"Hitchcock" (World Premiere)
Perhaps the most anticipated event of AFI FEST is its opening night world premiere screening of Sacha Gervasi's "Hitchcock." Based on Stephen Rebello's book "Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho," the film has a very juicy cast in Anthony Hopkins (as Hitchcock), Helen Mirren (as his wife, Alma Reville), Scarlett Johannson (as Janet Leigh), James D'Arcy (as Anthony Perkins), Jessica Biel (as Vera Miles), and many others. Its screening at AFI will make it quickly clear whether the film -- one of the few major question marks of awards season -- is heading for the Oscar race. [Peter Knegt]

The Impossible, Naomi Watts
"The Impossible" (U.S. Premiere)
Already a hit in Europe where it smashed records in its opening weekend to score the biggest four-day opening in Spain (beating the likes of "The Da Vinci Code" and "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End"), "The Impossible" recounts the true story of a family vacationing in Thailand in 2004, who become separated when the tsunami roars through their hotel. The film premiered in September to a standing ovation in Toronto and makes its U.S. premiere at AFI FEST. According to Oscar prognosticators, star Naomi Watts emerged from Toronto as a possible awards contender for her wrenching performance as a mother trying to reunite her family following the disaster that tears them apart (literally). But don't count out the remarkable work from the special effects unit and camera department, who each pull out all the stops to make the tsunami's powerful assault one of the most unsettling sequences in the disaster movie genre. Not for the faint hearted. [Nigel M. Smith]

"Laurence Anyways" (US Premiere)
American audiences will get their first taste of Xavier Dolan's third and most ambitious film, "Laurence Anyways." After premiering to strong reviews at Cannes, the film went on to win the best Canadian feature prize at the Toronto International Film Festival.  Spanning a decade, the drama depicts its titular character, a man (Melvil Poupard) who decides on his 35th birthday that he wants to become a woman. This results in a considerably tumultous experience for both Laurence and his girlfriend, Fred (an incredible Suzanne Clement), who decide to stay together. Its a powerful, beautiful film that finally got picked up for US distribution this week. [Peter Knegt]