AFI FEST 2008 and the World Cinema

Rose Kuo is serving in her second year as Artistic Director of AFI FEST. During her first year, Kuo introduced “Showcases” to highlight global trends in cinema and created the “Milestones” section to honor filmmakers who had passed away. Kuo has a wealth of experience in film festival programming as well as production. In addition to serving as a programming consultant specializing in Asian cinema, Kuo has worked for San Francisco, Santa Barbara and Mill Valley Festivals.

Kuo also possesses an extensive background as a filmmaker, working for Oscar-winning editor Thelma Schoonmaker and on the camera crew of famed cinematographer Haskel Wexler. Among a myriad of feature film credits spanning over twenty years, Kuo has also worked with such top directors as Michael mann, Paul Schrader, Ed Zwick and Martin Scorsese. Well-versed in both international and American cinema, Kuo seved as executive producer on Wash Westmoreland and Richard Glatzer’s THE FLUFFER.

Bijan Tehrani: What is new in 2008 AFI Fest? Any new events or categories?
Rose Kuo: We are revisiting our Filmex roots by returning to Hollywood Boulevard and presenting two Centerpiece Galas – CHE and THE WRESTLER – at the historic Grauman’s Chinese Theater. We are adding new screenings during the second half of the festival at that same location in Highland & Hollywood’s Mann 6 theaters. Two back-to-back free screenings on Saturday, November 8th will “kick off” our new location. These screenings are in addition to the ones at our official host theaters, ArcLight Hollywood Cinemas.

We are very excited about our move to Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel as the new festival headquarters location. The historic hotel will feature the Cinema Lounge, open to all pass holders and which will house our free TALK/SHOW panels on weekends. Filmmakers and film professionals will have their information and check in desks at the hotel. In addition to the Cinema Lounge we will have the Absolute Late Night Lounge which has a lovely rooftop deck, and the Audi SkyLounge which overlooks the pool. All three spaces have open bars and there will be various events and parties throughout the festival in them. Additionally, we will host our nightly red carpet in Club Sushi at ArcLight. There will be shuttle van service running throughout the day between all three venues. People will be able to park once and move easily between screenings and lounges.

After introducing showcases in place of geographically defined sections last year, we tweaked them a little further to make them investigations in cinema trends. As a result, we ended up with showcases on the revival of New Argentine cinema, Kazakh films to reflect the filmmaking that is taking place in the Central Asian country and a look at Jia Zhangke’s work in fostering new talent in the Xstream homage.

Programmer Lane Kneedler who stewarded Dark Horizons for the last several years retooled that section by creating ALT_Cinema to better reflect our attempt to investigate new media, alternative styles of filmmaking or films which pushed the boundaries of filmmaking.

We are very proud of our new collaborations with LACMA and American Cinematheque. These cultural institutions will make it possible for us to re-introduce retrospectives into the festival with a detailed examination of post-French New Wave filmmaker Arnaud Desplechin at LACMA and the American CInematheque will show Danny Boyle’s earlier work, as well as a new film by Tilda Swinton to augment our Tributes to both Boyle and Swinton.

BT: What are the different categories of the Film Festival?
RK: Galas are the glitzy red carpet events in our largest theaters, Special Screenings have highly anticipated films which feature intimate Q & As with talent, our world section is comprised of films by masters and critically acclaimed work by newer talent who are destined to joined their ranks. The competition sections have a higher concentration of discovery talent because our narrative competition is limited to first and second time filmmakers who are debuting their films in the US. Joining the narrative comp are the documentary and shorts competitions. We continue with last year’s Milestones section which this year will honor the loss of Paul Newman, Heath Ledger, Sydney Pollack, Anthony Minghella and Charlton Heston. We are introducing our new ALT_Cinema section to replace Dark Horiaons. ALT is a better fit for the films which challenge conventional boundaries and investigates in new media. We are showing some free films – Special Presentations – to introduce audiences to our new Hollywood & Highland’s Mann 6 theaters. Finally, we have a treat for families: an opportunity for parents to introduce their love of films to their kids with a 40th anniversary screening of YELLOW SUBMARINE in the Dome.

