With just a little more than two weeks to go before its opening-night world premiere gala of Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar on November 3, the American Film Institute has just announced the long list of Centerpiece Galas and Special Screenings for its 25th edition — AFI FEST 2011 presented by Audi. Unlike the Eastwood coup, the lineup doesn’t include any other world or North American premieres and instead is made up of films recently seen in Toronto, Venice, Telluride or New York or combinations of all of the above festivals.
The AFI Fest, which runs November 3-10, is becoming known as the festival of galas, with at least one big red-carpet event every night of the week. Slated as Centerpiece Galas this session are Luc Besson’s The Lady (November 4), which played the Mill Valley Film Festival last week in a version now several minutes shorter than its well-received Toronto Film Festival premiere; Roman Polanski’s Carnage (November 5); My Week With Marilyn (November 6); The Artist (November 8); and Steve McQueen’s controversial Shame (November 9). Also on November 7, the fest will present an evening with Pedro Almodovar, this year’s Guest Artistic Director, who will be presenting his 25-year-old classic Law of Desire and participating in a special onstage conversation. All will be presented at the Chinese theater in Hollywood.
Special Screenings include the Jennifer Garner comedy Butter; Ralph Fiennes’ starring and directing drama Coriolanus; Mark Pellington’s I Melt With You; Werner Herzog’s doc Into The Abyss; Mark and Jay Duplass’ Jeff Who Lives At Home; The Dardenne brothers’ Cannes winner The Kid With A Bike; the ever-controversial Lars von Trier’s Melancholia, making yet another fest stop on its way to VOD and limited theatrical release; Mexico’s Foreign-Language Oscar entry Miss Bala; Wim Wenders’ 3D dance film Pina; Oren Moverman’s stark police-corruption drama Rampart, with Woody Harrelson; and Lynne Ramsay’s We Need To Talk About Kevin, with Tilda Swinton, another refugee from the Cannes official competition lineup last May.
AFI Fest could still spring a surprise as part of this lineup. Last year, it did a stealth world premiere of eventual Best Picture Oscar nominee The Fighter at a special 10 PM weeknight screening introduced by star Mark Wahlberg. Studios and distributors are well aware of the AFI Fest’s perfect timing for Oscar campaigning.
The November 10 closing-night film is still to be announced. Incidentally, I heard AFI Fest toppers were not exactly pleased when they heard their world premiere opener J. Edgar was being upstaged by a special benefit screening three weeks earlier set up by Clint and Dina Eastwood in Carmel. The event did indeed take place last Friday to a strictly invitational audience but was cut short due to a power outage, so AFI’s premiere is the world premiere of the entire film.