Category Archives: #AFI

MEET THE PRESS FILM FESTIVAL WITH AFI REVEALS 2018 FILM SLATE

Posted by Larry Gleeson

PRESSING ISSUES HIGHLIGHTED AHEAD OF MIDTERMS

23 Short Films Spotlight Eight Issues Affecting Voters

Second-Annual Festival Will Be Held October 7-8 in Washington, D.C.

NBC News Anchors and Correspondents to Introduce Films and Moderate Discussions

SEPTEMBER 13, 2018 – The Meet the Press Film Festival in Collaboration with the American Film Institute (AFI) hits the big screen this fall for the second year, featuring nearly two dozen films spotlighting critical issues ahead of the midterm elections. This year’s festival will be held in Washington, D.C., October 7-8, headquartered at the Landmark Atlantic Plumbing Cinema, and will feature 23 short-length documentaries from HBO, Netflix, The New York Times and filmmakers from across the country.

The selected 2018 films, three of which are making their world premieres, will focus on issues affecting millions of Americans as they prepare to cast their ballots in November, such as immigration, voting rights and gun control. Each screening will include a Q&A with the filmmaker, moderated by NBC News correspondents and anchors, including Chuck Todd, Andrea Mitchell, Craig Melvin, Jacob Soboroff, Hallie Jackson, Kasie Hunt, Kristen Welker and Harry Smith.

Meet the Press, the number-one most-watched Sunday show and the longest-running program in television history, announced its collaboration with AFI in August 2017, marking a dramatic brand expansion extending beyond the news-making television platform. During its inaugural year, the festival showcased 16 short documentaries exploring wide-ranging issues. Three of the films were nominated for Academy Awards.

See below for descriptions of the 2018 films. Tickets to the festival are on sale now and available here. Select films will be available, beginning October 8, for a month-long showcase on NBC News Digital platforms and apps, including AppleTV, Roku and Amazon Fire, as well as other on-demand services such as Hulu, AOL and Comcast X1.

Surviving After Service
Veterans and Service, moderated by Chuck Todd

  • “We Are Not Done Yet”: The creative journey of ten U.S. veterans of varied backgrounds that come together in hopes of battling their traumatic military histories through the art of the written word. Grappling with PTSD, the “warrior poets” share fears, vulnerabilities and victories that eventually culminate into a live performance of a collaborative poem under the direction of actor Jeffrey Wright. Directed by: Sareen Hairabedian.

On the Ballot
2018 Midterm Issues, moderated by Andrea Mitchell

  • “Camperforce”: For the past ten years, Amazon has recruited workers for Camperforce, a labor unit made up of RVers who serve as seasonal warehouse employees. Directed by Brett Story.
  • “The Blue Line”: When is a line of paint on the street worth screaming at your neighbor about? Filmmaker Samantha Knowles focuses on a small town that erupts into controversy when a blue line is painted in support of police on a street in the town center. The film is a parable of political division in contemporary America and all the dismay that comes with it — but also an example of how communities can find common ground. Directed by: Samantha Knowles.
  • “The Girl Who Cannot Speak”: Edited by Emmy Award winner Krysia Carter-Giez, the documentary explores five women’s true stories of sexual abuse. It tells the story of women from different countries, ages and walks of life. One victim, Charlotte, a 15-year old girl, embodies a thread to each woman’s story. Directed by: Stefano Da Fre, Laura Pellegrini.

The Land I Love
Climate, Home and Tradition, moderated by Hallie Jackson

  • “Alaska DGAF”: On July 4, 2017, North Korea tested a long-range missile that, for the first time, would be powerful enough to reach the United States — specifically, the great state of Alaska. And instead of the doomsday preparations you might expect from a place threatened by nuclear annihilation, Alaskans collectively…shrugged. Directed by: David Freid.
  • “Home Beyond the Water”: The community of Isles de Jean Charles, Louisiana, is fighting to survive as its land sinks into the encroaching waters. Now, winning the first-of-its-kind, multi-million-dollar grant for a climate resilience project may help it survive, and its community relocation may provide a template for the future. Directed by: Nicky Milne.
  • “Climate and the Cross”: America’s evangelicals have traditionally been the bedrock of conservative politics, including on climate change. But a loud debate is happening across the country, with some evangelical Christians protesting in the name of protecting the Earth, seeing it as a duty to be done in God’s name. With stories from across the country showing the conflict between generations, races and classes, could it be a surprising section of Christian America that might show hope for the country’s attitude to climate change? Directed by: Chloe White.

My Democracy
Voting Rights and Civic Associations, moderated by Craig Melvin

  • “Let My People Vote”: Filmed in Tampa during the 2016 presidential election, this vérité short covers a day in the life of civil rights activist and former felon Desmond Meade. What begins as an upbeat day of faith in our democratic process ends in a heartbreaking realization for Desmond: Jim Crow is not dead. Directed by: Gilda Brasch.
  • “Public Money”: Since 2012, the New York City Council has steadily increased investment in a process called “Participatory Budgeting,” wherein community members gain a role in deciding how to spend part of a public budget. Through an eight-month process, neighbors come together and work with the government to propose, debate and ultimately vote on budget decisions that affect their lives. Directed by: Jay Arthur Sterrenberg.
  • “Voting Matters”: More than 50 years after the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the most extensive pieces of civil rights legislation, people of color across the United States are still engaged in a battle to protect their right to vote. “Voting Matters” follows one dynamic woman working tirelessly on the ground and in the courts to ensure that they are not denied this right. Directed by: Dawn Porter.

