This year’s AFI Fest is back in full glory, featuring a rich lineup of critical favorites plus a slate of five films curated by guest artistic director Greta Gerwig, whose latest film, “Barbie” has grossed $1.4 billion.
Returning to Hollywood’s TCL Chinese Theatre and screening films from October 25-29, the event will feature Gerwig’s curated list of films: “All That Jazz,” “An American in Paris,” “A Matter of Life and Death,” “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure” and “Wings of Desire.” AFI Fest will also screen the U.S. premiere of “Lee,” starring Academy Award-winner Kate Winslet, who is a producer on the project as well. The biopic follows the life of Lee Miller, a wartime photographer who documented the Dachau and Buchenwald concentration camps, London Blitz and liberation of Paris during WW II.
“I think AFI Fest and all film festivals are monuments to the inspirational power of film, the healing restorative power of film, to lift us above the day-to-day issues, and they allow us to dream together,” says Bob Gazzale, AFI president and CEO. “Ultimately, I think these festivals remind us of our common humanity.”
At this year’s AFI Fest, the 37th edition of the festival, the program features more than 140 titles, including 16 in the World Cinema section, 14 documentaries and 42 in the short film competition, plus 30 films in the AFI Conservatory Showcase presented by AMC Networks. The program represents work from 49 countries and includes 20 entries vying for the international film Oscar.
World premieres include “Leave the World Behind,” written and helmed by Sam Esmail (AFI Class of 2004) and starring Julia Roberts, Ethan Hawke and Mahershala Ali. It opens the festival Oct. 25. World premiere documentary “Maxine’s Baby: The Tyler Perry Story,” from helmers Gelila Bekele and Armani Ortiz, will be the Centerpiece film on Oct. 27. AFI Fest will close on Oct. 29 with Bradley Cooper’s “Maestro,” which follows the life of conductor/composer Leonard Bernstein, played by Cooper. Pic also stars Carey Mulligan as his wife, Felicia Montealegre Bernstein.
This year’s AFI Fest is the first that’s been overseen by Todd Hitchcock, director, AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center and AFI Fest, and Abbie Algar, director of programming, AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center and AFI Fest. While they’re continuing to pursue a diverse and compelling selection of films, they’ve also added a new category of films and they promise to show some films at the festival twice so that festgoers are not forced to choose between two films that both look promising.
“We have added a section this year called the Luminaries, which is made up of veteran luminary, well-known, prolific filmmakers who are influential,” says Algar. “We’ve added that because we just thought that there were a number of directors who are very high-profile and this year they’re coming out with a film and maybe we haven’t seen a film from them in a little while. There are number of examples of these beloved directors like Michel Gondry, who has a new film this year called ‘The Book of Solutions,’ and there’s Steve McQueen with ‘Occupied City.’ ”
Other films in the Luminaries category are Wim Wenders’ “Perfect Days” and Matteo Garrone’s “Me, Captain” (“Io Capitano”).
“We are thrilled with how the selection has come together and we really believe in every film that’s in the lineup,” says Hitchcock. “There’s cause to be optimistic, even though understanding from that there’s still a bit of a lag from the production standpoint and it’s coming along but the numbers are still not 100% of what they weren’t 2019, before the pandemic, but it’s close and we’re very excited about this group of films and for people to see them.”