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The red carpet at the Palm Springs International Film Festival

January

Palm Springs International Film Festival

One of the biggest nights for dressing up in the desert, the star-studded Palm Springs International Film Festival attracts not just big players in the entertainment industry every January, but also some 136,000 enthusiastic film-goers to Greater Palm Springs. Many of the attendees are certainly keen to catch a glimpse of George Clooney, but they are mostly here for the films—an outstanding 12-day line-up of more than 200 independent films and documentaries, many making their US premieres. There are also a hefty number of international films from more than 60 countries—the largest number of foreign film contenders vying for the year’s Oscars at any festival.

The range of film screenings may be the biggest draw, but the glitziest evening each year is undoubtedly the Film Awards. The black-tie event, which hands out 11 awards that recognize such distinctions as Breakthrough Performance, Rising Star, Career Achievement and Director of the Year, attracts dozens of A-list celebrities—recently attending honourees have included Rami Malek, Glenn Close, Spike Lee and Bradley Cooper—to kick off the year’s awards season. The event is open to the public, but seats and tables sell out quickly, so plan ahead.

For those who would like to experience more than just a screening but can’t attend the pricey Film Awards ceremony, there are special talks and presentations, tributes and nightly parties that are more affordable.

Insider tip: can’t make it in January? In June, the largest short-film festival in North America, Summer’s ShortFest, shows off some of the best short films of the year.