MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady Klady@moviecitynews.com

Confessions of a Film Festival Junkie: AFI 2012

The AFI Fest opened Friday with the world premiere of Hitchcock, a likable yarn focusing on the iconic filmmaker and his wife at the time of his filming Psycho. In retrospect it seemed an almost anachronistic choice in light of the recent broadcast of The Girl, a more Machiavellian portrait of the man and his mentor/Svengali relationship with his Birds discovery Tippi Hedren.

The event runs through November 8 when Steven Spielberg’s portrait of Lincoln and the passage of Amendment 13 giving blacks equal rights following emancipation rings down the curtain.

So, a brief word about opening and closing nights. These bookends exist irrespective of what one might term the filling of any cinematic sandwich. They are designed for festival patrons and sponsors that might otherwise never set foot on this or other celluloid territory. As such they demand films that entertain and provide a sense of worthwhile but not oppressive art. And such a sleight-of-hand requires a stern application of Hippocrates dicta: First, do no harm. It might also be argued that this is also the last word and to that end AFI has fulfilled its initial task.

The evolution of AFI Fest has been peripatetic. Its roots can be traced back to the 1970s and Los Angeles first major movie smorgasbord FilmEx which its current proprietor acquired in receivership. Essentially it’s survived by adapting and adapting again and again and today is a first tier Festival of Festivals bolstered to some extent by its position on the calendar.

Situated between early autumn discovery events including Toronto and Venice and the awards season that culminates with the Oscar telecast, AFI Fest is an opportunity to put the spotlight on American and international films hoping to translate critical acclaim into box office rewards. It coincides with the annual American Film Market, one of the premier sales and acquisition events for the global movie industry.

Many major film festivals embrace film markets for myriad reasons including political considerations (securing anticipated movies) and commercial affiliation (generating revenue). But the AFMA is independent of the AFI Fest and despite such reciprocal nods as shuttles between events and mutual accreditation there remains a major hurdle that cannot be cleared. The festival unspools in Hollywood and the market is firmly planted in Santa Monica. In a city as crippled by traffic strategies the roughly seven miles that separates the two can account for a commute of more than an hour during high congestion periods.

All that (and more) aside the lineup of AFI Fest 2012 is across the board impressive. There’s a smart balance of the accessible and the arcane, lauded filmmakers and nascent talent, narrative and non-fiction and nods to archival as well as family offerings. In the coming days I’ll endeavor to make some sense of the selections but for the nonce I have to get to my next screening.

 

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Klady

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“Let me try and be as direct as I possibly can with you on this. There was no relationship to repair. I didn’t intend for Harvey to buy and release The Immigrant – I thought it was a terrible idea. And I didn’t think he would want the film, and I didn’t think he would like the film. He bought the film without me knowing! He bought it from the equity people who raised the money for me in the States. And I told them it was a terrible idea, but I had no say over the matter. So they sold it to him without my say-so, and with me thinking it was a terrible idea. I was completely correct, but I couldn’t do anything about it. It was not my preference, it was not my choice, I did not want that to happen, I have no relationship with Harvey. So, it’s not like I repaired some relationship, then he screwed me again, and I’m an idiot for trusting him twice! Like I say, you try to distance yourself as much as possible from the immediate response to a movie. With The Immigrant I had final cut. So he knew he couldn’t make me change it. But he applied all the pressure he could, including shelving the film.”
James Gray

“I’m an unusual producer because I control the destiny of a lot of the films I’ve done. Most of them are in perfect states of restoration and preservation and distribution, and I aim to keep them in distribution. HanWay Films, which is my sales company, has a 500-film catalogue, which is looked after and tended like a garden. I’m still looking after my films in the catalogue and trying to get other people to look after their films, which we represent intellectually, to try to keep them alive. A film has to be run through a projector to be alive, unfortunately, and those electric shadows are few and far between now. It’s very hard to go and see films in a movie house. I was always involved with the sales and marketing of my films, right up from The Shout onwards. I’ve had good periods, but I also had a best period because the film business was in its best period then. You couldn’t make The Last Emperor today. You couldn’t make The Sheltering Sky today. You couldn’t make those films anymore as independent films. There are neither the resources nor the vision within the studios to go to them and say, “I want to make a film about China with no stars in it.”Then, twenty years ago, I thought, “OK, I’m going to sell my own films but I don’t want to make it my own sales company.” I wanted it to be for me but I wanted to make it open for every other producer, so they don’t feel that they make a film but I get the focus. So, it’s a company that is my business and I’m involved with running it in a certain way, but I’m not seen as a competitor with other people that use it. It’s used by lots of different producers apart from me. When I want to use it, however, it’s there for me and I suppose I’m planning to continue making all my films to be sold by HanWay. I don’t have to, but I do because it’s in my building and the marketing’s here, and I can do it like that. Often, it sounds like I’m being easy about things, but it’s much more difficult than it sounds. It’s just that I’ve been at it for a long time and there’s lots of fat and security around my business. I know how to make films, but it’s not easy—it’s become a very exacting life.”
~ Producer Jeremy Thomas