Active Shooters
Gun Debate Takes Its Next Step, moderated by Kasie Hunt

  • “G Is for Gun”: Since the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012, schools in at least 13 states have started arming teachers as a security measure. How did this happen, and what does it mean for American education? “G is for Gun” follows the story of teachers being trained to carry firearms, and a small city in western Ohio divided by bringing arms into its schools. Directed by: Kate Way, Julie Akeret.
  • “Guns Found Here”: When there’s a gun crime in America, there’s only one place to go to trace the gun back to its owner: Martinsburg, West Virginia. That’s where the ATF’s National Tracing Center handles roughly 8,000 active traces per day — all while inside a government-mandated technology time capsule that makes searching a database of gun owners impossible. With more gun stores in the U.S.A. than McDonald’s, Starbucks and supermarkets combined, there’s a lot of paperwork to manually sort through. It’s truly a sight to behold. Directed by: David Freid.
  • “No Sanctuary”: Explores human nature and behavior through the personal lens of those who have been affected by America’s indifference to gun violence. Directed by: Nathan Knox.

Do We Belong?
Religion and Xenophobia, moderated by Kristen Welker

  • “Do We Belong?”: An Indian immigrant in Kansas is shot and killed in a senseless hate crime, leaving his wife to grapple with the question of whether America is truly her home. Directed by: Sofian Khan.
  • “Graven Image”: Using archival footage, director Sierra Pettengill explores the history of Georgia’s Confederate Memorial Carving, the largest Confederate monument in the United States, and the memorial’s close ties to the Ku Klux Klan. Directed by: Sierra Pettengill.
  • “The Hidden Vote”: In America’s largest Arab-American population in Dearborn, Michigan, an unprecedented number of Arab-Americans are running for city council during Trump’s first year in office. Nada is a 26-year-old Palestinian-American liberal, and Mike is a 23-year-old Lebanese-American conservative and Trump supporter. Both are Muslim, and for very different reasons, both were inspired to enter into politics after Trump’s presidential win. We follow Mike and Nada’s campaigns as they work their way toward Election Day, and explore how their life experiences have shaped their political beliefs. Directed by: Adithya Sambamurthy, Ben Rekhi.
  • “Loyalty: Stories”: A national storytelling project about American Muslim veterans that explores themes of citizenship, identity and faith in the post-9/11 era. Through ten documentary-style short films, “Loyalty: Stories,” which is making its world premiere, profiles a diverse group of men and women — immigrants, converts and American-born Muslims who gave an oath to protect the United States and uphold the Constitution. Directed by: David Washburn.

E Pluribus and Unum
Coming to America, moderated by Jacob Soboroff

  • “Out of Many, One”: A Netflix original documentary short, “Out of Many, One,” which is making its world premiere, is a film about how one museum is using art, artifacts and historical documents to help green-card holders prepare for the Naturalization Test and, in turn, become U.S. citizens. Directed by: Emmy Award winners John Hoffman and Nanfu Wang.
  • “Deporting Myself”: “Deporting Myself” is a documentary about Zsuzsanna, an undocumented New York housekeeper who has been living and working in the U.S illegally for almost 20 years. Ever since the election of President Trump, who’s made a promise to the American people to crack down and deport undocumented immigrants, Zsuzsanna has been living in fear. The constant worry of eventually being found out, captured and deported by ICE is one of the many reasons she decides to leave on her own terms. This film highlights Zsuzsanna’s final 72 hours in a place she once called home. Directed by: Julia Neumann.
  • “Libre”: A private company purports to help people held in immigration custody secure bail. In exchange for this service, its clients are forced to wear ankle monitors until their debts are paid. See how two New Yorkers’ daily lives are affected by this practice. Directed by: Anna Barsan.

Making it Work
Poverty and Rebuilding, moderated by Harry Smith

  • “Pa’Lante”: This film tells the brave personal stories of local Puerto Ricans five months after they were impacted by hurricanes Irma and Maria, and showcases an Apprentice Program led by volunteers who teach carpentry to locals while rebuilding roofs on the island. Directed by: Ramón Rodríguez.
  • “Insecure”: An undocumented family struggling to make ends meet takes matters into their own hands in order to create their own American Dream. World premiere. Directed by: Cayman Grant.
  • “The Children of Central City”: “The Children of Central City” provides an in-depth look into the players, coaches and families surrounding the A.L. Davis Park Panthers youth football program in one of New Orleans’ most crime-riddled neighborhoods. The film showcases how attempts to treat the children’s post-traumatic stress are repeatedly thwarted by state budget cuts to mental healthcare. Directed by: Mark Lorando, Emma Scott.

More to follow!

