AFI Fest, the granddaddy of L.A. film festivals, opens its 26th edition Thursday night with the premiere of "Hitchcock," a feature about the making of the Hollywood classic "Psycho."
Appropriate enough. AFI Fest has a tradition of bringing future world-cinema classics to the movies' home city for the first time.
"The fest has even more so shifted to being about the best of the year," AFI Fest Director Jacqueline Lyanga explained. "The timing is perfect for us; the end of the year, the start of awards season, and everyone's looking to participate in this dialogue around cinema."
Among the titles praised at earlier 2012 festivals that will make their L.A. public debuts at AFI: France's "Amour," "Holy Motors" and "Rust and Bone"; Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln," starring Daniel Day-Lewis as the 16th president; and the latest works from such internationally acclaimed directors as Britain's Ken Loach ("The Angel's Share"), Romania's Cristian Mungiu ("Beyond the Hills"), South Korea's Hong Sang-soo ("In Another Country") and Kim Ki-duk ("Pieta"), Iran's Abbas Kiarostami ("Like Someone in Love"), Mexico's Carlos Reygadas ("Post Tenebras Lux")and such American indie stalwarts as Joe Swanberg ("All the Light in the Sky") and Mike Ott ("Pearblossom HWY").
Screening mainly at the Chinese sixplex in the Hollywood & Highland Center, as well as at the adjacent Grauman's Chinese and the Egyptian two blocks east on Hollywood Boulevard, AFI will also host gala premieres and special screenings of buzzed-about awards season hopefuls. That list includes Ang Lee's 3-D "Life of Pi," Walter Salles' adaptation of Jack Kerouac's Beat benchmark "On the Road," the Asian tsunami disaster epic "The Impossible" and the psychological comedy "Silver Linings Playbook" starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro.
Plus loads of stuff from interesting new and lesser-known filmmakers, documentaries, shorts and whatever else can be
crammed into eight days.
"Overall, our focus has always really been to support new and emerging filmmakers, or filmmakers who have an original vision or style," noted Lane Kneedler, the festival's associate director of programming.
And most of it's for free. For the fourth year in a row, AFI Fest is giving away tickets to the vast majority of its screenings.
"You can select tickets online, you can come to the box office or you can just go to a theater and stand in a rush line, and it's highly likely that you'll get into a screening," Lyanga said, adding that special patron packages and paid passes are available for those who'd like reserved seats or shorter line waits. For tickets and information go to AFI.com/AFIFEST.
An increase in corporate sponsorships and partnerships with local business has enabled this AFI Fest to grow beyond recent, recession-limited editions, with some 70 feature film screenings and about 150 filmmakers and actors expected to attend in person.
It's a good thing for Hollywood, Hollywood says.
"The festival attracts about 75,000 people, and that's a large number of people to bring into Hollywood to view great movies and to hear presentations from outstanding international filmmakers," said Leron Gubler, president and CEO of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.
And for all of L.A., too.
"I've really seen our public audience grow," said Lyanga, now in her third year of directing the festival. "Looking at our surveys, we're bringing in a lot more young people, a lot of students with the free tickets. We've always had a strong core of cinephiles, film lovers that have been coming to the festival since it was Filmex in the 1970s. Then we've built a really strong industry contingent because we're in Los Angeles.
"So it's great to see the Los Angeles community start to really feel like this is their festival as well."
(c)2012 the Daily News (Los Angeles)
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