The Cinerama Dome and ArcLight Hollywood will be a bustle of activity starting Thursday night with a gala screening of James Mangold's "Walk the Line" from 20th Century Fox, kicking off the AFI Los Angeles International Film Festival, including a slate of 92 features and 35 shorts. Films, of course, are a major component of any film event, but parties, celebs, panels and even logistical ease are just some of the major challenges - we won't even get into funding - when planning a festival.
Although Los Angeles is well-known as a pioneer of urban sprawl and the car culture, organizers of AFI Fest are striving to contain both its official events as well as non-official parties around its ArcLight headquarters on Sunset Blvd. "We want to have a film festival where every screening and [as many] special events as possible is within walking distance," said AFI director of festivals Christian Gaines in a conversation with indieWIRE earlier this week. "We are creating a hot core of activity that's heated up every year, [and] we find people respond to that."
Part of the way AFI Fest is building on that 'core' this year is through the introduction of its "Rooftop Village" at the Arclight, which will serve as the festival's central headquarters. The designated space, on the top floor of the theater's large adjacent parking structure, will feature amenities including the fest's box office and will call, the Cinema Lounge hospitality suite for badge holders, a celebrity "Green Room" lounge, a press interview and Getty photo room, as well as the "Aquafina Pure Visions Outdoor Screenings: Music Docs at Midnight," a series of four free late-night outdoor screenings slated for both Fridays and Saturdays of the festival (November 4,5 and 11,12). Programs slated include a Jonny Depp retrospective - the actor will be honored during the festival this year - as well as screenings of "Buena Vista Social Club," "One Love: The Bob Marley All Star Tribute," and "Abba - The Movie."
"The Rooftop Village [has] stunning views from downtown [Los Angeles] to the ocean, and creates a village atmosphere which we're going for," said Gaines who helped create the American Pavilion at the Cannes Film Festival back in 1988, a communication and hospitality center for the American film community attending the festival.
Gaines proudly mentioned ten of this year's foreign-language Oscar submissions are also slated to screen among the fest's 20 world premieres, 21 North American and 18 U.S. debuts, including Canada's "C.R.A.Z.Y.," France's "Merry Christmas" (Joyeux Noel), Germany's "Sophie Scholl," Georgia's "Tblisis-Tblisi," Hungary's "Fateless," Israel's "What a Wonderful Place," Mexico's "On the Other Side," Norway's "Kissed by Winter" (Vinterkyss), Sweden's "Zozo," and South Africa's "Tsotsi." "The films were chosen before their submission to the Academy," he added.
The American Film Market (AFM) also figures prominently again during this year's event, although L.A.'s famous geography does figure into the program as well. AFM will remain at its Santa Monica home again, but the festival is committed to working with the event, which is organized by a separate entity. "I think [our work] with AFM went really well last year. We were very much focused on logistics one year ago [such as] making sure we had a transportation system in place," said Gaines.
"This year, we'll move from just the logistical to the personal." Part of the 'personal' treatment includes working with film companies and sales agents with films in both the market and the festival. "We'll help give them the tools to make the most of their screenings. AFM is mostly focused in the mornings, while AFI is in the evening. The model used is the Cannes market. It's not ideal, we're more spread out, but it's part of what Angelenos have been dealing with since its beginning," said Gaines. Additionally, AFI filmmakers will have the opportunity to travel to Santa Monica to get a feel for how the market works.
The AFI Los Angeles International Film Festival takes place November 3 - 13 with centerpiece gala screenings of Tommy Lee Jones's "Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada" and Roger Donaldson's "The World's Fastest Indian" slated for November 7th and 8th respectively. Closing the event is the North American premiere of Lasse Hallstrom's "Casanova," starring Heath Ledger.
[indieWIRE's Eugene Hernandez and Brian Brooks will be in Los Angeles for the event. Regular coverage will be available in the special AFI FEST section of indieWIRE.com.]