NBC NEWS’ MEET THE PRESS WITH CHUCK TODD

Meet the Press with Chuck Todd is where newsmakers come to make news — setting the political agenda and spotlighting the impact Washington decision-making has on Americans across the country. It is the #1 most-watched Sunday public affairs show across the board for the 2017-2018 season, reaching more than three million viewers every Sunday and millions more through social, digital and on-demand platforms. Meet the Press brings its authority and influencer interviews to MSNBC with MTP Daily weekdays at 5 p.m. ET and to the 1947: The Meet the Press Podcast. It’s the longest-running show in television history, expanding its brand to include a political documentary film festival in collaboration with the American Film Institute. Chuck Todd is the political director of NBC News and the moderator of Meet the Press; John Reiss is the executive producer.

AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE

The American Film Institute was established by presidential proclamation in the White House Rose Garden, and launched its national mandate on June 5, 1967 — to preserve the heritage of the motion picture, to honor the artists and their work and to educate the next generation of storytellers. AFI’s founding Trustees included Chairman Gregory Peck, Vice Chairman Sidney Poitier, Francis Ford Coppola, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Jack Valenti and George Stevens, Jr., as Director. Visit AFI.com and connect with AFI on Twitter.com/AmericanFilm, Facebook.com/AmericanFilmInstitute, YouTube.com/AFI and Instagram.com/AmericanFilmInstitute.

(Source: Press release provided by NBCUniversal)

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AFI DOCS 2018 IS OPEN! Personal Statement sets the tone.

Posted by Larry Gleeson

The 2018 edition of the American Film Institute’s AFI DOCS is open. AFI President and Chief Executive Officer, Bob Gazzale kicked off the festival with eloquent opening remarks reminding a receptive audience of the action by former United States President Lyndon Johnson took 50 years ago to create the American Film Institute and its mission “to preserve the heritage of the motion picture, to honor the artists and their work and to educate the next generation of storytellers.”

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Enoch Jemmott, one of the lead subjects of the AFI DOCS 2018 Opening Night Film, Personal Statement, strikes a pose on the red carpet inside the Newseum, in Washington, D.C., June 13, 2018 (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

Personal Statement, the 2018 AFI DOCS Opening Night Film, directed and produced by Julianne Dressner, and co-directed by Edwin Martinez, was also making its world premiere. The cast and crew were out in full force on the red carpet before the film’s screening.

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Personal Statement Producer, Beth Levinson (far right), marshals Personal Statement actors at the 2018 American Film Institute’s AFI DOCS for press photos at the Newseum, in Washington, D.C., on June 13, 2018. Dressner’s film about three Brooklyn high school seniors who took on the role of college guidance counselors for their under-served classmates was making its world premiere at the Newseum’s Annenberg Theatre. (Photo credit; Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

 

The film follows three Brooklyn, New York, high school seniors, Enoch, Christine, and Karoline, as they prepare themselves for college and try to inspire and encourage their classmates to make the jump with them.

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Brooklyn, New York, high school senior, Christine, addresses her classmates on the importance of vocalizing their wants and needs followed up by taking positive actions as a way to get their needs met. (Photo courtesy of Reify Films)

The film opened with a nice out-of-focus frame of a night-time city-scape slowly coming into focus as a textual overlay informs the viewer of the setting. A transition reveals a young black male doing homework with his niece. Another transition reveals a young bi-racial female in dialogue with a young Hispanic female as she explains some of the challenges she is facing. A third transition reveals an Hispanic mother in the kitchen followed quickly by another transition revealing Christina, one of the film’s protagonist. An upbeat non-diagetic score shows the three characters on their way to school meeting. The meeting turns out to be a training so the three protagonists can work as school guidance counselors.

Enoch and Andrew call college admissions offices_Juliane Dressner
Enoch Jemmott, right, a Brooklyn, New York, high school senior, prods his friend and classmate as the pair prepare to finalize thier respective college admission processes. (Photo courtesy of Julianne Dressner – Reify Films)

This forms the crux of Dressner’s film. Shot in a direct cinema style interspersed with fragments of cinema verite, Personal Statement uncovers societal issues as it reveals the struggles minority students are facing as they attempt to, not only go to college, but also navigate what will be their collegiate experience.

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Karoline, who has undergone bullying for her dress and sexual orientation, shows her counselor a copy of her personal statement for her college application to Smith College, an all-female institution. (Photo courtesy of Reify Films)

Karoline, an LGBTQ student, wants a place where she can meet people who will accept her for who she is. Enoch, a standout high school football anxious to become his own person, lives with his sister. Christina lives at home with a strong-willed mother, who feels Christina needs to consider the financial undertaking in attending college. All three are passionate about going to college and they want their peers to undertake the collegiate journey as well. At the heart of the narrative is the personal statement that explains why each student wants to go their respective schools.

Karoline is a colorful character who had twenty-three absences in her first year of high school has progressed to where she has perfect attendance in her senior year. Enoch faces obstacles that include a mother who lives in a homeless shelter and a lower than desired grade-point-average from the college of his choice, Cortland. Christina, whose mother financed her older brother’s college education, has reservations in supporting Christina’s college choice. Christina’s brother has been out of work for the last four years and her mother has had her work hours reduced.

