Isn’t it positively joyous to get excited about something on the horizon? The feeling of honest and pure anticipation is truly infectious, and for me there’s nothing like an upcoming film festival to get the heart pounding. Film festivals are a special kind of wonderland for cinephiles, a place where rare and unreachable experiences suddenly becomes personal. AFI Fest 2011 represents this kind of opportunity for many Southern California filmgoers, screening pertinent works previously unveiled at Berlin, Cannes, Venice, and Toronto. This year’s edition feels extra special, as if the programming hive mind heard the screams of cinephiles everywhere yearning for more challenging films by underrepresented directors as opposed to simply promoting the traditional Oscar bait.
Bookened by Clint Eastwood’s long awaited J. Edgar (more on that below) and Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin, this year’s AFI Fest showcases a number of West Coast premieres throughout its week-long run from November 3—10. A few big screen experiences to target: Roman Polanski’s Carnage, Béla Tarr and Ágnes Hranitzky’s The Turin Horse, Oren Moverman’s Rampart, and Gerardo Naranjo’s Miss Bala. For more adventurous cinephiles, the International and New Auteurs/Young American sections will be a prime hunting ground for new talent, including challenging work from Julia Lokkev, Nuri-Bilge Ceylan, Aleksandr Sokurov, and Yorgos Lanthimos. Also of interest is a special sidebar on indie filmmaker Joe Swanberg, who has three films (Silver Bullets, The Zone, Art History) premiering at the festival. Most important of all, though, may be the Friday-night screening of This Is Not a Film, by imprisoned filmmakers Jafar Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb. It’s sure to be an unforgettable experience for those who care about the future of cinema.