The last festival on the fall calendar, AFI Fest (November 8 – 15, 2018), always offers a few late-breaking possible Oscar contenders — including opener “On the Basis of Sex” and closer “Mary, Queen of Scots” — as well as a strong World Cinema line-up packed with foreign-language Oscar submissions.
This year is no exception: Seven possible Best Foreign Language Film Oscar contenders are in the lineup of 28 titles from 27 countries, including Cannes prize-winners “Capernaum” (Lebanon’s Nadine Labaki, Sony Pictures Classics), “Shoplifters” (Japan’s Hirokazu Kore-eda, Magnolia), and “Dogman” (Italy’s Matteo Garrone, Magnolia), along with Cannes entry “The Wild Pear Tree” (Turkey’s Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Cinema Guild), Karlovy Vary Festival winner “I Do Not Care If We Go Down In History as Barbarians” (Romania’s Radu Jude), and two TIFF titles from SPC, “Never Look Away” (Germany’s Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck) and “Sunset” (Hungary’s “Son of Saul” Oscar-winner László Nemes).
Also in the lineup are several strong festival titles not submitted by their countries for the Oscars, including two Cannes prize-winners, Alice Rohrwacher’s “Happy as Lazzaro” (Italy, Netflix) and Jafar Panahi’s “Three Faces” (Iran, Kino Lorber), as well as “Non-Fiction” (France, IFC/Sundance Selects) from Olivier Assayas. James Longley’s “Angels Are Made of Light” (USA, Denmark, Norway) and Talal Derki’s “Of Fathers and Sons” (Syria) are among the acclaimed international documentary titles in the program.
AFI is also presenting the North American premiere of the first two episodes of the series “My Brilliant Friend” (November 18, HBO) based on the bestselling Elena Ferrante series. Check out the full lineup below, complete with official synopses from the festival.
World Cinema Line-up
3 FACES (SE ROKH) – Jafar Panahi and Iranian actress Behnaz Jafari travel to a small village in northwest Iran to investigate the possible suicide of an aspiring young actress. Content to sit in the car while three generations of women examine their dual oppression, Panahi traverses moral and ideological pathways through rural Iran with trademark heart, charm and wit. DIR Jafar Panahi. SCR Jafar Panahi. CAST Behnaz Jafari, Marziyeh Rezaei, Narges Del Aram, Jafar Panahi, Maedeh Erteghaei. Iran
AMATEURS (AMATÖRER) – When German investors show interest in building a superstore in the small town of Lafors, community leaders decide to create a promotional video. Turning to students for help, teenagers Aida and Dana begin filming — and the battle for the true image of Lafors is on. Director Gabriela Pichler returns to AFI FEST with a sharp, funny, youthful and complex drama about giving a voice to those most often unheard. DIR Gabriela Pichler. SCR Gabriela Pichler, Jonas Hassen Khemeri. CAST Zahraa Aldoujaili, Yara Aliadotter, Fredrik Dahl. Sweden
ANGELS ARE MADE OF LIGHT – Filmed over three years, the latest documentary from James Longley follows students and teachers at a school in an old neighborhood of Kabul that is slowly rebuilding from past conflicts. Interweaving the modern history of Afghanistan with present-day portraits, the film offers an intimate and nuanced vision of a society living in the shadow of war. DIR James Longley. USA, Denmark, Norway
ASH IS PUREST WHITE (JIANGHU ER NV) – Jia Zhang-ke returns to AFI FEST with his latest sprawling masterwork. Centering on the struggles of Qiao (played by Zhao Tao), a gangster’s girlfriend who spends five years in prison after getting caught up in a violent attack, ASH IS PUREST WHITE is a haunting, enigmatic portrait of individuals navigating China’s new “capitalism” at the dawn of the millennium. DIR Jia Zhang-ke. SCR Jia Zhang-ke. CAST Zhao Tao, Liao Fan, Xu Zheng. China, France
BULBUL CAN SING – In Rima Das’ lyrical and quietly moving third feature, an independent girl, Bulbul, lives a typical teenage life in the Assam region of India. But when a cruel shaming by a group of local men balloons into a tragedy, Bulbul must learn how to deal with her awakening desires in a restrictive culture. DIR Rima Das. SCR Rima Das. CAST Arnali Das, Manoranjan Das, Bonita Thakuria, Pakija Begum. India
