AFI FEST 2008 Line-up

With its 2008 line-up unveiled yesterday, AFI FEST has become the preeminent film festival for world cinema in Los Angeles. This is a dramatic improvement over past years, when the Palm Springs or Los Angeles festivals seemed destined to carry the torch for movies common to the critical dialogue from major festivals around the world. In addition to titles I’ve already highlighted, a brief glance at the 2008 schedule promises a lot of noteworthy films, including:

• Two films by Jia Zhang-ke, 24 City and the short Cry Me a River, plus a new film by his cinematographer, Yu Wai (and the director of the fascinating All Tomorrow’s Parties), Plastic City.

• Three films by Arnaud Desplechin, A Christmas Tale, L’Aimee (2007), and La Vie des morts (1991); apparently, these films will be screened in conjunction with a Desplechin retrospective at LACMA.

• Not only Albert Serra’s Birdsong but Mark Peranson’s documentary on the making of the film, Waiting for Sancho. (This will only be the second time–after the Vancouver festival–that they will be screened together.)

• Paradise, a new documentary by the always interesting Michael Almereyda.

• Steve McQueen’s Hunger, the winner of the Toronto fest’s Discovery Award.

• Summer Hours and The Class, two films by respected French auteurs Olivier Assayas and Laurent Cantet.

• A focus on Argentine cinema, including Lucrecia Martel’s The Headless Woman, Lisandro Alonso’s Liverpool, and Albertina Carri’s La Rabia (which Robert Koehler described here as “sinewy and brave”).

• A focus on Kazhakstan cinema, including Darezhan Omirbaev’s Chouga and Sergei Dvortsevoy’s Tulpan.

• Götz Spielmann’s acclaimed Revanche.

• Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s Sugar, from the makers of Half Nelson (2006).

• Two intriguing science fiction films from Spain, Before the Fall and Time Crimes.

• Animator Bill Plympton’s feature length Idiots and Angels.

Speaking of animation, one of the few disappointments here is the lack of an animated shorts section, one of the highlights of last year’s festival.

6 thoughts on “AFI FEST 2008 Line-up

  1. The Headless Woman is easily my favorite of NYFF so far (although I won’t see the Desplechin or the Omirbaev until this weekend). Definitely worth planning your schedule around it. 😉

  2. So here’s my tentative schedule…if you’re a Film Journey reader and planning to attend, don’t hesitate to let me know…

    Sat, 11/1
    Revanche (1200)
    Wendy and Lucy (330)
    Hunger (715)

    Sun, 11/2
    L’Aimee, La Vie des morts (1245)
    Tokyo Sonata (330)
    Paradise (700)
    Liverpool (945)

    Mon, 11/3
    Time Crimes (345)
    Lake Tahoe (715)
    Plastic City (1000)

    11/4
    Desert Within (730)

    Wed, 11/5
    Birdsong (100)
    Summer Hours (700)
    Tulpan (940)

    Thurs, 11/6
    Headless Woman (950)

    Fri, 11/7
    Sugar (300)
    Waltz with Bashir (700)

    Sat, 11/8
    Chouga (1200)
    Cry Me a River/Perfect Life (345)
    24 City (700)
    The Class (1000)

  3. Looks great, Doug. I’m especially looking forward to Revanche and Hunger playing this week at the Chicago Film Festival, and I hope I’ll have a chance to see Headless Woman and The Class at some point.

    From your line-up, I enjoyed Wendy and Lucy, Sugar, Summer Hours, Liverpool, Birdsong, and Waltz with Bashir, in roughly that order. I also made it through Plastic City, mostly thanks to its visual inventiveness, which surges after I thought I’d seen it all. But I don’t think I’d be able to unravel the gangster plot even to someone threatening to beat me to a pulp on the top of an urban monolith. (Such things don’t happen every day, granted. But they happen in plastic cities.)

  4. Thanks, Rob. Sony Classics is distributing The Class in December, so I’m sure you’ll get to see it soon.

    Plastic City‘s Yu Wai last directed All Tomorrow’s Parties, a bizarre but definitely memorable tale of brothers who escape from a futuristic cult…it’s visually refined but I’m not sure I have any clue what it actually means in detail, which sounds similar to your comments on his latest film. I guess I’m intrigued!

  5. I only got through the first 30 minutes or so of Before the Fall, so this isn’t a formal review, but my impression was that the film relies way too heavily on its dour vision of desperation in the last days before an apocalypse. I don’t find these kinds of films very interesting, with scene after scene suggesting the depths of despair and self-interest people are capable of demonstrating. I also felt the filmmaker was taking easy shortcuts, such as when a gas station standoff provokes a gunshot, but it occurs offscreen so as not to tarnish the image of the film’s antihero too much. Maybe the film eventually becomes more nuanced, but given what I saw, I didn’t trust it to go there.

    I will say, however, that it has one of the best opening shots I’ve seen this year–a special effects image of satellite floating above the earth that is suddenly destabilized by a meteor strike. The lighting makes the image ambiguous at first, and the camera is mounted on the satellite itself, thus provoking a dizzying documentary realism that was quite effective.

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