While all three students wind up attending college, difficult choices are made along the way and challenging issues are revealed surrounding their pursuit of higher education.

Opening_Night-1-3
Personal Statement Director and Producer, Julianne Messner (second from left) applauds as her team is introduced to the audience during a panel discussion following the screening of her film at the Annenberg Theatre inside the Newseum in Washington, D.C., on June 13, 2018. To Messner’s left is Co-Director Edwin Martinez and actors Karoline, Christine and Enoch.  (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

A panel discussion immediately followed the film’s screening with Dressner, Martinez and the film’s three actors. To close out the evening a Private Gala celebrated the conscience-altering work.

Opening_Night-1-4
The Opening Night Gala setting following the 2018 AFI DOCS Opening Night Film, Personal Statement. (Photo credit: Gediyon Kifle)

Personal Statement will have its U.S. broadcast premiere on public television’s WORLD Channel and PBS on Tuesday, October 23, 2018 at 8:00 pm. This is a film that needs to be seen and the issues it raises need to be addressed sooner rather than later. Highly recommended.

*Featured photo: Bob Gazzale, President and CEO of the American Film Institute (Photo credit: Tom Kochel)

AFI DOCS

 

Julia Roberts to Present George Clooney with AFI Life Achievement Award

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Julia Roberts will present the nation’s highest honor for a career in film, the AFI Life Achievement Award, to her longtime friend and colleague George Clooney at the 46th AFI Life Achievement Award Gala Tribute honoring the actor, director, writer and producer. The event will take place Thursday, June 7, 2018, at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, CA.

Roberts has frequently collaborated with George Clooney, sharing the screen with him on the films OCEAN’S ELEVEN (2001), OCEAN’S TWELVE (2004) and MONEY MONSTER (2016). Additionally, she starred in his directorial debut, CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND (2002) and in AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY which Clooney produced.

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Actor George Clooney, pictured above, will receive the 46th AFI LIFE ACHIEVEMENT AWARD on Thursday, June 7, 2018, at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, CA. (Photo credit: AFI.com)

TNT will premiere the hour-and-a-half special, THE 46TH AFI LIFE ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: A TRIBUTE TO GEORGE CLOONEY on Thursday, June 21, at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT, followed by an encore at 11:30 p.m. ET/PT. Sister network Turner Classic Movies (TCM) will also air the special in September 2018 during a night of programming dedicated to Clooney’s work.

 

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(Source: AFI.com)

 

AFI DOCS 2018 ANNOUNCES OPENING AND CLOSING NIGHT FILMS

Posted by Larry Gleeson

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — MAY 4, 2018, WASHINGTON, DC — AFI DOCS has announced its Opening and Closing Night films, and Centerpiece and Special Screenings — with AT&T returning as Presenting Sponsor of the festival for the fifth consecutive year. For its 16th edition, the American Film Institute’s annual celebration of documentary film in the nation’s capital will open with the world premiere of PERSONAL STATEMENT (DIRS Juliane Dressner and Edwin Martinez) and will close with UNITED SKATES (DIRS Dyana Winkler and Tina Brown).

This year’s program also includes ABOVE AND BEYOND: NASA’S JOURNEY TO TOMORROW (DIR Rory Kennedy) as the Centerpiece. The four Special Screenings will be the world premiere of THE COLD BLUE (DIR Erik Nelson), KINSHASA MAKAMBO (DIR Dieudo Hamadi), MR. SOUL! (DIRS Sam Pollard and Melissa Haizlip) and WITKIN & WITKIN (DIR Trisha Ziff). The full slate will be announced in the coming weeks. AFI DOCS runs June 13–17, 2018, in Washington, DC, and Silver Spring, MD.

“We are at a cultural crossroads where identity, race and personal agency are redefining what it is to be American in 2018,” said Michael Lumpkin, Director, AFI Festivals. “With PERSONAL STATEMENT, UNITED SKATES and this year’s Centerpiece and Special Screenings, AFI DOCS will continue its legacy of introducing new perspectives to audiences, while challenging longstanding conventions.”

AT&T’s ongoing support as Presenting Sponsor enables AFI DOCS to connect audiences, policymakers and storytellers in the heart of our national government.

The Opening Night screening of PERSONAL STATEMENT will be held on June 13 at the Newseum and will be followed by a Q&A with directors Juliane Dressner and Edwin Martinez. The film centers on three Brooklyn high school seniors who, lacking support services at school, band together to help each other get into college.

The Closing Night screening of UNITED SKATES will be held on June 17 at the Landmark E Street Cinema and will be followed by a Q&A with directors Dyana Winkler and Tina Brown. The film chronicles the fight to save roller-skating rinks, which have played a critical role in modern African-American culture.

The Centerpiece screening of ABOVE AND BEYOND: NASA’S JOURNEY TO TOMORROW will take place at the National Air and Space Museum. As NASA heads into its 60th anniversary, filmmaker Rory Kennedy looks back at the men and women who have built the institution, and whose boundless curiosity drives scientific progress forward.

