AFI Fest 2017: From American Independents to World Cinema


The AFI Fest 2017 begins this week, with a slate of films that include Oscar hopefuls from independents and documentaries to foreign language submissions.

The American Film Institute is dedicated to preserving the legacy of film and celebrating filmmakers. The festival, which began in 1987, is part of its commitment to preserving the legacy. Because it falls toward the end of the year, AFI Fest has the unique opportunity of finding the best films all along the festival circuit and bringing them to Los Angeles in November.

This year’s offerings include names you’ve heard all year, plus some that have quietly made their way into the conversation.

Garrett Hedlund, Mary J. Blige and Rob Morgan appear in “Mudbound” by Dee Rees.

AFI Fest begins Thursday night with its Opening Night Gala presentation of Dee Rees‘ “Mudbound.” The announcement was met with a great deal of surprise and demonstrates the passion for bringing this film to audiences. It marks the first time a Netflix film opens the festival, and it perfectly encapsulates the year “Mudbound” has experienced. It began in January at Sundance, where audiences immediately jumped to a standing ovation. Eleven months later, Rees and the cast enjoy their official premiere at the historic Chinese Theater in Hollywood, a week before the film is available nationwide.

Other Centerpiece Galas include the celebrated “Call Me By Your Name” from Luca Guadagnino, “The Disaster Artist” from James Franco, and “Hostiles” from Scott Cooper. There is also a screening of “Wormwood,” complete with a tribute to director Errol Morris.

The question mark hanging over the fest right now is what will replace “All the Money in the World” as the Closing Night Gala. Sony announced yesterday that it was canceling the gala screening of the film because of the dark cloud that is Kevin Spacey. Speculation on the new Closing Night film runs from a Ridley Scott retrospective to perhaps the first look at Steven Spielberg‘s “The Post,” or Paul Thomas Anderson‘s “Phantom Thread.”

An announcement will likely come by Wednesday.

AFI Fest will feature Special Screenings of additional films you’ve heard a lot about. Those include Aaron Sorkin‘s “Molly’s Game,” the Annette Bening vehicle, “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool,” and one of the year’s biggest surprises, “I, Tonya.”

The World Cinema section boasts 30 international films, many of which are representing their nations as official selections for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Diane Kruger stars in Germany’s “In the Fade,” a tale of grief in the aftermath of an act of terrorism.

Director Joachim Trier brings “Thelma,” to represent Norway. This psychological thriller has had quite the run, screening at TIFF, NYFF, Mill Valley, and more.

A Fantastic Woman

Also in World Cinema, Daniela Vega stars in “A Fantastic Woman,” from Chile. The groundbreaking film, which features an “astonishing debut” from trans actress Vega, has won awards in Berlin, Melbourne, and San Sebastián.

AFI Fest is also a great launching point for American Independent films like “Mr. Roosevelt” and “Thoroughbreds,” and a New Auteurs section that includes “Ava” and “I Am Not a Witch.”

Each year includes some kind of retrospective, although none in recent memory have been as expansive as this. Twelve films by the legendary Robert Altman are screening, including “The Player,” “Gosford Park,” and “M*A*S*H.”

There will also be conversations with Patty Jenkins, Sofia Coppola, Martin McDonough, and Christopher Nolan. And a roundtable with Sean Baker, Richard Gere, Salma Hayek, Diane Kruger, Kumail Nanjiani, Robert Pattinson, Margot Robbie, and Lois Smith.

This promises to be a memorable festival, with something for everyone.

If you’re in the area, there are still free tickets available at AFI Fest’s official website.

Do you have a guess about AFI Fest 2017 and the Closing Night Gala? Are you heading to the festival? Comment below and share your thoughts, or what films you’re looking forward to!