AFI FEST preview

In years past, the Los Angeles AFI FEST has proven to be a lot like many American Film Institute events–big, glitzy, and not especially exciting in terms of world cinema. This year, however, its line-up–just announced today–is an improvement. In addition to some of my own TIFF favorites (The Duchess of Langeais, Persepolis, Silent Light) and films friends loved (4 Months, 3 Weeks and Two Days, The Flight of the Red Balloon, Chop Shop, Munyurangabo), I’m especially excited about these titles:

ï Val Lewton: The Man in the Shadows

The estimable critic Kent Jones directs a film about one of my favorite filmmakers, the ambitious producer of low-budget ’40s horror films known for their visual flair, literary scripts, and abundant creativity. Just this week, various e-tailers have announced a new documentary, Martin Scorsese Presents: Val Lewton, for a January DVD release, and I can only assume that this is the same film. (Scorsese narrates.)

ï Faro: Goddess of the Waters

I wanted to fit this into my Toronto schedule, but was unable to, so I’m delighted to see it on the schedule; it sounds like a strong Malian entry from a filmmaker who previously assisted such figures as Souleymane CissÈ and Abderrahmane Sissako. (I’m also excited about revisiting Faat Kine, a wonderfully entertaining and nuanced look at contemporary African family dynamics by the late, great Ousmane Sembene. I really enjoyed this film several years ago and have been anticipating a wider release ever since . . . I’m still waiting.)

ïSearchers 2.0

Ordinarily, its description would have me worried, but Alex Cox is a filmmaker to keep an eye on.

ïNight Train

Ditto Diao Yinan.


I’m not sure that it’s appropriate that I see a parody of the work of Lav Diaz before I get a chance to see Lav Diaz’s work at all, but it’s only six minutes long, and Diaz himself apparently chose the clips that the film deconstructs. I’ll begin my criticism of this year’s programming by wondering why Diaz’s work (especially Death in the Land of Encantos, which played at TIFF to raves) is not in the Festival.

ïPierre Rissient: Man of Cinema

I still refer people to director (and Variety critic) Todd McCarthy’s primer on American cinematography, Visions of Light (1992), so I don’t doubt his overview of this influential wheeler and dealer of international art cinema will be worth watching.


The Festival is screening three films by master cineastes who died this year (Sembene, Bergman, and Antonioni) and this film represents the work of Edward Yang, who passed away in June. I’m unfamiliar with it, but excited to see anything by this highly talented filmmaker we’re still catching up with here in the West.

Any other films that readers would recommend?

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