November’s annual eight-day AFI FEST can be an effective launch-pad for Oscar-bound late-year movies such as “American Sniper” and “Selma,” and this year is no exception. Festival director Jacqueline Lyanga has chosen Netflix Sundance debut “Mudbound” to open the festival on November 9, following another showing at the New York Film Festival and just before its day-and-date debut November 17 in theaters and on Netflix.
The streaming service carries high awards hopes for the acclaimed Dee Rees post-World War II drama co-written by Virgil Williams and Rees about two farming families in the rural South, starring Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke, Jason Mitchell, Garrett Hedlund, and an unrecognizable Mary J. Blige. Set in the Mississippi Delta, the period drama features stunning epic cinematography by AFI Conservatory alumna Rachel Morrison. As usual, the Opening Night Gala will be held at the TCL Chinese Theatre.
“Premiere status should not be the only rationale for selecting an opening night film,” Lyanga told IndieWire. “Opening night is about setting a tone for the rest of the festival. It’s exciting, and I hope, inspiring, to be opening AFI FEST with a film directed by a woman of color, that was lensed by a female alum of the conservatory and features several women in key creative roles.”
Deadline announced the November 16 closing night entry, Ridley Scott’s kidnapping drama “All the Money in the World,” starring Charlie Plummer as John Paul Getty III, Michelle Williams as his mother, and Kevin Spacey as his billionaire grandfather, which AFI FEST has yet to confirm.
This year, AFI FEST is showcasing a retrospective of the work of Robert Altman (1925–2006), with screenings and discussions of 12 films: “M*A*S*H” (1970), McCabe and Mrs. Miller” (1971), “The Long Goodbye” (1973), “California Split” (1974), “Nashville” (1975), “# Women” (1977), “Vincent & Theo” (1990), “The Player” (1992), “Short Cuts” (1993), “Kansas City” (1996), “Gosford Park” (2001) and “A Prairie Home Companion” (2006).
New educational experiences unfolding during the festival this year include an AFI FEST Storytelling Bootcamp for Los Angeles Unified School District students.