This is the American Film Institute’s 50th year. (Thank you, President Johnson.) It was 30 years ago that AFI held its first AFI Los Angeles Film Festival. Now we are coming to the start of AFI Fest Presented by Audi held at and around the Hollywood and Highland complex that in many ways serves as the visible epicenter for the entertainment industry. The festival runs November 9-17.
Each film festival has its own personality. AFI Fest seeks to bring great films to the public. There will be some fancy premieres and red carpet events, sure. But this festival is a blend of films that will be in the mix in awards season, and many that bring new talent to our attention. Plus, it is a celebration of film’s history with loads of films from years past. And AFI Fest is one of the best deals in town. Tickets for most of the screenings are—get this—free! It may take a little work, since tickets don’t all become available at once, but this is an event that wants people to see these wonderful films.
It’s always a challenge for me to dive into the AFI Fest schedule. I know going in that there will be more movies I want to see than I can fit in. There are various sections of entries that must be explored. Let’s start off with the big guns. The opening night film is Mudbound, a story of two families, one white, one black, in the post-World War II South. The closing night event will be Ridley Scott’s All the Money in the World about the kidnapping of John Paul Getty’s grandson. Between those bookends, there are other galas including Hostiles, Call Me by Your Name, The Disaster Artist, and Wormwood.
There are also some Special Screenings, films that will be released soon, including The Shape of Water, Molly’s Game, and Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me
There will be a large number of foreign films in the World Cinema section, including many that are their countries’ official submission Oscar consideration as Best Foreign Language Film. (Fourteen official Oscar submission are playing at the festival.) Some of the films that call to me in this section: Clair’s Camera (South Korea), Mrs. Hyde (France), Wajib (Palestine), and Sweet Country (Australia).
Sweet Country, by the way, is one of several Westerns that are included in this year’s AFI Fest. Others include Hostiles, The Ballad of Lefty Brown, and a pair of exceptional vintage films, McCabe & Mrs. Miller and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. This is a genre that seems to be overlooked in recent years, but it often deals with the very mythology of who we are as a people.
The New Auteurs section features first- and second-time directors. Of interest in this section are Hannah, Summer 1993, and What Will People Say? The American Independent section includes new voices as well as some returning to AFI. Of interest are Gemini, Fits and Starts, and The Ballad of Lefty Brown.
There will also be programs of short films (AFI is one of the qualifiers for Oscar consideration in shorts), a Midnight section with three dark films that show late at night, conversation with various directors, actors, and other filmmakers¸ and other events built around the film industry. You can see the whole program (and get free tickets) at http://afifest.afi.com/2017/sections .
It is a very full week. Even before going, I want to thank all those who have organized this, the many volunteers who will be helping, and AFI for its work in undergirding American cinema.