An interview with Jacqueline Lyanga about AFIFEST 2014


AFI FEST 2014 will run from November 6 to November 13. As in years passed, we had the opportunity to interview Jacqueline Lyanga, Festival Director, the American Film Institute’s (AFI) annual film festival in Los Angeles.

For Jacqueline Lyanga, it’s a position that she has held since 2010, but she has worked for AFI since 2005 as a programmer and producer of year-round and festival programs. Ms. Lyanga travels all over the world to most of the major international film festivals and markets to find films to showcase to AFI FEST’s Los Angeles audience. Prior to working for AFI FEST, Jacqueline worked for a number of other film organizations, including the Toronto International Film Festival, the Slamdance Film Festival and the Independent Film & Television Alliance (producers of the American Film Market). She has worked in film production and distribution for Triptych Media, October Films, and Polygram Filmed Entertainment, and has developed projects for film and television for the CBC, BET Pictures, Disney, Lifetime, Urban Entertainment and the Robey Theater Company.

Jacqueline holds a B.A. in Cinema Studies and Art History from the University of Toronto and an M.F.A from the American Film Institute

Bijan Tehrani: What can we expect to see in terms of international cinema from this year’s festival?
Jacqueline Lyanga : This year you are going to see films from all over the world—39 different countries. You are going to see 9 official foreign language Oscar submissions and you are going to see a very diverse group of filmmakers. Some are emerging filmmakers; filmmakers whose films are true discoveries for us, and then you are going to see the return of master filmmakers with new work. It’s quite exciting and the range runs the course from films like Viktoria, to High Moon from South Korea—it’s a really exciting mix. You will also see a number of American independent films, starting with our opening night film A Most Violent Year, directed by J.C. Chandor, and our closing night film is also a high profile American independent film, Foxcatcher. We have some of the masters returning with new works: Mike Leigh, of course, with Mr. Turner and you will see some documentaries across the program as well. We start looking for films to showcase at the festival in January at Sundance and then we are in Berlin; we look at films from Rotterdam, we look at films from Cannes, South by Southwest and then Toronto. We try to be as comprehensive as we can in terms of the ideas and the themes that filmmakers are exploring in cinema. Our goal is to present those ideas and these themes at the festival so the audience in Los Angeles and both the industry and public can be a part of that conversation.

BT: One of the interesting things I see every year is the number of international filmmakers who travel to the festival every year. Do you have any names of some of the filmmakers who will be attending the festival this year?
JL :  We do have some names of the international filmmakers attending this year which is very excited, Damián Szifrón, the director of Wild Tales, Jemaine Clement, director of What We Do in the Shadows will be coming to the festival, and we are also going to have Abderrahmane Sissako, who directed Timbuktu; the Dardenne Brothers will be coming, as will Andrey Zvyagintsev, the Russian director of Leviathan. A number of directors are coming and we are still in the process of confirming directors.

BT: Will there be any opportunities for audiences to interact with the filmmakers?
JL: Usually at the first screening and sometimes the second screening as well, the directors present their films and then they stay for a Q&A. We recommend visiting our site at, where we will be updating our program guide with details about all of our special guests.

BT: What are some of the other events besides the screenings?
JL: This year we have the return of our conversation session. We do a young Hollywood panel with the Los Angeles Times and The Hollywood Reporter is doing an Indie Contenders round table. We will have a conversation on acting with Ed Norton and Michael Keaton, with an additional conversation on cinematography with Roger Deacons. This will be the first year of our Tech Showcase called State of the Art Innovation, Storytelling and Technology. We are specifically highlighting two advancements that we think were quite remarkable in digital film and the advancements at DreamWorks Animation. One of the most exciting things about the festival is that this event is free and tickets were made available online today.

BT: Are there any Student discounts or privileges.
JL: Well the festival is free so it makes it very easy and accessible. If you go to and find out how to get free tickets, you can print them at home or come to the box office and pick them up. We also have rush lines, so they can come to the theater and, if seats are available for a screening, they have a good chance of getting in.

BT: What are some of the awards being presented this year?
JL: For the fifth year we have the New Auteur. The Jury for the New Auteur section is made up of film critics and film writers, so that is a very exciting section for us in terms of opportunities and the ability that gives us a chance to connect with filmmakers, writers, journalists, and people who can be supportive of their work. We also have a jury for our short film program that is made up of film programmers and filmmakers. Throughout the festival we have audience awards, so we have audience awards for our World Cinema sections, New Auteur, and for Breakthrough Film.

BT: Do you have any special screenings besides the competition, or films that are more commercial?
JL : Our Cinema Legacy section return and we will be showcasing John Cassavetes’ Love Streams in that section. It is a 35mm print, we will also be showcasing Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, another film that starred Sofia Loren. In addition to the Tribute night screening Marriage Italian Style and we will also be showing Cinema Paradiso. We will also be screening Magician, a film about Orson Welles that gives us a new look at his life and work. We are also hoping to bring families to the festival with events like the screening of the animated film Song of The Sea, made by the same director who made The Secret of Kell.

BT: Which venues will be used for the screening of the films?
JL: Our venues include the Chinese Theater, the Egyptian Theater and the Dolby Theater.


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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