What's Gay About This Year's AFI Fest

With a lesbian romantic comedy, a transgender love story, and many more films of interest, the AFI Fest offers much for LGBT audiences this year.



At left: Laurence Anyways


That’s great.
And Kuma.

Yes, let’s talk about Kuma.
Kuma is fantastic. Kuma [directed by Umut  Dag] was the opening film at the Panorama section at the Berlinale this year, and it’s one of those films that didn’t get the kind of buzz [from] a lot of people. It wasn’t those films that people came out of the festival and everyone’s talking about, but this is another film that is so layered. [It’s] this family drama and all of the stories that are interwoven in the subplots between these characters. It’s another beautiful film, and I hope that people find it. It’s not going to be on a lot of people’s radar, and we’re going to do a lot of work to get people to pay attention to it. It’s a great kind of modern story about the intersection of the Old World, essentially, and the New World. We also have some other great films that I think are really fun and also will appeal to a broad audience. The Sapphires by Wayne Blair, out of Australia, about a girl [singing] group, almost akin to an African-American girl group but an aboriginal girl group, is really fun. We’re screening 42nd Street, which is one of Bernardo Bertolucci’s selections. That’s going to be great to see on the big screen. There’s a Norwegian film called Kon-Tiki that’s pretty fantastic. It’s basically five Norwegian men on a raft, sailing from Asia, battling sharks and storms, and it’s beautifully shot. It’s epic in its scope and beauty. And I think that will be a great film that people will enjoy. There are also some really great performances by women. Isabelle Huppert in In Another Country. She’s just her wonderful Isabelle Huppert self — and a difficult woman. I think definitely a performance to be enjoyed, and Naomi Watts in The Impossible is really spectacular. Sally Potter’s new film, Ginger and Rosa, features some extraordinary women. Jane Campion’s daughter is in the film. Elle Fanning gives just a breakout performance in that film. Christina Hendricks is in that film with Annette Bening, and it’s about relationships between these two friends who were both born on the same day. It’s about how these relationships can become fragile and impacted by the relationships they have and the attractions and betrayals that often emerge out of relationships with men. It’s a beautiful film. It’s really explosive, great acting.

What advice do you have for people interested in submitting films for the AFI fest?
You should come to the festival. It’s a great way to get to know what the programming is like, and then you’ll also meet me and the other programmers there. Also to see the filmmakers who are at the festival as well. This year we’ll have close to 150 filmmakers, if not more, at the festival for Q&A’s, so that’s a great place to [be], whether you want to get advice or meet other filmmakers and programmers. We have six programmers and film writers on our jury festival as well. That would be the start. And then I always say be original and find your voice as a filmmaker. Because we see so many films, and it sounds like it’s an easy thing to say, but I think watching as many films as you can and having that breadth of knowledge as a filmmaker is really valuable, and then you can see where you stand. If you stand alongside a trend, sometimes [that’s] what you want to do, or if you stand alone with your own unique voice. Both have value, but I think understanding what each voice and style is, is really important just for anyone as an artist.

What is the most challenging part of directing the AFI Fest, and what is the best part for you?
I think the most challenging part is just selecting — and being limited to the number of films we have, because there are a number of great films and at a certain point we just don’t have the theaters and inventory to play them all and we just have to cut off, we just have to stop, rather. And that’s challenging and that can be sad. What’s great is always that first day of the festival when the filmmakers arrive and we’ve seen their films and we’ve screened them and we’re so excited when they arrive to present them. And we have the time to have those meaningful conversations. That’s exciting. When the festival begins and when the audience arrives — when everyone arrives, the filmmakers, the audience — then the festival’s really begun and all the work that we’ve put in for the past 10 months pays off in providing this experience for everyone to come together and see the films and talk about the films.

Tags: film