It is time again for AFIFest Presented by Audi. While there is almost always some sort of film festival taking place in Los Angeles, AFIFest is the time that American and world cinema are center stage here. The 2019 event will feature 142 titles (80 features, 1 episodic, 40 shorts, and 21 AFI Conservatory Showcase shorts.) The films come from 52 countries. This festival is part independent film showcase, and part prelim for the awards season. There are galas and special screenings that will feature some of the big name films coming out in the next couple months. Here are a few of the films I’m looking forward to seeing as I cover the festival.
Among the World Cinema section there are sixteen titles from nineteen countries. Five of the films in this section are their countries’ official International Feature Film Oscar submission. Top on my list in this section is the new Terrence Malick film A Hidden Life, the story of an Austrian conscientious objector who refused to fight for the Nazis. Also one of my must sees is The Truth from director Hirokazu Kore-eda. It is his first film done outside of Japan and stars Catherine Deneuve and Juliette Binoche. Others in the section also are calling to me.
One of the sections is for New Auteurs, featuring emerging filmmakers from around the world. Among the films I’m looking forward to are Beanpole from Russia, Anne at 13,000 Feet from Canada, and The Planters from the US.
There are eleven films among the Documentary section. I hope to fit in I Am Not Alone about the 2018 Velvet Revolution in Armenia; Oliver Sacks: His Own Life, and Ready for War focusing on immigrants who fought for the US and are being deported.
Of course the biggest names in the festival are centered in the Galas and Special Screenings. The Galas are the big red carpet events that celebrate some of the films we will be talking about in the weeks and months to come. The Festival opens with Queen & Slim and closes with the World Premiere of The Banker. But the galas that I find most interesting (although my press pass doesn’t get me into them) are The Crown, the Netflix series that will begin its new season (with new cast) as the festival is underway); and The Two Popes, a story of a meeting between Benedict XVI and the future Pope Francis.
The Special Screenings also have some of the films that will be awards hopefuls in the coming season. Examples are Just Mercy about a lawyer fighting for innocent men on death row; Blackbird, starring Susan Sarandon, Kate Winslet, and Mia Wasikowska; and Clemency starring Alfre Woodard as a prison warden overseeing executions.
There are also some films that focus in Cinema’s Legacy. Included in this section are He Dreams of Giants, the follow-up to Lost in La Mancha which chronicled Terry Gilliam’s ill-fated attempt to make a Don Quixote film; Varda by Agnès, Varda’s final autobiographical film; and Romantic Comedy, which examines the impact romcoms have had on society.
The festival will also offer some free screenings of films already in release, including The Apollo, The Cave, One Child Nation, and a special Evening with Martin Scorsese and The Irishman. Also part of the free screenings are a salute to writer/director/producer Alan Pakula, and three of his films, Klute, The Sterile Cuckoo, and Sophie’s Choice.
Of course, it’s usually the case that some of my favorite films from the festival are surprises to me. Check back as the week progresses to see what I’ve found.
AFIFest 2019 presented by Audi runs from November 14-21 at the TLC Chinese Theaters in the Hollywood and Highland complex. Tickets information.