CAPERNAUM (CAPHARNAÜM) – CAPERNAUM tells the story of Zain, a Lebanese boy who sues his parents for the “crime” of giving him life. Zain journeys from gutsy, streetwise child to hardened 12-year-old “adult”: fleeing his abusive, negligent parents, surviving through his wits on the streets, and finally, seeking justice in a courtroom. DIR Nadine Labaki. SCR Nadine Labaki, Jihad Hojeily, Michelle Kesrwany. CAST Zain Al Rafeea, Yordanos Shiferaw, Boluwatife Treasure Bankole, Kawthar Al Haddad, Fadi Kamel Youssef, Cedra Izam, Alaa Chouchnieh, Nadine Labaki, Nour el Husseini, Elias Khoury. Lebanon
DAUGHTER OF MINE (FIGLIA MIA) – 10-year-old Vittoria is a quiet girl whose uneventful Sardinian summer becomes upended when she discovers her birth mother is the town drunk, Angelica (Alba Rohrwacher). As Vittoria begins to split her time between Angelica and the more stable woman who raised her (Valeria Golino), she finds herself struggling with something deep and innate. DIR Laura Bispuri. SCR Francesca Manieri, Laura Bispuri. CAST Valeria Golino, Alba Rohrwacher, Sara Casu, Michele Carboni, Udo Kier. Italy, Germany, Switzerland
DIAMANTINO – When Portuguese soccer god Diamantino blows a chance at World Cup glory, the disgraced footballer finds himself unwittingly tied up in conspiracies involving evil twin sisters, gender bending genetic experimentation, lesbian spies and far-right ultra-nationalists in delightfully sharp, future cult classic. DIR Gabriel Abrantes, Daniel Schmidt. SCR Gabriel Abrantes, Daniel Schmidt. CAST Carloto Cotta, Cleo Tavares, Anabela Moreira, Margarida Moreira, Carla Maciel, Filipe Vargas, Manuela Moura Guedes, Joana Barrios, Maria Leite. Portugal, France, Brazil
DOGMAN – Matteo Garrone’s latest film is a gripping drama about Marcello, a gentle yet cowardly dog groomer who finds himself caught up in Italy’s criminal underworld. Marcello forms a dangerous, one-sided relationship with former boxer and cokehead Simone, who terrorizes the community. Before long, Marcello is part of his reckless antics. DOGMAN will screen at AFI FEST in partnership with Cinema Italian Style, an annual showcase of contemporary Italian cinema in Los Angeles. DOGMAN will be the opening night film of Cinema Italian Style. DIR Matteo Garrone. SCR Ugo Chiti, Maurizio Braucci, Matteo Garrone, Massimo Gaudioso. CAST Marcello Fonte, Edoardo Pesce, Nunzia Schiano, Adamo Dionisi, Francesco Acquaroli. Italy, France
FUGUE (FUGA) – Alicja suffers from memory loss and has rebuilt her own free-spirited way of life. Two years later, she returns to her family and unwillingly resumes her role as wife, mother and daughter. FUGUE evokes the social taboos around motherhood and the pressure on women to accept maternity without hesitation or reflection. DIR Agnieszka Smoczyńska. SCR Gabriela Muskała. CAST Gabriela Muskała, Łukasz Simlat, Iwo RajskiMałgorzata Buczkowska, Zbigniew Waleryś, Halina Rasiakówna, Piotr Skiba. Poland, Czech Republic, Sweden
GENESIS (GENÈSE) – While Guillaume, an outwardly confident teenager in a posh boarding school, struggles with surprising new feelings of love and alienation, his older sister Charlotte navigates a thorny path of relationships with disappointing men in Québécois director Philippe Lesage’s detailed, incisive portrait of adolescent yearning. DIR Philippe Lesage. SCR Philippe Lesage. CAST Noée Abita, Théodore Pellerin, Jules Roy-Sicotte, Maxime Dumontier, Edouard Tremblay-Grenier, Emilie Bierre, Pier-Luc Funk, Vassili Schneider, Mylène Mackay. Canada
HAPPY AS LAZZARO (LAZZARO FELICE) – In auteur Alice Rohrwacher’s stunning third feature, a simple young man named Lazzaro works with other unpaid laborers on an isolated estate in the Italian countryside. But when Lazzaro suffers an accident, HAPPY AS LAZZARO kicks into high gear as a work of fantastic time-jumping poetry and grounded social critique. DIR Alice Rohrwacher. SCR Alice Rohrwacher. CAST Adriano Tardiolo, Agnese Graziani, Alba Rohrwacher, Luca Chikovani, Tommaso Ragno, Sergi López, Natalino Balasso, Gala Othero Winter, David Bennent, Nicoletta Braschi. Italy
