This is the year of the revival of film festivals around the world. After sitting out last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cannes and Telluride roared back with masked visitors and strong lineups. In Venice, one of the few major festivals to host a successful in-person event in 2020, things have gone even better this year. New York and Toronto, which went largely virtual last fall, welcomed the return of the crowd and eased their restrictions. This is all very good news for AFI Fest, which in the past year moved away from its entirely online edition, which will combine face-to-face and virtual views, and will feature a number of striking titles drawn from several of those previous events.
There are also some surprisingly unknown quantities in the lineup, including the premiere pick: “Tick, Tick … Boom!” – Screen adaptation of the late Jonathan Larson’s semi-autobiographical stage musical with Andrew Garfield. Kicking off the celebration Wednesday night at TCL’s Chinese Theater, the Netflix release marks the directorial debut of the one-man (and extremely busy) Lin-Manuel Miranda.
However, world premieres and red carpet galas have rarely been AFI Fest’s main selling points. What makes this annual event such a vital destination for film lovers in Los Angeles is its unrelenting commitment to screening some of the finest films screened around the world, and its trust in an audience as adventurous as its selectors (led by with Sarah Harris, Director of Programming).
I myself have seen only part of this cast and am looking forward to meeting others. But here, in alphabetical order, are listed 11 of my personal must-see items:
“Knee of Aheda”
In the season of filmmakers turning the camera to faintly made-up versions of themselves (Souvenir Part 2 by Joanna Hogg, Bergman’s Island by Mia Hansen-Loew), no one has done it more brutally self-critical than the Israeli. directed by Nadav Lapid (Synonyms). Here he follows his cocky, leather-clad alter ego (Avshalom Pollak) to a remote desert village, where long walks give way to fierce debates and revelations about art and censorship, justice and injustice. Lapid doesn’t take himself lightly, but he reserves his most brutal condemnation for the Israeli government, which he repeats over and over in this rough, tearing wail of the film.
“Drive my car”
In Ryosuke Hamaguchi’s workshop adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s short story, three hours long without boring moments, it tells the story of a grieving actor and director (Hidetoshi Nishijima in one of the great plays of the year) who quietly takes on a new multilingual production of Uncle Vanya. “A fascinating emotional and psychological triangle arises; Chekhov’s exquisitely washed out in Murakam’s; and the power of art is both opposed and endorsed by a filmmaker working at his crystalline peak.
“Lingui, sacred bonds”
In the months since its premiere in Cannes, this superbly performed and screened drama by Chadian director Mahamat-Saleh Harun (The Screaming Man) has only become depressingly relevant. This fast-paced, disturbing drama, centered on a woman (Achuakh Abakar Suleiman) who wants to have an abortion for her 15-year-old daughter (Rihan Khalil Alio), becomes a sharp attack on patriarchy and a fervent affirmation of the “sacred bonds” that bind all women in suffering. under him.
Neon drew applause and controversy over the recent announcement that this Colombian miracle from Thai master Apichatpong Weerasetakula will be screened exclusively on the big screen as part of an endless city-to-city theater tour starting December 26 in New York. York. It’s worth taking an early seat at AFI Fest, where you can dive into this deeply mysterious, ultimately immersive journey through sound, perception, history and, yes, memory, in which the great Tilda Swinton proves to be the most fearless of the guides.
The recent “Pain and Glory” rightfully earned Pedro Almodovar some of his best awards in recent years. He deserves even more for this magnificent melodrama, which achieves that rare balance of exuberant life and subtle control typical of his best works. Visually and emotionally flamboyant, as you would expect, the film revolves around subjects and motifs that are classic Almodovarian (motherhood, femininity) and some are not (the dark history of the Spanish Civil War), all enshrined by Penelope Cruz. in one of her brightest performances effortlessly.
Celine Schiamma’s short, bittersweet sequel to Portrait of a Lady on Fire would make a wonderful double count with Parallel Mothers, as well as a fascinating exploration of contrasts. It is the quietest of the tricks, muted and cold in its colors and slowly revealing its secrets, but his story of the adventures of a mother and daughter, like no other, gives rise to the same source of deep, subtle emotions.
I watched Ninja Tyberg’s brilliant debut at the Sundance Virtual Film Festival and had to imagine the impact he could have in the crowded venues of Park City, with his mercilessly confrontational portrait of a young Swedish woman (the excellent Sofia Kappel) trying to get into her. A US porn industry that thrives on humiliating extremes. By portraying her protagonist as not a barn-storming heroine or a powerless victim, Tyberg has instead taken a noticeably tough and serious view of business, where sexual abuse is commodified rather than hidden.
“The power of a dog”
The lives of the four characters living on a 1920s Montana ranch are caught in a tight, knotty web of secrets and enclosed in Jane Campion’s elegantly unnerving adaptation of Thomas Savage’s 1967 novel. A western set in the tonality of a psychological chamber piece, with all manner of unnerving rhythms and dissonances along the way, it is also a marvelous showcase of the talents of Kirsten Dunst, Cody Smith-McPhee, Jesse Plemons and above all Benedict Cumberbatch. giving what may be his scariest – and saddest – performance.
Six men talk about their childhood sexual abuse by Catholic priests in this latest conceptually daring, intense collaboration by non-fiction director Robert Green (Bisbee ’17, Kate Plays Christine). But they don’t just share their stories; they write, direct, and even appear in films, asserting their power and authority over the memories they have spent most of their lives trying to suppress. The result is the work of a rare, nervous look at group therapy and individual trauma, as well as a touching vision of male friendship and strength in the face of evil.
Simon Rex showcases the result of his extremely versatile career playing a dilapidated porn star who returns to her old trampled Texas lands – ostentatiously ahead of the 2016 U.S. election – in this raucous and fairly depressing odyssey of American hustle and bustle. … The latest work by Sean Baker, one of the great humanist farcers who has worked in independent films (Mandarin, Florida Project), would have played an intriguing companion piece, Pleasure, which is funnier but no less terrifying in its own way. …
“Worst man in the world”
Long-awaited return to form for gifted Norwegian filmmaker Joachim Trier (Reprise, Oslo, 31 August), who also announces the birth of Renate Reinswe, the deserved winner of this year’s Best Actress Award at Cannes. As a young woman who hesitates between men, career paths, and other life decisions, big and small, Rainesw brings restless energy, mercurial tone shifts, and unexpectedly poignant emotional depth to this unusually nimble romantic drama.
AFI Fest 2021
Where: TCL Chinese Theater and 6 Chinese Theaters
When: Wednesday – November 14
Tickets: $ 17 for regular views ($ 10 for virtual; $ 25 for red carpet premieres); $ 150 for travel cards
More information: fest.afi.com