AFI Fest: Preview, by Scott Nye
Are you ready? No, really, think about it for a second – are you READY? I don’t even know if I am. I mean, we’re talking about a full week, November 1st-8th, of world-class and -spanning cinema. That’s pretty awesome. Ready to take it to the next level? Because AFI Fest 2012 Presented by Audi is. Why Presented by Audi? Because this entire festival lets you, provided you can appear in person in the Los Angeles area, into every single movie for the low, low price of a whole hell of a lot of nothing. That’s right. Not a penny. Grab a ticket, show up, boom, you’re in. You’re watching the world premiere of Hitchcock. Or maybe the U.S. premiere of the new Ken Loach movie. Maybe get in on Palme d’Or winner Amour. Or maybe some 3-D-freaking tigers in Life of Pi. And have we talked about Holy Motors? We will. And that’s just the tip(!). I’ll be covering the whole damn festival the whole damn week, but let’s take a little peek at what’s in store, right here, right now.
Want to get an advance look at some of the yet-to-be-released Oscar-buzz films? Well, there’s the aforementioned Hitchcock and Life of Pi, but also The Impossible, Silver Linings Playbook, Rust and Bone, On the Road, and the official world premiere of Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln.
Maybe get a taste of some up-and-coming talent? There are three entire sections dedicated to fresh voices, twenty-six films in total. I’ve never even heard of some of these. One is called Electrick Children. It’s about a 15-year-old Mormon girl who miraculously becomes pregnant by listening to rock-n-roll. Billy Zane’s in it. There’s a movie I’ve spent the better part of a week learning how to pronounce (Tchoupitoulas; now it’s your turn), a documentary following three young boys as they journey across the Mississippi River into New Orleans’ French Quarter. And I guess we could talk about the movie starring Nick Offerman, Jess Weixler, Kevin Corrigan, and Megan Mullally. You know, if you wanted to (it’s called Somebody Up There Likes Me).
And that’s not even getting into the many, many films that have been making the festival rounds, those that, if you haven’t heard about them now, you certainly will be – Barbara, Berberian Sound Studio, Beyond the Hills, Holy Motors, Caesar Must Die, In Another Country, Leviathan, Like Someone in Love, Post Tenebras Lux, Something in the Air, Tabu, Wrong, John Dies at the End, Room 237, Ginger and Rosa, The Central Park Five, Antiviral, Simon Killer, and so many more. These are are of the finest filmmakers working today – Abbas Kiarostami, Olivier Assayas, Christian Mungiu, Carlos Reygadas, Hong Sang-soo, Leos Carax, Sally Potter, to name but a few.
I can even tell you about a few of them that I’ve had the privilege of seeing already. Because these…these are some movies. You’ve got your Holy Motors, one of the most talked-about films of the year, a true lightning rod of cinephilia, and not without reason. I don’t even want to tell you what it’s about, because really, how could you. But there is no denying it. No, that’d be a huge mistake. So let’s move onto the slightly-more-explicable Something in the Air, Olivier Assayas’ journey back into his young adulthood as a student revolutionary in Paris in the early 1970s. Sounds unbearably nostalgic, right? Well, sort of, but it’s also a really, really great evocation of the universal feeling of being 19 or 20 and being able to turn your entire life around in a split second, and how freeing (and, conversely, terrifying) that can be. And finally there’s Beyond the Hills, Christian Mungiu’s follow-up to his own lightning rod of cinema, 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days. This one’s about an Orthodox community that feels threatened when an outsider comes to stay with them, and that could not even begin to account for the thematic depth and dramatic pulse of this film. 155 minutes never went so fast.
So there you go; three great films, all of which you can see for free this week. As for what’ll be happening here on the site, AFI Fest 2011 was my first go-around with the festival, and it was a great experience, but I learned so much through trial and error about how to effectively cover it. This year, I’m looking to see thirty movies over the course of the week, so, first, we’ll see how that goes, but if I’m even mostly successful…oh, we’ll have lots to talk about, you and I. Unlike other sites that send critics to a handful of screenings, only to have them end up at another karaoke night, I’ll be there seeing as many films as is physically possible. The coverage will be spoiler-free unless otherwise noted, so don’t be shy about checking in, and you can follow me on Twitter @railoftomorrow for even shorter impressions (and random thoughts; you spend a lot of time in line at these things, after all). But if you’re in the Los Angeles area, I implore you to come check out the festival. It really is a week unlike any other here.