HOTEL BY THE RIVER (GANGBYUN HOTEL) – A getaway destination along the frozen Han River is the setting for Hong Sang-soo’s latest, a simmering and melancholic family drama, lensed in stark black and white, about an aging poet facing mortality and his two competing sons who cross paths with a woman nursing the wounds of a scarring breakup. DIR Hong Sang-soo. SCR Hong Sang-soo. CAST Ki Joo-bong, Kim Min-hee, Song Seon-mi, Kwon Hae-hyo, Yu Jun-sang, Park Ran, Shin Seok-ho. South Korea
“I DO NOT CARE IF WE GO DOWN IN HISTORY AS BARBARIANS” (ÎMI ESTE INDIFERENT DACA ÎN ISTORIE VOM INTRA CA BARBARI) – Mariana is a young, defiant artist mounting a theatrical production of the Odessa massacre, in which Romanian soldiers killed thousands of Ukrainian Jews. As she attempts to stage a realistic reenactment, to force her fellow Romanians to confront their sins of the past, she meets with stiff resistance from local powers. Radu Jude’s latest masterpiece is at once funny, uncomfortable and profound. DIR Radu Jude. SCR Radu Jude. CAST Ioana Iacob, Alexandru Dabija, Alex Bogdan. Romania, Czech Republic, France, Bulgaria, Germany
MAYA – Mia Hansen-Løve reunites with Roman Kolinka for her sixth feature. As the French protagonist Gabriel, he travels to India after a traumatic stint of forced captivity and encounters the charming Maya. What takes shape is a subtle increase of silent attraction as the two explore his childhood home in this gentle film filled with yearning, wandering and rumination. DIR Mia Hansen-Løve. SCR Mia Hansen-Løve. CAST Roman Kolinka, Aarshi Banerjee, Alex Descas. France
MY BRILLIANT FRIEND (L’AMICA GENIALE) – MY BRILLIANT FRIEND adapts the first book in Elena Ferrante’s renowned coming-of-age epic, beginning in 1950s Naples and spanning six decades. An unexpected phone call prompts Elena to reflect on her relationship with her brilliant friend Lila and the complexities of female friendship in a community replete with male violence. DIR Saverio Costanzo. SCR Elena Ferrante, Francesco Piccolo, Laura Paolucci and Saverio Costanzo. CAST Valentina Acca, Antonio Buonanno, Gennaro Canonico, Pina Di Gennaro, Sarah Falanga, Luca Gallone. Italy
NEVER LOOK AWAY (WERK OHNE AUTOR) – Inspired by real events and spanning three eras of German history, NEVER LOOK AWAY tells the story of an art student Kurt, who falls in love with classmate Ellie. Ellie’s father, Professor Seeband, is dismayed at his daughter’s choice of boyfriend, and will stop at nothing to destroy the relationship. DIR Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. SCR Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. CAST Tom Schilling, Sebastian Koch, Paula Beer, Oliver Masucci Saskia Rosendahl. Germany, Italy
NON-FICTION (DOUBLE VIES) – Olivier Assayas’ latest is a delightful, breezy comedy centering on a married couple (Juliette Binoche and Guillaume Canet) as they navigate the swiftly evolving landscape of the modern publishing industry, and the ever-thorny issue of monogamy (or lack thereof) in long-term relationships. DIR Olivier Assayas. SCR Olivier Assayas. CAST Guillaume Canet, Juliette Binoche, Vincent Macaigne. France
OF FATHERS AND SONS – Award-winning documentarian Talal Derki gained the trust of a radical Islamist family in Syria and filmed their daily lives for two years. The result is OF FATHERS AND SONS, a jaw-dropping, intensely uninhibited look at young boys training as Jihadi fighters, and their Caliphate-obsessed father. DIR Talal Derki. Germany, Syria, Lebanon
OUR TIME (NUESTRO TIEMPO) – Two-time AFI FEST alum Carlos Reygadas returns to the festival with an intensely personal project. OUR TIME tells the story of an upper-middle-class rancher (Reygadas) whose wife (played by Reygadas’ real-life spouse) draws him into a cuckolding fetish. As the emotional stakes rise, life on the idyllic landscape becomes threatened. DIR Carlos Reygadas. SCR Carlos Reygadas. CAST Carlos Reygadas, Natalia López, Eleazar Reygadas, Rut Reygadas, Phil Burgers. Mexico, France, Germany, Denmark, Sweden