BT: Has international cinema a strong presence at AFI FEST 2008. How many countries are expected to participate in 2008 festival?
RK: We are very committed to world cinema and it shows in our selection. We do not feature a separate US cinema category – those films are folded into the world section. We have 38 countries and a total of 151 films – 103 features, 48 shorts – from around the world. Our Galas include a Spanish language film and our Tributes honor two UK artists as well as featuring a film shot in India. Our program really presents the best films this year from around the world.

BT: Please tell us about “Showcase On Argentina” and “Homage to Xstream”.
RK: I was a guest of BAFICI this year so I visited Buenos Aires for the first time and got to meet a lot of Argentine filmmakers. I had the pleasure of meeting Lisandro Alonso, the director LIVERPOOL and the renowned Argentine critic Quintin. We invited Quintin, the former head of BAFICI, and his wife Flavia to the festival as they did a lot of to introduce and to promote the New Argentine filmmakers to the rest of the world. It is one of the wonderful features of my job that I get to travel around the world to meet and be introduced to artists who then in turn we have the privilege of hosting in LA. In the case of the Argentine showcase, we came upon a region with a startling high concentration of diverse new work by filmmakers who should be more widely known and shown in the US.

Xstream is the brainchild of film critic, programmer and professor Berenice Reynaud who is well know for her work on Asian, especially Chinese, cinema. Xstream is a company run by the renown director Jia Zhangke and producer Chow Keung which fosters daring new work by Chinese directors.

BT: Are there any international film directors attending the festival? Would you please name a few?
RK: Arnaud Desplechin, Steve McQueen, Danny Boyle, Lisandro Alonso, Lucrecia Martel, Albert Serra, Pablo Fendrik, Darezhan Omirbaev, Norihiro Koizumi, Gerardo Naranjo, Lance Daly, Fernando Eimbcke, Pablo Trapero, Emily Tang, Gotz Spielmann, Mark Peranson, Danela Fiore, Manijeh Hekmat, Federico Veiroj, Alexandra Westmeier

BT: What are different independent and international cinema related events of the 2008 festival?
RK: Our TALK/SHOW gatherings which are free and open to the public will cover topics from global filmmaking to the future of independent distribution, gaming, animation and screen adaptation.

BT: Are there any free screening planned for 2008 festival?
RK: Yes, there are two, FOOD FIGHT and THE WORLD WE WANT will screen at our new Mann Cinemas at Hollywood and Highland on the second Saturday.

BT: What we should look forward in AFI FEST? Any exceptional movie or new talent?
RK: They are all exceptional.

BT: How actively festival helps young filmmakers who are seeking financial support for their projects?
RK: We have a wonderful program Connect which as the name implies, connects filmmakers to film professionals in one-on-one meetings. In addition, all of our filmmakers are accredited to attend AFM (American Film Market) which takes place in Santa Monica during our festival. The market brings together thousands of sales companies, distributors, buyers, agents and other film professionals. We bring filmmakers to the market and help them to identify the companies which handle festival films.

BT: Is there any competition at AFI FEST 2008 for short films?
RK: We have three competition sections including a shorts competition. This program is comprised of 5 groups of shorts totaling around 50 shorts, all of which are eligible for competition.

BT: How audience can attend the screenings and Q&A; with filmmakers?
RK: There are three ways to buy tickets: go to and click on “festival guide”. or go just walk up to our box office at the ArcLight Cinemas in front of the Dome and to our box office on the 3rd floor of Highland & Hollywood. Or just show up to the door of Mann 66 for one of our free screenings.


About Author

Bijan Tehrani

Bijan Tehrani a film director, film critic and writer, works as editor in chief of Cinema Without Borders while teaching Language of Film and Film History at workshops nationwide. Bijan has won several awards in international film festivals and book fairs for his short films and children's books.

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