OPENING NIGHT SCREENING

PERSONAL STATEMENT: DIRS Juliane Dressner and Edwin Martinez. USA. Karoline, Enoch and Christine are Brooklyn high school seniors who just want to go to college, but lack the resources most American teens take for granted, including guidance counselors. Refusing to give up, they learn to counsel each other, and carry their classmates with them as they pursue their dreams.

CLOSING NIGHT SCREENING

UNITED SKATES: DIRS Dyana Winkler and Tina Brown. USA. Roller-skating has played a critical role in modern African-American culture, with rinks serving as both a haven of community and of artistic expression, and a flashpoint in the civil rights movement. UNITED SKATES chronicles the fight to save these rinks, and the souls of communities nationwide.

CENTERPIECE SCREENING

ABOVE AND BEYOND: NASAS JOURNEY TO TOMORROW: DIR Rory Kennedy. USA. Rory Kennedy tells the stories of the women and men behind the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s decades-long exploration of our solar system, our universe and our planet, in this enlightening film that celebrates NASA’s triumphs, mourns its tragedies and affirms the importance of its mission both in space and on Earth.

SPECIAL SCREENINGS

THE COLD BLUE: DIR Erik Nelson. USA. In 1943, legendary Hollywood director William Wyler crafted MEMPHIS BELLE, a celebrated tribute to the titular WWII bomber. Using footage of the film from the National Archives, THE COLD BLUE features gripping narration from some of the last surviving B-17 pilots. A meditation on youth, war and stunning bravery.

KINSHASA MAKAMBO: DIR Dieudo Hamadi. Democratic Republic of the Congo. Amid the backdrop of seemingly never-ending political and social unrest that hangs over the Democratic Republic of the Congo, three young activists take to the streets with their fellow countrymen to overthrow their country’s President and help enact much needed change in their politically beleaguered country.

MR. SOUL!: DIRS Sam Pollard and Melissa Haizlip. USA. An in-depth look at the late 1960s WNET public television series SOUL! and its producer Ellis Haizlip. The series was among the first to provide expanded images of African Americans on television, shifting the gaze from inner-city poverty and violence to the vibrancy of the Black Arts Movement.

WITKIN & WITKIN: DIR Trisha Ziff. Mexico. The artwork of septuagenarian twins Joel-Peter and Jerome Witkin transcends genres and traditional form. WITKIN & WITKIN explores the brothers’ complicated relationship with one another, while examining depths and divisions in their work. Joel-Peter’s stunning photography and Jerome’s powerful figurative paintings distinctly capture the human condition, reflecting differing emotional and intellectual approaches.

Tickets to AFI DOCS, including Opening Night and Closing Night screenings, will be available early to AFI members exclusively beginning May 11, and to the public on May 14. Passes for AFI DOCS 2018 are now on sale at AFI.com/afidocs. More information about AFI DOCS screenings and other special events will be announced in the coming weeks.

AFI DOCS

About AFI DOCS
AFI DOCS is the American Film Institute’s annual documentary festival in Washington, DC. Presenting the year’s best documentaries, AFI DOCS is the only festival in the U.S. dedicated to screenings and events that connect audiences, filmmakers and policy leaders in the heart of our nation’s government. The AFI DOCS advisory board includes Ken Burns, Davis Guggenheim, Chris Hegedus, Werner Herzog, Barbara Kopple, Spike Lee, Errol Morris, Stanley Nelson, D A Pennebaker, Agnès Varda and Frederick Wiseman. Now in its 16th year, the festival will be held June 13-17, 2018, at distinguished Washington, DC, venues, the Landmark E Street Cinema and the historic AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring, MD. Visit AFI.com/AFIDOCS and connect on twitter.com/AFIDOCS, facebook.com/AFIDOCS, youtube.com/AFI and instagram.com/AmericanFilmInstitute.

About the American Film Institute
The American Film Institute was established by presidential proclamation in the White House Rose Garden, and launched its national mandate on June 5, 1967 — to preserve the heritage of the motion picture, to honor the artists and their work and to educate the next generation of storytellers. AFI‘s founding Trustees included Chairman Gregory Peck, Vice Chairman Sidney Poitier, Francis Ford Coppola, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Jack Valenti and George Stevens, Jr., as Director.

About AT&T
AT&T is proud to be the Presenting Sponsor of the 2018 AFI DOCS. We help people connect in ways that improve lives – every day. Through DIRECTV, DIRECTV NOW and AT&T U-verse, we deliver the kind of entertainment people love to talk about. And you can watch almost anytime, anywhere. For 10 years, we’ve supported AFI‘s commitment to honor the heritage of film and the artists who make them. And through a variety of programs, we’re focused on giving amateur and underrepresented filmmakers the support they need to succeed.

(Source: Press release courtesy of AFI DOCS Press Office)

MOLLY’S GAME Will Close AFI FEST 2017

Posted by Larry Gleeson

AFI has announced that Academy Award® and Emmy®-winning writer/director Aaron Sorkin will be honored by AFI FEST 2017 presented by Audi with a Tribute and Premiere Closing Night Gala screening of STXfilms and The Mark Gordon Company’s MOLLY’S GAME on Thursday, November 16, at the historic TCL Chinese Theatre. 

