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Pharrell Williams Humbly Accepts Creative Impact Award at Palm Springs Film Festival


NewsHubThe Parker Palm Springs, with its candied-colored hues of yellow and orange, was the place to be seen Tuesday morning at the Creative Impact Awards luncheon feting the 20th anniversary of Variety’s 10 Directors to Watch.
Among the celebrities at the Bellini-soaked brunch, thrown in tandem with the 28th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival , were “Hidden Figures” and “Moonlight” actress Janelle Monae; “Captain Fantastic” star and Creative Impact in Acting Award recipient Viggo Mortensen ; Pharrell Williams , honored with the Creative Impact in Producing Award for shepherding “Hidden” figures to the big screen; and “Loving” helmer Jeff Nichols, recipient of the Creative Impact in Directing Award.
“Glee” star and comedian Jane Lynch introduced Variety’s Vice President and Executive Editor Steven Gaydos, who created the 10 to Watch list as a means by which to earmark talented artists on the rise in Hollywood. Directors who previously made the list include Wes Anderson, Andrea Arnold, and Tom Ford.
“Palm Springs is just such an awesome great festival,” said Gaydos. “It feels like my neighborhood party.”
Gaydos gave special thanks to PSIFF chairman of the board Harold Matzer, the myriad local artists of Palm Springs, and world renowned glass sculptor Dale Chihuly, who designed the awards for Variety honorees.
Variety Chief Film Critic Peter Debruge introduced the 10 Directors to Watch by way of expressing his deep gratitude for his tenure at the trade.
“I have one of the best jobs in the world as the chief film critic of Variety,” said Debruge. “We are champions first and foremost. Why we sit through the terrible [movies] is to get through to the great ones.”
The directors of those chosen “great ones” — a mix of documentaries, narrative features and genre films — are Maren Ade (“Toni Erdmann”); Ritesh Batra (“The Sense of an Ending”); Otto Bell (“The Eagle Huntress”); Julia Ducournau (“Raw”); Geremy Jasper (“Patti Cake$”); Barry Jenkins (“Moonlight”); brothers Emmett and Brendan Malloy (“Tribes of Palos Verdes”); Kleber Mendonca Filho (“Aquarius”); William Oldroyd (“Lady Macbeth”); and David Sandberg (“Lights Out”).
Batra, Bell, the Malloys, Filho, and Sandberg were all at the brunch to accept their awards.
“Captain Fantastic” writer-director Matt Ross — a 2015 alumnus of Variety’s 10 Director to Watch list — was on hand to introduce Mortensen, fresh off a plane from Madrid, Spain, despite feeling slightly under the weather. (“Now you’re sick, too,” joked Mortensen after hugging Ross.)
Regarding his lead turn as an unconventional father raising his six kids in the wild after their mother’s suicide, Ross called Mortensen “selfless and brave, and a collaborative artist that cares about the things that really matter.” He also touted Mortensen as a modern-day Renaissance man: “He’s frighteningly well-read, and a father, a photographer, an artist, a painter.”
To further illustrate how committed Mortensen was to the role, Ross revealed that the Oscar-nominated actor camped out in a teepee and grew his own vegetable garden prior to the film’s shoot.
“He has made one of the best movies of this year,” said Mortensen in turn. “It’s a movie that’s prompted [audiences] to laugh, to cry in some cases, and most importantly, to think. I thank you Matt Ross for ‘Captain Fantastic.’”
When introducing Nichols, Negga, in a stunning sequined pencil skirt, gushed, “He is one of the masterful storytellers of our time. His films glow with humanity.”
Nichols, whose latest film chronicles the landmark 1967 Supreme Court case making interracial marriage legal in the United States, spoke of wanting “to make films that affected people.”
While “Loving” depicts a watershed moment in American legal history and the beginning of the civil rights movement, Nichols says he was inspired and influenced to direct the film because of the “great true love” between Mildred and Richard Loving.
“I saw that true love in my grandparents and my parents and I try to see that in my own marriage,” said Nichols.
Up next, Monae and “Hidden Figures” co-star Jim Parsons introduced Williams, with Monae hailing the producer-songwriter-composer-singer as “a visionary, a Renaissance man, a man who has done it all. He truly does believe women are the future. We are ‘femme-ing’ the future.”
Williams, humbled and nervous, took the stage, brimming with gratitude for everyone who helped in the creation of “Hidden Figures,” including his producing partner Mimi Valdez, also in attendance.
“Everybody’s been so poetic today,” said Williams. “You guys said the kindest things ever. Remember, all the motion in our film is powered by some brilliant human being. It’s really been incredible. My heartbeat is doing 9o billion heartbeats per hour.”

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