Each year, AFIFest Presented by Audi is one of the highlights of my cinematic adventures. AFIFest has a personality different from other major festivals. It doesn’t rely on world premieres (although they have some); it is a program of some of the best films that have already played in places like Cannes, Berlin, or Toronto. It is often where I get to have an early look at some of the prestige films that will be in theaters for awards season. It is also a showcase for foreign films as well as for bright new cinematic lights who are being discovered.
Due to the pandemic, this year’s festival is virtual, which means I won’t be commuting to Hollywood each day (yay!). It also means that you don’t have to be in Hollywood either. AFIFest is available on line for everyone within the US. Most tickets are $8. Some events are free. Tickets, however, are limited, so you should find the films that interest you and pre-book. To see what films are available and book your tickets, go to https://fest.afi.com.
The film I’m looking forward is Wolfwalkers from Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart (part of their “Irish folklore trilogy” with Secret of the Kells and Song of the Sea). But I’m also intrigued by films like Nine Days, in which unborn souls try to convince a gatekeeper that they deserve to be given a chance at life; Jumbo, in which a woman falls in love with a carnival ride; Uncle Frank, the latest from Alan Bell; and I Carry You With Me, Heidi Ewing’s (Jesus Camp and Boys of Baraka) first narrative film.
Among the plusses of film festivals are the Q&A sessions with filmmakers following the films. Although it won’t be audience participation, many of the films will still have a time with the filmmakers in conversation with film critics or others.
There are also programs of short films. A new addition this year is the Meet the Press Film Festival, which is a partnership with NBC News. This is a showcase of short documentaries on some of the pressing issues we are facing. Each of the Meet the Press FF programs will be moderated by an NBC journalist.
Among the free events are a series of tributes honoring Kirby Dick, Mira Nair, Rita Moreno, and Sofia Coppola. Also free is the AFI Conservatory Showcase, with 15 short films from recent graduates from AFI’s program.
2020 has had more than its share of downside. But for people who rarely get a chance to take part in things like AFIFest, this is your year!