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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“There are critics who see their job as to be on the side of the artist, or in a state of imaginative sympathy or alliance with the artist. I think it’s important for a critic to be populist in the sense that we’re on the side of the public. I think one of the reasons is, frankly, capitalism. Whether you’re talking about restaurants or you’re talking about movies, you’re talking about large-scale commercial enterprises that are trying to sell themselves and market themselves and publicize themselves. A critic is, in a way, offering consumer advice. I think it’s very, very important in a time where everything is commercialized, commodified, and branded, where advertising is constantly bleeding into other forms of discourse, for there to be an independent voice kind of speaking to—and to some extent on behalf of—the public.”
~ A. O. Scott On One Role Of The Critic

“Every night, we’d sit and talk for a long, long time and talk about the process and I knew he was very, very intrigued about what could be happening. Then of course, one of the fascinating things he told me about was how he had readers who were reading for him that never knew it was Stanley Kubrick. So if he heard of a novel, he would send it out to people. I think he did it through newspaper ads at the time. And he would send it out to people and ask for a kind of synopsis or a critique of the novel. And he would read those. And it was done anonymously. But he said there were housewives and there were barristers and all sorts of people doing that. And I thought, yeah, that’s a really good way to open up the possibilities. Because otherwise, you’re randomly looking, walking through a bookstore or an airport. I said, “How many people are doing this?” It was about 30 people.”
~ George Miller’s Conversations With Kubrick