withdrawal from them—but making sure they were present in ads portraying a healthy, happy family.

Ironically, he did not drink when he was married, and sparkling cider was served at his wedding. However, with pressure and meetings, drinking became part of the culture, and his daughters/friends/wife eventually organized an intervention. He ended up going to a rehab facility, but the first thing he did when he was out was get a drink.

Through a series of changes in management and the decision to ramp up productions of his approximately 600 paintings in reprints, people no longer felt investing in his art would add to their retirement funds. Plus, lawsuits started to surface.

He was not accepted as an artist of critical acclaim during his lifetime. In the film, one art critic stated that a part of me hopes someday, hidden in a vault, will be Kinkade art with a whole different approach to his art.

Well, his desire came true. Upon his death, the vault in his home revealed over 6,000 pieces of art, from drawings to completed paintings, but only 600 were paintings, as we understood his style. The additional paintings were very dark and showed a man in turmoil.

In retrospect, those who knew him well feel it was childhood with an abusive father, and then, once he became famous, he presented a persona people expected instead of who he really was, provided the inner resources and talent to create a very different body of work.

The family has not cataloged the art, and no one except those of us who have seen the documentary has gotten a glimpse of the very different style of his work. From what I saw, there is no question one of his goals may be met after his death. Art critics may change their minds about him being worthy of being recognized as one of our more important American artists.

As I walked out of the theatre, a man said, Were you in the theatre to see the film on Kinkade? Were you as surprised as I was about him? I replied, Yes, I was. 

This Palm Springs resident review of the Palm Springs International Film Festival is a small glimpse of why people come from all over the world to the festival. There is so much to learn. Thank goodness for documentaries like these that have us stop and enter worlds and learn about things, not inside the bubbles we live in. An additional fact is that both of these documentary makers were women.

Consider coming in 2025. Sign up for their newsletter at the Palm Springs International Film Festival.

Kathy Condon wearing a white shirt and gold beads.
Kathy Condon Travel Writer and Journalist

Kathy Condon is a journalist, travel writer, and award-winning author. Her niche is luxury experiences and communities living in the shadows of larger cities. About Kathy     760-902-3094                   



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