A conversation with Jacqueline Lyanga about AFIFEST 2012


AFI 2012 has been opened by showing 80 features and 56 shorts, chosen from 3,400 submissions. The World Cinema program will include Oscar foreign-language entries from Denmark “A Royal Affair”, Austria “Amour”, Germany “Barbara”, Romania “Beyond the Hills”, Portugal “Blood of My Blood”, Italy- directors Paolo & Vittorio Taviani’s “Caesar Must Die”, Norway “Kon-Tiki”, Belgium “Our Children”, South Korea Kim Ki-duk’s Venice Golden Lion winner “Pieta” and Canada “War Witch” (“Rebelle”) dir: Kim Nguyen. To learn more about the presence of world cinema at AFIFEST 2012 we have interviewed Jacqueline Lyanga, director of the festival.

Bijan Tehrani: Please tell us about the extensive presence of international cinema at AFI FEST 2012.
Jacqueline Lyanga: The presence of world cinema at the 2012 AFI Fest, the 26th edition of the festival, is very strong. One of the roots of the film festival, in terms of its mission, has been to bring international cinema to Los Angeles. Since the festival began back in 1971, it has always been a place where you can come and see international films and meet international filmmakers. We have world cinema and we have international films, not just in our World Cinema section, but also in our New Auteur section, in our Breakthrough section, and in our Galas in our special screenings—the entire program is international.

BT: Are there international filmmakers attending the festival?
JL: We will have a number of international filmmakers coming to the festival this year—probably a record number; somewhere close to 150 filmmakers and included among those will be Oliver Assayas, Sally Potter, Christian Mungu, Kim Ki-Duk, Aaron Rickless, Jack Godiard, and Antonio Campos—among many others.

BT: Please tell us about the jury members for 2012 festival.
JL:  Our jury members are all esteemed contributors to the realm of cinema. The Short Film jury is made up of: Producer Brian Silver, who won an Academy Award for short film a couple of years ago called God of Love; Jenny Slate, who is a writer and actress who made a film called Marcel The Shell; we also have Mike Plant, a programmer from the Sundance film festival; and Claudette Gottfried, a programmer from SXSW and the director of Nobody Walks, which premiered at Sundance and was released recently.

The jury for the New Auteur section—which exhibits narrative feature films like Clip and Eat Sleep Die, which won the audience award in Venice—is actually composed of film writers. On our jury we have Dana Harris from Indiewire, Greg Killday from the Hollywood Reporter, Bérénice Reynaud from Senses of Cinema, and David Hudson of Fandora. So the idea here is to present these films to film writers and critics who have been seeing the films from the last couple of years and can contextualize that section, and we hope that this will be a way to further recognize the emerging filmmaker.

BT: I know that independent filmmakers always have a good chance to showcase their films at AFIFEST; is there a specific section dedicated to independent filmmakers at the festival this year?
JL: Independent filmmakers are welcome in all of our sections—we don’t have a specific section that highlights independent filmmakers; we have independent films in all of our categories, and the same goes for documentary films. So, for example, we have documentary films in our special screening section, and we have some documentary films in Young Americans. We have independent films across the spectrum, some in World Cinema some in New Auteur, and all over. These films come from the submission process: through the thousands of submissions that we get every year.

BT: Please tell us about other events, like seminars and other events at the site of the festival.
JL: We will have the Young Hollywood panel that happens on the first Friday, so that is sponsored by the LA Times and they bring in some emerging Hollywood talent to the festival. We are also going to have some more conversations this year: one about the challenge from the film The Sessions, and we are also going to have a presentation of a documentary called We Came Home, by a musician-director Ariana Delawari about her family’s commitment to democracy in Afghanistan. We have a number of different, additional presentations as well. On Sunset Boulevard there is the newly restored version of the film Sunset Boulevard, which we are really excited to showcase in the Chinese Theatre, so there is a lot to see! We have more films to see, more chances to see the films you want to see, and some fantastic events.

BT: Will the screenings remain free, as in previous years of the festival?
JL: For the fourth year now, the festival is going to be free. So it means that students don’t have to worry about the cost of admission to come and see the best of international cinema. We have free tickets that are available for our Gala and our special screenings for films in our World Cinema Program, right across the entire program. We also offer the Cinepass Express, which allows priority access, and then we have higher level patron packages, which we hope people in the industry can purchase to help support the festival and help keep it free. We have done surveys over the past two years and have found, certainly as a result of our free admission, that we get a lot of students coming to the festival from AFI, UCLA, USC, and Chapman—so it is a very student friendly festival.

BT: How many of the films that have been selected for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar will be screened at the festival?
JL: We will actually be screening 12 of them, including Barbara, Germany’s entry; Amour, Austria’s entry; Nairobi Half Life, which is Kenya’s second-ever entry; A Royal Affair from Denmark; Kon-Tiki from Norway; War Witch from Canada; Our Children from Belgium; Pieta, which is South Korea’s entry; Beyond the Hills from Romania; Blood of My Blood from Portugal; Cesar Must Die from Italy; and After Lucia from Mexico.
BT: International Cinema fans surely have a lot to look forward to at AFI FEST 2012. We’ll see you there!


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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