The reconfigured AFI Fest has become something of a window into global cinema and buzz-worthy new Hollywood titles. L.A.'s annual film festival, which runs Nov. 1-8, had already announced its top-shelf, star-studded selections: the world premieres of Sacha Gervasi’s “Hitchcock” with Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren and Scarlett Johansson, as well as Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” with Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones. (Though that “Lincoln” event has perhaps been undercut slightly by a series of not-so-secret sneak previews of the film.)
Add in gala screenings of Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi,” Walter Salles’ “On the Road” and Jacques Audiard’s “Rust and Bone” alongside special screenings of Ken Burns’ “The Central Park Five,” Sally Potter’s “Ginger and Rosa,” Léos Carax’s “Holy Motors,” Juan Antonio Bayona’s “The Impossible,” Rodney Ascher’s “Room 237,” David O. Russell’s “Silver Linings Playbook” and Amy Berg’s “West of Memphis,” and that's a pretty impressive lineup. Throw in the fact that tickets are free, and that should be festival enough for any cinephile.
Today though, with the release of its World Cinema, Breakthrough and Midnight programs, to go with the Young Americans and New Auteurs selections already announced, the picture of this year’s festival has become complete. While there are a few scattered titles that have been orphaned by the selection, this is an extremely strong group of films and features, more than just a few essential titles.
Having their premiere Los Angeles screenings are Michael Haneke’s “Amour,” Nicolaj Arcel’s “A Royal Affair,” Christian Petzold’s “Barbara,” Cristian Mungiu’s “Beyond the Hills,” Lucian Castaing-Taylor’s “Leviathan,” Ulrich Seidl’s “Paradise: Faith” and “Paradise: Love,” Olivier Assayas’ “Something in the Air,” Miguel Gomes’ “Tabu” and Wayne Blair's "The Sapphires," and also the U.S. premieres of Xavier Dolan’s “Laurence Anyways,” Kim Ki-duk’s “Pieta” and Pablo Trapero’s “White Elephant.”
Anyone trying to disprove the popular-on-the-Internet idea that somehow the future of film culture is in danger need look no further than the Young Americans and New Auteurs. These sections are full of diverse, exciting works that taken together are a deeply felt response to changes in production methodology, technology, social interaction and the world many of us inhabit — and worlds that may remain unseen, including Sean Baker’s “Starlet,” Rebecca Thomas’ “Electrick Children,” Bob Byington’s “Somebody Up There Likes Me,” Amy Seimetz’s “Sun Don’t Shine” and Turner and Bill Ross’ “Tchoupitoulas." After its inexplicably disastrous unveiling at Sundance earlier this year, the stop at AFI Fest for Antonio Campos’ “Simon Killer” could be an important step for the film to reemerge as the ferocious lion it is.
The AFI Fest programming team, led by festival director Jacqueline Lyanga and associate director of programming Lane Kneedler, now know its local role so well that when faced with a scheduling conflict at other festivals it's virtually assured the film not chosen will be screened at AFI Fest.
I'll be there catching up with “All the Light in the Sky,” “Berberian Sound System,” “Kon-Tiki,” “ Like Someone in Love,” “Post Tenebras Lux,” “Reality,” “Here Comes the Devil,” “Not in Tel Aviv” and as many other films as I can sneak away to go see. If you come out to do the same, say hi.
Hitchcock to open AFI Film Festival