Image: Eddie Redmayne as Colin Clark, Dougray Scott as Arthur Miller and Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe in Simon Curtis’s film My Week With Marilyn.
We’re only a few short days away from the start of AFI FEST 2011, presented by Audi, and a week’s worth of coverage of the rising stars of cinema. This year’s festival, put together as always by the prestigious American Film Institute, features a supercharged slate of domestic and foreign films.
The major galas of the fest — whether it’s the controversial Shame from director Steve McQueen, the Clint Eastwood directed J. Edgar with Leonardo DiCaprio, or My Week With Marilyn, which is already receiving Oscar buzz for actress Michelle Williams — are the hottest tickets in town currently.
AFI Fest is a lot more than just dress rehearsal for awards season. It’s the place where the festival circuit comes home to roost in the heart of Hollywood. This year, AFI Fest is putting a spotlight on mumble-core auteur Joe Swanberg with the premiere of his latest film The Zone, as part of a triptych of his films screening on November 9, 2011. The Swanberg spotlight compliments the festival’s Young Americans section of films. Eagle eyed credit readers will find his name popping up in the thanks of more than one film in that collection.
At the other end of the indie spectrum are the genre films: horror, thrillers, and science fiction fare. Once the domain of festival midnight screenings, genre has taken on new prominence as the generation of contemporary filmmakers have grown up consuming as much high quality speculative fiction as they have art films.
“We are a big fan of genre here at AFI,” says Lane Kneedler, Associate Director of Programming for the festival, “and you can find it peppered throughout all the sections, not just the midnight section. Outside of the midnight section this year we have Melencholia, a science fiction disaster film in Special Screenings, (also in Special Screenings I’d consider Lynn Ramsey’s We Need To Talk About Kevin a horror film of the highest pedigree) Michael, a disturbing horror film in New Auteurs, Snowtown a serial killer film also in New Auteurs, and Carre Blanc a sci fi dystopian thriller in World Cinema. So we love how genre filmmakers are constantly pushing the boundaries of cinema and showcase them as much as possible all over the program.”
Of course, if genre is going to thread it’s tendrils through the heart of the festival schedule, that means the midnight screenings need to be something extra special.
“We try to keep it a fun mix of various types of genre films,” says Kneedler. “Last year we had a sci fi film, a horror film, and an action comedy. This year’s midnight section is a similar mix of action, (Headhunters) thrillers, (Kill List) and indescribably weird stuff that we can only show at midnight (Beyond The Black Rainbow).
“AFI FEST has a special place in its heart for genre fans, and [we] hope everyone can find something they really love at the festival.”
Having had the opportunity to see Kill List I’m confident that the midnight screenings won’t disappoint those who like their movies twisted, tense, and disturbing.
The festival starts this Thursday, November 3rd, with the gala premiere of J. Edgar and continues on through November 10th with screenings at the Chinese and Egyptian theaters in Hollywood.