Out of the ashes of "Filmex" rises "The American Film Institute Film Festival of Los Angeles"--"AFIFEST" for short, to run through March 26. Yet there's a certain continuity. Filmex's last avid programmer, Ken Wlaschin, directs and programs AFIFEST (as he did earlier, and very successfully, for the London Film Festival). The bill of 90 or so films, as before, is a highly eclectic mix--definitely offbeat, definitely adventurous, studded with surprises and rediscoveries.
Those are the prime delights of any good festival: surprise and discovery. AFIFEST offers salutes to a number of national and regional cinemas (French, Latin American, Scandinavian, Asian, Soviet, West German and American independent) as well as retrospective tributes to screenwriters, documentarians, women in film and producer Arthur Cohn. It's also offering, as an innovation, 19 of the national nominees for this year's Foreign Language Oscar (a prize that producer Cohn himself carried off four times).
Many of the directors and films are unfamiliar, and many of the countries are distant and mysterious. Yet, watching them, you get a window--sometimes luminous, sometimes frosty--on these cultures. It's amazing how different even the American landscape looks in some of this year's AFIFEST entries: a far cry from the orgiastic terrain of multiple car crashes and teen-age hedonism that movies and TV usually show us. And once you get to the really far shores (Korea, Iceland, Algeria), you begin to glimpse some of the potential movies have for revealing the world--a potential that they usually realize only in fractions.