After three long years away, I’m finally getting to go back to AFI Fest! One of my favorite and most unique film festivals out there, AFI Fest is held in November every year and occupies a cool space in the final season of the year. I’ve seen some of my favorite films of all time at the fest and it has become a really great way for me to see tons of international films. Because the festival is 1) in LA and 2) in the middle of awards season, the festival is really eclectic and as you can see on their full lineup, this looks to be an exciting year. I decided to comb through the schedule and pick the films I’m most excited to hopefully see. Here the films (in alphabetical order).
Call Me By Your Name: The new film from Sony Pictures Classics by Luca Guadagnino is a sensual and transcendent tale of first love, based on the acclaimed novel by André Aciman. It’s the summer of 1983 in the north of Italy, and Elio Perlman (Timothée Chalamet), a precocious 17-year-old American-Italian boy, spends his days in his family’s 17th-century villa, transcribing and playing classical music, reading and flirting with his friend Marzia (Esther Garrel). Elio enjoys a close relationship with his father (Michael Stuhlbarg), an eminent professor specializing in Greco-Roman culture, and his mother Annella (Amira Casar), a translator, who favor him with the fruits of high culture in a setting that overflows with natural delights. While Elio’s sophistication and intellectual gifts suggest he is already a fully-fledged adult, there is much that yet remains innocent and unformed about him, particularly about matters of the heart. One day, Oliver (Armie Hammer), a charming American scholar working on his doctorate, arrives as the annual summer intern tasked with helping Elio’s father. Amid the sun-drenched splendor of the setting, Elio and Oliver discover the heady beauty of awakening desire over the course of a summer that will alter their lives forever.
The Disaster Artist: Director James Franco reimagines the tragicomic true story of aspiring filmmaker and infamous Hollywood outsider Tommy Wiseau — an artist whose passion was as sincere as his methods were questionable — as a celebration of friendship, artistic expression and dreams pursued against insurmountable odds. Based on Greg Sestero’s bestselling tell-all about the making of Wiseau’s cult-classic disaster piece THE ROOM (“The Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made”), THE DISASTER ARTIST is a hilarious and welcome reminder that there is more than one way to become a legend — and no limit to what you can achieve when you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing. Franco directs, produces and stars in the film, delivering a transformative performance as Wiseau in this A24 release.
EL MAR LA MAR – A stunning new film from Harvard’s Sensory Ethnography Lab, EL MAR LA MAR dives into matters of life and death at the U.S.-Mexico border in the Sonoran Desert, where legions of immigrants are dying to cross. DIR/SCR Joshua Bonnetta & J.P. Sniadecki. USA
THE ENDLESS – Filmmaking duo Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead return with another fiercely original sci-fi horror film, this time set in a UFO death cult. DIR Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead. SCR Justin Benson. CAST Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead, Callie Hernandez, Tate Ellington. USA
FANTASTIC WOMAN (UNA MUJER FANTASTICA) – In Sebastián Lelio’s follow-up to GLORIA, trans actress Daniela Vega gives an astonishing debut performance as a woman who must navigate a hostile society after the death of her lover. DIR Sebastián Lelio. SCR Sebastián Lelio, Gonzalo Maza. CAST Daniela Vega, Francisco Reyes, Luis Gnecco, Aline Kuppenheim, Nicolás Saavedra, Amparo Noguera, Néstor Cantillana, Alejandro Goic, Antonia Zegers, Sergio Hernández. Chile, USA, Germany, Spain
HANNAH – Charlotte Rampling gives another career-defining performance in this taut and layered film as a woman dealing with the fallout of an abhorrent crime committed by her husband. DIR Andrea Pallaoro. SCR Andrea Pallaoro, Orlando Tirado. CAST Charlotte Rampling, Andre Wilms. Italy, Belgium, France
I, TONYA – Margot Robbie stars as tabloid-bait figure skater Tonya Harding in this unforgettable film that is nothing less than a Shakespearean tale of love, loss and the crushing force of poverty in America.
I AM NOT A WITCH – A nine-year-old girl ignites a rebellion in the witch camp where she’s been imprisoned, in this bold debut that beautifully mixes satire, superstition and ambiguity. DIR/SCR Rungano Nyoni. CAST Margaret Mulubwa, Henry B.J. Phiri, Nancy Mulilo. France, UK, Germany
LIFE AND NOTHING MORE – AFI FEST alum Antonio Méndez Esparza’s sophomore feature follows the day-to-day struggles of an African-American mother and her troubled son, who is getting ever closer to following in his imprisoned father’s footsteps. DIR/SCR Antonio Méndez Esparza. CAST Andrew Bleechington, Regina Williams, Robert Williams, Ry’Nesia Chambers. USA
V.I.P. – A buttoned-up federal agent, a world-weary cop and a mysterious lone wolf join forces to take down a serial killer in this tense Korean thriller. DIR Park Hoon-Jung. SCR Park Hoon-Jung. CAST Jang Dong-gun, Kim Myung-min, Park Hee-soon, Lee Jong-suk. South Korea