I know it feels like I have been covering AFI Fest for a month, but it has really only been about a week. Everything ends tonight, as the final film of the festival will most likely be done screening by the time this review is posted. Aside from the four or five movies that were always going to play tonight, the festival also offered repeat screenings of a few of their award winners, which were announced earlier today.
It’s happening. I’m not even being as efficient as I could be in my movie-going, but I’m still approaching a fatigue point with AFI Fest. I think it’s understandable though. Despite the fact that all I do when I get to the theater is sit down, it still takes a lot of mental exertion to get up to Hollywood and Highland, especially when I’ve already been up since 6 am for money-earning purposes. Then there’s the fact that I have a rather important engagement tomorrow morning – one that is currently weighing heavily on my mind. This perfect storm leaves within my soul a nervousness and a sleepiness that is totally useless. But that is even more reason to come to the festival today; I could use a diversion.
At any film festival you are bound to run into the infuriating phenomenon called “seat saving.” AFI Fest has a numbering system that cuts down on line-jumping, but no one can really prevent a rude person from saving seats for people that may or may not show up once inside the theater. Whenever directly affected by such inconsiderate fools, I can at least take solace in the fact that I am not one of them. I know the type of person I am. Or at least I did – up until the point when I became the very person I hated: a seat-saver.
During his opening remarks before the premiere of A Most Violent Year on Day One, AFI President and CEO Bob Gazzale advocated seeing films that would broaden your horizon – something you might not see otherwise. That is the mindset I took into the festival. Besides A Most Violent Year and ’71, I’m avoiding anything with a concrete release date in the United States. My hope is that such tactics will at some point deliver a unique experience. I may have found my white whale in the form of Fish & Cat, out of Iran.
The good news after a failure of a festival day (one movie on a Saturday? – I’m still ashamed) is that it can’t get much worse. Unless you just throw the day completely – which I had no intentions of doing – you’re guaranteed to be a little productive. And that’s what Day Four of AFI Fest ended up being for me. I didn’t set any records, but I got in three really well-made films that take different perspectives on the human struggle to survive.
When there are a couple dozen movies that you’re hoping to see at a given film festival, planning is key. I put a good hour or two into building my tentative schedule for AFI Fest, trying to fit in as much as I could around prior commitments like work. But then there are complications that you cannot plan for. In those moments of disappointment you must allow yourself to move on, lest your frustration fester unchecked forever.
Day Two of AFI Fest also happens to be my birthday. November 7th. Every year. All day at work co-workers (and students) inquired as to my plans for the evening. They all expected detailed replies listing debauched plans, but the answer was never that. “AFI Fest,” I would say, receiving blank stares in return. Apparently when you’re in your 20’s you are supposed to celebrate another year by getting blackout drunk, but that has never been my thing. Sit me in front of three intense movies and I’ll be a happy camper. Make sure all of those films center around sex and violence and it’s like my birthday wish come true.
When I went to the Los Angeles Film Festival back in June I didn’t really know what to expect. It was my first fest experience, and it ended up being a good way to start; the films were all very small – and I hadn’t heard of any of them beforehand – but I still saw some great stuff. You can catch up with all of those reviews here, but now it’s time for a completely different experience. AFI Fest began tonight, and my excitement is reaching another level entirely.