The Tribute will celebrate Sorkin’s career with a moderated discussion of his work followed by the Gala premiere screening. Written and directed by Sorkin, MOLLY’S GAME stars Academy Award® nominee Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba. The film was produced by Mark Gordon, Matt Jackson and Amy Pascal. Entertainment One (eOne) and The Mark Gordon Company financed the feature, with eOne directly distributing the film across its territories. (Sierra/Affinity handled international sales). The Closing Night Gala will be sponsored by VIZIO.

Note that all previously secured tickets to ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD and the two previously scheduled MOLLY’S GAME screenings will be honored at this newly announced Closing Night Gala.

“Aaron Sorkin is an American master, and we are proud to shine a proper spotlight on his directoral debut, MOLLY’S GAME, on AFI FEST’s Closing Night,” said Jacqueline Lyanga, AFI FEST Director. “As Sorkin embarks on this next chapter of his career, his talents are timely for a tribute as he brings his gift of crafting compelling narratives and complex characters to the story of female impresario Molly Bloom.”

One of our nation’s most acclaimed screenwriters, Aaron Sorkin has been honored with an Academy Award® for Best Adapted Screenplay for THE SOCIAL NETWORK (2010) and four Emmys® for THE WEST WING. Additional film credits include A FEW GOOD MEN (1992), MALICE (1993), THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT (1995), CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR (2007), MONEYBALL (2011) and STEVE JOBS (2015). Sorkin has also created and written THE NEWSROOM, SPORTS NIGHT, STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP and THE WEST WING for television.

ABOUT THE FILM

Oscar® nominee Jessica Chastain stars in Oscar®-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut, set in the glamorous world of high-stakes underground poker games. DIR Aaron Sorkin. SCR Aaron Sorkin. CAST Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner, Michael Cera, Jeremy Strong, Chris O’Dowd, Bill Camp.

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(Source: afi.com)

AFI FEST 2017: Stephen Altman on His Father’s Legacy

Posted by Larry Gleeson

As part of AFI FEST 2017 and the 50th Anniversary of the American Film Institute, a celebration of the late filmmaker Robert Altman’s work , a true master and icon of American cinema, is on display through a series of films.

Robert and Stephen Altman
Robert and Stephen Altman

Born in Kansas City in 1925, Robert Altman was one of the preeminent auteurs of American cinema, from his first studio hit M*A*S*H (1970) to his 39th feature A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION (2006). In the pantheon of American directors, Altman was a maverick who worked both inside and outside the Hollywood system. His films exhibit a trademark style of diffuse ensemble narratives, complex soundtracks and restless zoom lenses. Film remained Altman’s tireless passion until his death in 2006, and he remains an iconoclast of modern American cinema. This year, AFI FEST is proud to present 12 of his greatest achievements.

Ahead of the festival retrospective, AFI spoke with Stephen Altman, Robert Altman’s son and frequent collaborator. Stephen Altman served as the production designer on a wide range of Altman films, from THE PLAYER to GOSFORD PARK, which earned him an Oscar® nomination.

The Robert Altman Retrospective launches at AFI FEST on Thursday, November 9, with THE PLAYER. Head to the Film Guide for free tickets to all 12 Altman screenings.

AFI: You were a production designer on many of Robert Altman’s films. Can you talk about what it was like to collaborate so closely with your father?

Stephen Altman: It was heavy teamwork. He told me what to do, and I said “Yes, sir.” No, actually it started early on. I started as an apprentice editor and projectionist when I was 17, for CALIFORNIA SPLIT — if you’re a gambler, that’s a great one — and on NASHVILLE, I was apprentice editor and did projection for the dailies, but during the day I was helping the sound team. He had made that eight-track sound recorder, with seven mics, which was a new thing. Then I segued into property. I was then on the set for most of the filming, so [Robert Altman] got very used to me. It was an easy transition from there to being his property master and later his set decorator, then his art director, then production designer. I hadn’t stopped working for him since 1974. His last two films I didn’t work on. When he died, sadly, we were scouting locations for another movie. It was abrupt. Had I known that A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION was his last movie, I would’ve quit what I was doing and ran to it.

NASHVILLE
NASHVILLE

AFI: The AFI FEST Retrospective offers a wide-ranging survey of Robert Altman titles, including some his better known efforts such as NASHVILLE, as well as works awaiting rediscovery, such as VINCENT & THEO and KANSAS CITY. What are some of your personal favorites?

SA: MCCABE & MRS. MILLER may be one of my favorite films, not just a favorite “Bob” film. I think it stands out among all of them. I love THE LONG GOODBYE — just really watchable, and fun and interesting. M*A*S*H is timeless. It’s still funny to me, and cool. NASHVILLE I may not like as much as everybody else does, but I get it. I understand why it’s insane and wonderful at the same time. Of all of them, MCCABE & MRS. MILLER is maybe more conventional in some way, with real movie stars.