PIG (KHOOK) – Past-his-prime filmmaker Hasan is having a crisis of ego. A serial killer is offing local filmmakers, and Hasan wants to know why he isn’t being targeted. In veteran filmmaker Mani Haghighi’s wonderfully bizarre dark comedy, the satire is heavy and hilarious, and gender stereotypes get smashed right and left. DIR Mani Haghighi. SCR Mani Haghighi. CAST Hasan Majuni, Leila Hatami, Leili Rashidi, Parinaz Izadyar, Mina Jafarzadeh, Aynaz Azarhoosh. Iran
PUTIN’S WITNESSES (SVIDETELI PUTINA) – With PUTIN’S WITNESSES, Vitaly Mansky returns to footage he filmed when commissioned — and provided with unnervingly intimate access — on a propaganda film promoting Vladmir Putin’s first presidential election. In this captivating portrait, Mansky both chronicles the alarming ease of the dictator’s rise to power and examines his own complicity in his near two-decade rule. DIR Vitaly Mansky. SCR Vitaly Mansky. Latvia, Switzerland, Czech Republic
SHOPLIFTERS (MANBIKI KAZOKU) – The winner of the Palme d’Or at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, SHOPLIFTERS tells the tender story of a family of misfits and grifters struggling to make ends meet. After taking in a girl off the street, a sudden incident upends their lives and exposes their secrets. Director Hirokazu Kore-eda returns to the screen with a nuanced class critique, and a beautiful portrait of family life. DIR Hirokazu Koreeda. SCR Hirokazu Kore-eda. CAST Lily Franky, Sakura Ando, Jyo Kairi, Miyu Sasaki, Kiki Kirin. Japan
SUNSET (NAPSZALLTA) – As World War I approaches, Irisz arrives in Budapest with the dream to work as a milliner at Leiter, a store once owned by her family. Her hopes dashed by the new proprietor, she discovers news that a previously unknown sibling may exist, and sets out to meet them. DIR László Nemes. SCR László Nemes, Clara Royer, Matthieu Taponier. CAST Juli Jakab, Vlad Ivanov, Evelin Dobos, Marcin Czarnik, Judit Bárdos, Benjamin Dino, Balázs Czukor, Christian Harting, Levente Molnár. Hungary, France
TOO LATE TO DIE YOUNG (TARDE PARA MORIR JOVEN) – Sixteen-year-old Sofia navigates the usual pitfalls of her age against the unusual backdrop of a burgeoning utopian society in the Chilean jungle of the 1990s. A moody, atmospheric period piece, this third feature firmly establishes Sotomayor as one of today’s most original filmmakers. DIR Dominga Sotomayor. SCR Dominga Sotomayor. CAST Demian Hernández, Antar Machado, Magdalena Tótoro. Chile
VISION – Juliette Binoche stars in Naomi Kawase’s latest, a meditative journey into the heart of Japan, and a mysterious portrait of one woman’s search for meaning. When Jeanne (Binoche) seeks a rare medicinal plant in the forested Nara region, her quest is aided by a ranger who helps to reveal painful fragments of her past. DIR Naomi Kawase. SCR Naomi Kawase. CAST Juliette Binoche, Masatoshi Nagase. Japan, France
THE WILD PEAR TREE (AHLAT AGACI) – THE WILD PEAR TREE is a portrait of an ambitious young writer returning home after college. At once languid and rhapsodic, Palme d’Or winner Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s film is a profound and poetic look at a misspent youth grasping at a maturity that, once attained, is revealed to be the ultimate disappointment. DIR Nuri Bilge Ceylan. SCR Akin Aksu, Ebru Ceylan, Nuri Bilge Ceylan. CAST Aydin Doğu Demirkol, Murat Cemcir, Hazar Ergüçlü, Serkan Keskin, Tamer Levent, Akin Aksu, Öner Erkan, Ahmet Rifat Şungar, Kubilay Tunçer, Kadir Çermik, Özay Fecht, Ercüment Balakoğlu, Asena Keskinci. Turkey
YARA – Yara lives alone with her grandmother on a remote Lebanese mountain-side. A farmer brings supplies, a tour guide assists with odd tasks and, lost on a hike, a charismatic young hiker happens upon Yara hanging her underwear. A gently paced romance, Abbas Fahdel’s YARA captures the elation of first love and the crushing pain of its loss. DIR Abbas Fahdel. SCR Abbas Fahdel. CAST Michelle Wehbe, Elias Freifer, Mary Alkady. Lebanon, Iraq, France