HOLLYWOOD─Presented by Audi, the AFI (American Film Institute) Fest 2006, kicks off its 20 th year celebration, November 1-12, along with its partner American Film Market (AFM) November 1-8, in what has become the largest gathering of film professionals in North America.
"AFI FEST is the longest-running film festival in Los Angeles and one of the most influential film festivals in North America, all right in the heart of Hollywood," says Lagan Sebert, AFI Fest Publicity Coordinator.
"Celebrating 20 years in 2006, the Festival emerged from FILMEX, L.A.'s first film festival, still celebrated for the exceptional range of films it brought to light."
"Spanning 10 days each November, AFI FEST features a rich slate of films from emerging filmmakers, nightly red-carpet gala premieres and global showcases of the latest work from the great filmmakers," says Sebert.
In its tribute to Filmex, the 2006 AFI Fest is sponsored by Audi, Moviefone, Stella Artois, Absolut, American Airlines, ArcLight, Aquafina, Best Buy, Charriol, HP, NEC, Hollywood Sign Trust, Whole Foods, LA Times, Current TV, Indie 103, LA Weekly, Univision, Roosevelt Hotel, Midway Rental car and many others.
Special to this year's Festival, says Shaz Bennett, AFI Fest Senior Programmer, are the "24-hour Movie Marathon, A Night of Restored Silent Films, the classic Peter Bogdanovich's film Directed By John Ford, and a live performance of Sacred Monsters by Peter Bogdanovich."
"In addition, three new sections have been added: African Voices, consisting of a series of feature length films representing new voices from the continent of Africa; Dark Horizons , sophisticated horror/thriller genre films; and World Cinema ," says Bennet.
Screenings have been broadened from "more mainstream high profile films with celebrities and some buzz, all the way to smaller gorgeous films from Tunisia, Croatia, Ecuador and Vermont!" Bennett continues, "we do have a lot of films that are appropriate for families and movie lovers under 18. We publish a guide every year, the under-18 guide to AFI FEST - it's available on line, at the Fest, at the Skirball Cultural Center, and around town. We do screen Education Screenings at the Skirball for school children also."
The 2006 AFI Fest film submissions have grown to over 3500, representing over 45 countries, as compared to last year's 3000 submissions from 35 countries.
Moreover, this year's AFI Fest attendees are expected to surpass the 60,000 of 2005, and "we are already ahead of last year's ticket sales" says Bennett.
The film categories are: International Competitions for Narratives/Documentaries/Shorts, Special Presentations, American Directions, Latin Cinema Series, World Cinema, Asian New Classics, African Voices and Galas.
AFI Fest 2006's overall lineup will showcase a total of 111 features (91 narrative, 20 documentary) and 36 shorts (33 narrative, 3 documentary) for a total of 147 films from 45 different countries. Of the films, 22 are World Premieres including AFI Fest's Closing Night film to be announced at a later date, 30 are North American Premieres and 28 are US Premieres.
The AFI Fest film submission selection is done by a committee of 45 screeners and programmers that have been working in the film business and programming for over 20 years.
Each submitted film is screened twice and passed on to the programming committee for review. The final decision is made by Shaz Bennett, Nancy Collet, Director of Programming, Lane Kneedler, Shorts Programmer, and Natalie McMenemy, Documentary Programmer/Director of Operations.
This year's jurors are:
Features : Don Roos, Vondie Curtis Hall, John Anderson;
Documentaries : Jessica Sanders, Daryl Hannah, Wash Westmoreland;
Shorts : Christine Lahti, Susan Peterson, Wilmer Valderrama.
Winners will be awarded cash and prizes worth up to $30,000.
This marks the third year partnership AFI Fest has with AFM, explains Bennett, it is "an excellent opportunity for our filmmakers and the film professionals to come to the heart of Hollywood to see the best in world cinema."
Last year, the AFM home in Santa Monica experienced a record-breaking attendance of 8,014, and organizers are anticipating a 5% increase for 2006.
The individually managed AFI Fest and AFM form a bridge connecting cinematic artistry to its marketing platform that create additional exposure through joint domestic and international programs.
AFI 2006 marks the fifth straight year the ArcLight has been AFI Fest's home. ArcLight has "gorgeous screening rooms and the projection quality is the best there is" says Bennett.
Facilitating the commute between the ArcLight and Loews in Santa Monica are the "shuttles running every hour on the hour, serving beverages, and being so comfy!" continues Bennett. "It works really well since most of the AFI Fest screenings and events are at night, while most of AFM events/screenings are during the day."
"There is really something for everyone" says Bennett, "we want the films to find their audience or vice versa, we have big movies and small festival films that are all excellent."