In it’s 23rd year, the AFI Fest is not interested in an onslaught of glitzy, star-filled premieres. While AFI has a handful of gala screenings — Tom Ford’s “A Single Man,” Terry Gilliam’s “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” and Wes Anderson’s “Fantastic Mr. Fox” — most of the festival’s tickets were given away for free this year, with almost all screenings filling up just a few hours after tickets became available online.
“It was inspired by the times,” says Bob Gazzale, AFI’s president and chief executive officer. “If you can’t look to the American Film Institute to open the doors to a movie theater, I’m not sure who you can look to.” Gazzale says much of the lost revenue from ticket sales will be covered by underwriting from sponsor Audi. That said, the festival has reduced the number of features it is showing from 98 a year ago to 67 this year, and AFI Fest movies will be shown only once instead of enjoying multiple screenings.
“We wanted to figure out how we could get people excited about a celebration of film,” says Rose Kuo, AFI Fest’s artistic director. “The AFI has a mission to celebrate film artists. This is completely in line with that.”
The festival is filled with some of the most acclaimed films from this year’s more prominent film festivals, making for a week-long primer in the best of world cinema.
AFI Fest’s schedule includes Germany’s “The White Ribbon” (winner of Cannes’ Palm d’Or); the U.S. film “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” (Sundance Grand Jury Prize, Toronto and Sundance audience awards); Spain and Peru’s “The Milk of Sorrow” (winner of Berlin’s Golden Bear prize); Germany’s “Everyone Else” (Berlin’s Silver Bear prize); Iran’s “About Elly”(Berlin’s best director trophy); and China’s “City of Life and Death” (San Sebastian’s Golden Seashell award).