AFI: And what about a film like SHORT CUTS, which is three hours long but thoroughly engrossing from start to finish, and with a huge tapestry of characters and interweaving plots?

SA: That was very personal for me. It was very funny. At the first screening, it shook me. I used to be in property and editorial and so I would end up watching every single frame of film like a hundred thousand times between dailies and cutting the film. When I moved into production design, I avoided editorial, so when I watched the first cut I thought, “Oh this is fresh and new to me.” I left the screening and my dad called me the next day and said, “I think everybody loved the movie except one person.” I said “Who?” He replied, “You.” I was just shaken by the movie. It’s really heavy. I loved working on it. There’s another one, A WEDDING: it’s not similar but in an Altman kind of way, he turned it from a farce and a comedy into a tragedy without you realizing.

SHORT CUTS
SHORT CUTS

AFI: This retrospective is a treat for Altman fans, but is also meant as an entry-point for those who haven’t discovered Altman before. What would you say to a neophyte who’s starting to navigate the world of his films?

SA: You can see a thread in a lot of them, but they’re all really different. He never did the same movie twice. I would just say what he always said, which was, “Giggle and give in.” Some of them are more commercial or accessible than others. You go from something like MCCABE & MRS. MILLER to NASHVILLE — that’s a pretty big stretch in seven years.

AFI: 3 WOMEN is a good example of a movie that certainly would not be made today.

SA: Right. Exactly. That was the luxury of Fox films at the time. [Robert Altman] said, “Hey, I had this dream the other night. I wrote a script.” And Alan Ladd, Jr., who was running Fox at the time, said “Here’s a million-and-a-half dollars, go to Palm Springs and make a film. Don’t go over budget.” That’s how he used to do those kinds of things. That was quite a fun time in the desert. That’s his real weird dreamy thing. He loved playing with the camera. He had this kind of a water-and-oil mobile sculpture, what he called “the wave machine.” It looked like a flat aquarium. It had oil on the top and blue water on the bottom and it rocked back and forth on a machine and made what looked like ocean waves across the screen. He was always inventing those kinds of things. On QUINTET, he would put Vaseline on the lens to blur the edges.

3 WOMEN
3 WOMEN

AFI: Altman had the spirit of an independent filmmaker even while making studio films, where he maintained creative freedom. How did he accomplish that?

SA: For the most part, they let him go. On one of his later films, THE GINGERBREAD MAN, with Kenneth Branagh, he was more of a director-for-hire. His shooting style, his camerawork and his editing are pretty much done in his head as he’s making the movie. The studio basically got scared of the movie, took it away from him and gave it to a Hollywood editor to try and recut it, with traditional close-ups and that kind of thing. They couldn’t do it, and they couldn’t even put it back together. They gave it back to [Altman] later and said, “Here, put it back together, do what you want. We can’t make any sense of this movie.” He had such his own style that it was hard for anybody really to interfere. It’s hard to go onto the set and say, “You’re doing this wrong.”

On THE PLAYER, we have that 10-minute opening shot. That was no improvisation. That was planned to a T. We built a model of the parking lot, with models of cut-out people. The camera was on this crane with a partially flattened tire and we used the parking lot as basically a huge dolly, and we rehearsed the hell out of that. We could have probably used the first take and walked away. They used take 16, and wrapped right after lunch, and we were four days ahead of schedule. He was really efficient with his money, and everyone knew that, so I think the studios let him be because he would only spend a certain amount of money and come back with a movie. People were eager to gamble with him.

THE PLAYER
THE PLAYER

AFI: Why do you think Altman is a filmmaker we are still talking about today?

SA: He was innovative; he didn’t give in. He had basically final cut on his movies. He was never rich, never got big budgets precisely because he would never let the studios make a movie for him. He said, “If you want a movie, I’ll make my movie.” He was brutal to screenwriters — you give him your script and it may not be recognizable at the end of the day.

After POPEYE, which was deemed the biggest bomb in the entire history of filmmaking, it was hard for him to get any kind of work. That’s when he was filming one-hour plays in a theatrical stage the size of your closet. They offered him M*A*S*H 2. He said, “I can’t do it. It would ruin my career. I’d be like everybody else.” At the end of the day, everybody’s pleased he didn’t do stuff like that. He stuck to his guns. I hate to put him on a pedestal but he was kind of pure in this way. He really didn’t give in to the pressure.

Actors loved him so much because he basically said, “Go out there and act.” Some people were intimidated by that, not having an actual script. “Wait, I’ve got to write my dialogue by myself?” The ones that loved it, embraced it, it was a big joy to them. I think he made everybody comfortable — except for the crew.

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(Source: afi.com)

 

AFI FEST 2017 Presentations and Conversations Announced

Posted by Larry Gleeson

AFI today announced the Presentations and Conversations lineups for AFI FEST 2017 presented by Audi.Events include a conversation on directing with Christopher Nolan; a conversation with filmmaker Agnès Varda; a roundtable of documentary filmmakers presented by the Los Angeles Times; The Hollywood Reporter’s Indie Contenders Roundtable with eight standout artists; an in-depth conversation with director Patty Jenkins; a conversation on storytelling with Angelina Jolie and Loung Ung; and a conversation with Martin McDonagh and Sam Rockwell about THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI, presented by Variety.

