Performer-composer MichaelFeinstein's The Great American Songbook, a homage to American musicals and song, will closethe 14th Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival on Jan 19, 2003.Feinstein will perform after the screening while the evening will be hosted bywriter-comedian Bruce Vilanch. Carol Channing and Jerry Herman will also appearon stage as special guests, along with other Hollywood musical stars. Theclosing night will also mark the award of the inaugural John SchlesingerFilmmaker Prize for Outstanding Debut Feature and the presentation of theFIPRESCI Award. The debut feature accolade will be handed out by director BryanSinger, whose credits include X-Men and the upcoming X-Men 2.The 14th Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival runs from Jan 9-20,2003.

Schlesinger, who lends hisname to the debut feature award, is the Oscar-winning director of such criticalhits as Midnight Cowboy, MarathonMan and Billy Liar. He received the Lifetime Achievement Award forDirecting from BAFTA this year and last week in London he was honoured with theStanley Kubrick Award. Schlesinger will be awarded a star on the Palm SpringsWalk of Fame on Jan 10, 2003, during the festival. Guest speakers expected toattend include Michael York, Robert Wagner, Stefanie Powers, Franco Zeffirelliand the screenwriter Steve Zaillian, who collaborated on the screenplay for GangsOf New York.

In a statement Schlesingersaid: "My sincere thanks to the Palm Springs International Film Festivalfor their outstanding work supporting the world of cinema and its film-makers.I am honoured that the festival will be presenting this annual John SchlesingerAward to first-time feature or documentary film directors. I remember howimportant it was to me as a young film-maker when my first film, a documentaryentitled Terminus, won the BerlinFilm Festival Award. How important that was in launching my career. The best ofluck to whoever is chosen for this award and may their creative journey infilm-making be successful."

The FIPRESCI Award will bepresented to one of the official foreign language Oscar submissions screeningduring the festival. The jurors on the international panel are: Bojidar Manov(Bulgaria), who will serve as president; Susana Schild (Brazil); Barbara Lorey(for Germany, France and Switzerland); Bruce Kirkland (Canada); and RobertKoehler (USA).