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AFI Film Festival: Bringing Movies Home to Hollywood

By Genie Davis

December 4, 2017

The American Film Institute’s AFI Film Festival, which runs every November in Hollywood is both historic and of the moment. Showing a wide range of foreign, classic, auteur festival releases, and splashy Hollywood premieres, this year’s event took place at the TCL Chinese, the TCL Chinese 6 Theatres, The Lloyd E. Rigler Theatre at the Egyptian, Dolby Cinema at the Vine, The Hollywood Roosevelt, and at the Mark Goodson Screening Room at AFI.

AFI Fest features film screenings, roundtables, panels such as the one above, and galas. (Photo by Genie Davis)

In its 31st year, and in its 14th with Audi as sponsor, AFI is the longest running international film festival. It is also a truly egalitarian festival as well as exhibiting the glitz and glamor of Hollywood. Individual tickets are free, available both online and at the box office, opening-up a world of film excitement to people who may love movies but may not be able to afford to attend a festival.

AFI is also eclectic — this year, attendees viewed auteur films like the charming South by Southwest Fest award winner Mr. Roosevelt – who is a cat, by the way, not a president; major advance premieres of such major releases as The Disaster Artist and Molly’s Game; screenings of popular cinematic classics like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and Barefoot in the Park; world cinema entries, and a strong selection of shorts. In all, the festival included 137 films – 93 features and 44 shorts. This year there were many films with female leads, including the opening night film, Mudbound. The mix is often heady – this year there were midnight screenings of shiver-worthy entries such as Let the Corpses Tan, a technology summit that included discussions on virtual reality, conversations with directors such as Sofia Coppola, and special events such as Jordan Peele’s presentation of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? AFI’s retrospective program paid tribute to director Robert Altman, screening 12 of his films. Cinema Italian Style offered a double bill of films of Michelangelo Antonioni, including the iconic 1966 classic Blow-Up. There were tributes to Errol Morris and Aaron Sorkin, a documentary roundtable, and an indie films roundtable.

A panel at the 2017 AFI Film Festival. (Photo by Genie Davis)

Speaking of indie films, this year, programming director Lane Kneedler enhanced the always-curatorial approach of the fest, picking and choosing what may very well be the cream of the cinematic crop from festivals such as Sundance, Cannes, SXSW, and Toronto, among others.

In short, as much as AFI revels in premiere screenings and opening galas, it also offers such a wide range of programming, that it, like Hollywood itself, defies competition.

Looking toward the future has been something that AFI has always done, since its inception with a mandate from then-president Lyndon Johnson. AFI’s official beginning in 1967 was with a mission to preserve film history and educate upcoming generations of filmmakers. Gregory Peck was its first chair and George Stevens, Jr. director and CEO. The AFI Catalog of Feature Films was the first complete scholarly listing of films since cinema began in 1893; and it was the beginning of an encompassing effort to preserve American film history and heritage. From educational programs to awards ceremonies, AFI has been there.

Q&A following the screening of the film “Hannah” with director Andrea Pallaoro, center. (Photo by Devin Strecker)

The festival itself, which began in 1987 is now approaching its half century golden anniversary, and commemorating the occasion over the next three years, concluding in September 2019.

The AFI Fest and the film institute itself are firmly rooted in Hollywood, and rightfully so. After all, Hollywood is home to the stars – and not just those on the sidewalk along Hollywood Boulevard.

2021 North Western Avenue

Genie Davis is a multi-published novelist and journalist, and produced screen and television writer. Passionate about everything-Los Angeles, you can see her work in the arts on her own

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