AFI L.A. Fest Opens Big Line-Up with "Calendar Girls"
by Brian Brooks
AFI Fest 2003 has announced its extensive line-up for its event taking place November 6-16 at its official home, the ArcLight in Hollywood. The program for the AFI Los Angeles International Film Festival includes 134 films from 42 countries, of which 26 are world premieres, 24 are North American premieres, and 24 are U.S. premieres. As previously reported, AFI will open with the North American premiere of Nigel Cole's film on older ladies who strip for charity, "Calendar Girls," at the ArcLight Cinerama Dome.
Two festival centerpieces are slated, including the world premiere on November 9 of Vadim Perelman's "House of Sand and Fog," based on the bestseller by Andre Dubus III and starring Oscar-winner Sir Ben Kingsley. The second centerpiece will take place November 12 with the world premiere of Norman Jewison's "The Statement," starring Michael Caine and Tilda Swinton. The film is the true story of a Frenchman who had lived unnoticed in the South of France despite his involvement in the death of 14 Jews during WWII because of help from the government and the Catholic Church, until the new guard comes to power and launches an investigation.
Eleven sections will comprise the festival program. Toronto 2003 winner "Les Invasions Barbares" (The Barbarian Invasions) by Denys Arcand will play in the Special Screenings section along with eight other titles including Errol Morris' "Fog of War," his doc on former U.S. defense secretary, Robert McNamara. The North American premiere of Edinburgh International Film Festival audience winner, "Afterlife" by Alison Peebles, will screen in the International Features Competition, as will the North American premiere of John Deery's "Conspiracy of Silence," about one Irishman's challenge reconciling his love for the Catholic Church with his devotion to Sinead.
The International Documentary Competition has 12 titles in the section. Director/screenwriter Lisa Gay Hamilton's "Beah: A Black Woman Speaks" will have its world premiere in the sidebar along with Canadian director Paul Kell's "Five Sides of a Coin," which explores the myth of the "five sided Coin" through the eyes and voices of people within hip hop. Also screening as a world debut is Ziad H. Hamzeh's "The Letter," which explores the question from a citizen of Lewiston, Maine, "How long until we are like Somalia?" The American Directions section will host 10 features including the world premieres of the modern noir "The Big Empty" by Steve Anderson as well as Mark Sobel's adaptation of the secret transcripts of the Warren Commissioners in "The Commission" starring Martin Landau.
Eight films will screen in the Asian New Classics sidebar including the North American premiere of Korean director Kim Ki-duk's "The Coast Guard" and the U.S. premiere of Chinese director Wang Xiaoshuai's ("Beijing Bicycle") "Drifters." "Beauty Will Save the World" will have its world premiere in the Beyond Conflict: Focus on the Middle East section. The film by Pietra Brettkelly explores a beauty pageant in Libya where the contestants aren't allowed to expose their skin. Also screening is Siddiq Barmak's "Osama," which was selected by Afghanistan as its entry to compete for an Oscar nomination for best foreign-language film.
France's selection to compete for an Oscar nod, "Bon Voyage" (Jean Paul Rappeneau) will screen its U.S. premiere in the European Showcase, which includes 12 films including Iceland's Academy submission, "Noi Albinoi" by Dagur Kari. In the Latin Cinema Series, Bolivia's best foreign language contender, "Sexual Dependency" by Rodrigo Bellott, will screen along with seven other titles. AFI will spotlight German films in its Made in Germany section. Among the 10 films featured is a doc by Robert Fischer entitled "Fassbinder in Hollywood," which explores Hollywood's influence on the famous German director. AFI will close with the world premiere of Patty Jenkins' "Monster" on November 16, starring Charlize Theron as a highway prostitute who was executed in Florida for killing seven men during the 1980s.
"We are delighted to have so many films from new talent as well as the latest work from master filmmakers around the world," commented Nancy Collett, AFI's director of programming in an event release. "The 2003 line-up brings the best of international cinema to a single venue for Angelenos to discover."
As noted in indieWIRE in early summer, the AFI Fest will team up with the American Film Market (AFM) in 2004 for a combined event. The two events will be managed separately, but will coordinate their efforts for the event slated for November 3-10, 2004. AFM will also take place in winter next year from February 25-March 3.