As the Palm Springs International Film Festival Film Awards began on Thursday night, former chairman Harold Matzner was in a dining area backstage watching “The Color Purple” actress Danielle Brooks receive the Spotlight Award, Actress on a TV monitor.
Following current chairman Nachattar Chandi’s speech and pointing out Matzner on the Film Awards floor, Matzner returned backstage but declined to comment on the recognition he received from Chandi or the ovation he received from the crowd.
“It was very special to have him here, this is very personal to me and very touching” Chandi said backstage. “Harold spent 24 years building this gala. I know the amount of time he put in. Sometimes we have called each other at 10 p.m. or 6 a.m. for the last month and a half to put this gala together. What he did for this festival and for the entire community in the Coachella Valley, I don’t have any words I can express. I love the man, he’s one-of-a-kind.”
When asked how it felt to be standing next to “Barbie” director Greta Gerwig and actress Margot Robbie a few minutes before, Chandi had a big smile and said “If somebody asked me that a year ago, I couldn’t even dream about this.”
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Colman Domingo says Bayard Rustin’s legacy ’embedded’ in LGBTQ communities like Palm Springs
“Rustin” actor and Spotlight Award recipient Colman Domingo and Lenny Kravitz, who contributed to the film’s soundtrack, were popular backstage. After taking several photos, Da’Vine Joy Randolph playfully chanted “Rusty Rustin, Rusty Rustin” at Domingo before the two shared a friendly chat.
After spotting Desert Palm Achievement Award honoree Cillian Murphy, Domingo approached him and the two congratulated each other before posing in a group photo with Robert Downey Jr., Paul Giamatti and emcee Mary Hart.
Domingo said receiving the Spotlight Award for his portrayal of the late civil rights icon Bayard Rustin in an LGBTQ community such as Palm Springs is “exceptional.”
“I’m sure there’s seniors here and people who are more familiar with Bayard Rustin’s legacy, so I think he’s definitely embedded in the culture of Palm Springs in many ways,” Domingo said. “When I moved to the West Coast, coming into Palm Springs meant a lot to me because I knew my community was here, and generations of our community came here to seek refuge, to be restored, build community, and it’s still here. I think it’s very meaningful.”
When Domingo heard his friend Kravitz was going to write the original song “Road to Freedom” for the film, he was excited.
“I’ve known Lenny since 2010 when we did ‘The Butler,’ and we were acting (in the film) together. We have had a friendship and brotherhood, so the idea he would have his fingerprints on this film, that means so much to me and feels like I was arm-and-arm with my brothers. I feel the way Martin Luther King, Ralph Abernathy, Diane Nash and all these other civil rights leaders lending themselves to this work together.”
Desert Sun reporter Brian Blueskye covers arts and entertainment. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @bblueskye.