The complete AFI FEST program includes 137 films (93 features, 44 shorts), representing 53 countries, including 40 films directed/co-directed by women, 19 documentaries and 14 animated short films.  The breakdown by section is: Galas/Tributes (6), Special Screenings (7), American Independents (11), New Auteurs (11), World Cinema (30), Midnight (3), Cinema’s Legacy (9), Retrospective (12), Youth and Family (2) and Short Films (44).  This year’s program includes 14 official Best Foreign Language Film Oscar® submissions and 25 films featuring 76 AFI alumni. 

PRESENTATIONS

CINEMATIC STORYTELLING: A CONVERSATION WITH CHRISTOPHER NOLAN
Director/writer/producer Christopher Nolan discusses his latest film, DUNKIRK, centering on the British maneuvers from the land, sea and air as the military and civilians attempt to save 400,000 soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk, France, during World War II.  A special 70mm film presentation of DUNKIRK will precede the discussion. 

WORLD CINEMA MASTER IN CONVERSATION: AGNÈS VARDA

French auteur and AFI FEST 2013 Guest Artistic Director Agnès Varda sits down for a discussion of her career and her new film FACES PLACES (co-directed with French installation artist JR).  The event begins with a screening of FACES PLACES.  The event will be moderated by Serge Toubiana, President of UniFrance. 

CONVERSATIONS

INDIE CONTENDERS ROUNDTABLE

Hear from a diverse panel of artists who have done standout work in independent film this year. Presented by The Hollywood Reporter and moderated by columnist and blogger Scott Feinberg, the panel will feature a 90-minute discussion with the artists about their careers and influences, as well as the challenges and rewards of working on indies.  Panelists include Sean Baker (THE FLORIDA PROJECT), Richard Gere (NORMAN: THE MODERATE RISE AND TRAGIC FALL OF A NEW YORK FIXER), Salma Hayek (BEATRIZ AT DINNER), Diane Kruger (IN THE FADE), Kumail Nanjiani (THE BIG SICK), Robert Pattinson (GOOD TIME), Margot Robbie (I, TONYA) and Lois Smith (MARJORIE PRIME).  The roundtable is presented by The Hollywood Reporter and will be moderated by Scott Feinberg their lead awards analyst.

DOC ROUNDTABLE

Los Angeles Times film critic Justin Chang sits down with a panel of distinguished directors behind some of the most talked-about and acclaimed documentaries of the year.  The panelists will include Evgeny Afineevsky (CRIES FROM SYRIA), Greg Barker (THE FINAL YEAR), Kasper Collin (I CALLED HIM MORGAN), Feras Fayyad (LAST MEN IN ALEPPO), Yance Ford (STRONG ISLAND), Bryan Fogel (ICARUS), Steve James (ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL), Amanda Lipitz (STEP) and Brett Morgen (JANE).  The roundtable it presented by the Los Angeles Times.

ON DIRECTING: PATTY JENKINS

WONDER WOMAN director and AFI Conservatory alumna Patty Jenkins sits down for a moderated, in-depth discussion.

ON DIRECTING: SOFIA COPPOLA

Director/writer Sofia Coppola sits down to discuss her latest film, THE BEGUILED, set during the American Civil War and centering on an all-female Southern boarding school that takes in a wounded Union soldier, with unsettling results.

ON ACTING: BRINGING APES TO LIFE – ANDY SERKIS, TERRY NOTARY, MATT REEVES, JOE LETTERI

Actors Andy Serkis and Terry Notary, director Matt Reeves and Senior Visual Effects Supervisor Joe Letteri of the critically acclaimed and visually stunning WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES sit down for a panel discussion on how performance capture and visual effects bring complex and emotional characters to life.

ON COLLABORATIVE STORYTELLING: ANGELINA JOLIE AND LOUNG UNG

Director Angelina Jolie and writer Loung Ung discuss the artistic and cross-cultural collaboration that brought FIRST THEY KILLED MY FATHER to the screen.  Based on Ung’s autobiography, the film centers on a young girl who must embark on a harrowing quest for survival amid the sudden rise and terrifying reign of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.  FIRST THEY KILLED MY FATHER is Cambodia’s official Best Foreign Language Film Oscar® submission.

CINEMA’S LEGACY: A CONVERSATION WITH JORDAN PEELE  

GET OUT director/writer Jordan Peele sits down for an in-depth conversation about his film and the impact and legacy of GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER (1967), the groundbreaking, Oscar® winner about an interracial romance starring Sidney Poitier that celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.  GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER will screen following the conversation.

IN CONVERSATION: MARTIN MCDONAGH AND SAM ROCKWELL

Director/writer/producer Martin McDonagh and actor Sam Rockwell, who have a long relationship working together for both the stage and screen, sit down for a moderated discussion with Jenelle Riley of Variety on THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI, a darkly comedic drama centering on a mother (Frances McDormand) who makes a bold move to find her daughter’s murderer, riling local law enforcement.  The conversation is presented by Variety.

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(Source: afi.com)