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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“TIFF doesn’t make attendance numbers for its Lightbox screenings publicly available, so it’s difficult to gauge exactly how many filmgoers the Lightbox is attracting (or how much money it’s bringing in). But the King Street West venue hasn’t become a significant draw for film enthusiasts. The Lightbox’s attendance has plunged – 49,000 fewer visitors last year, a drop of 27 per cent, according to figures recently reported in the Toronto Star. Its gallery space – designed to showcase the visions of cinema’s most iconic filmmakers – saw most of its exhibitions staff quietly axed this past fall. And its marketing barely escapes the Lightbox’s walls. Unless you are a TIFF member or one of the city’s most avid filmgoers, you could walk by the Lightbox and remain blissfully unaware of a single thing that goes on inside. TIFF “still has a world-class brand,” said Barry Avrich, a filmmaker and former board member, “but it’s going to take some fresh vision from retail, consumer programming and marketing experts, given how the lines have become intensely blurred when it comes to how people watch film. They will have to experiment with programming to find the right blend of function and relevance.”
~ Globe & Mail Epic On State of Toronto Int’l (paywalled)

“I’m 87 years old… I only eat so I can smoke and stay alive… The only fear I have is how long consciousness is gonna hang on after my body goes. I just hope there’s nothing. Like there was before I was born. I’m not really into religion, they’re all macrocosms of the ego. When man began to think he was a separate person with a separate soul, it created a violent situation.

“The void, the concept of nothingness, is terrifying to most people on the planet. And I get anxiety attacks myself. I know the fear of that void. You have to learn to die before you die. You give up, surrender to the void, to nothingness.

“Anybody else you’ve interviewed bring these things up? Hang on, I gotta take this call… Hey, brother. That’s great, man. Yeah, I’m being interviewed… We’re talking about nothing. I’ve got him well-steeped in nothing right now. He’s stopped asking questions.”
~ Harry Dean Stanton