AFI FEST 2012: 28 Films From the Festival We’ve Already Seen

Kicking off this week with its Opening Night Gala for Hitchcock, Hollywood’s own AFI FEST effectively wraps up the year’s film festival-going season (a season that lasts approximately eleven months). Such calendar placement means that AFI FEST comes late enough in the year to serve as a last hurrah for titles that have been playing the festival circuit as far back as January (at Sundance) or as far away as France, Berlin, and Venice, and is the perfect opportunity for Southern California-based film geeks (or those willing to put some miles on their passport) to catch up on films they’ve been anticipating for months. Of course, of the 136 films playing at this year’s festival, we’ve managed to catch nearly a fifth of them at other fests, and we’re quite pleased to use this opportunity to remind you as such.

Confused over what to see at the festival? Be confused no more! After the break, jog your memories of our always-extensive festival coverage with reviews for twenty-eight films set to play at this week’s AFI FEST that we’ve already seen (and, you know, reviewed). It’s like getting your festival coverage whole days early!

Electrick Children

Our own Gwen Reyes deemed Rebecca Thomas‘ debut film one of the 12 Best Movies of SXSW 2012. What more do you need? How about the promise that a “film that could have taken a dark, Mysterious Skin-like turn actually has a huge heart and so much whimsy it’s nearly impossible to walk out not smiling; or also get knocked up by the catchy cover of The Nerve’s ‘Hanging on the Telephone.'”


Antiviral AFI FEST

We liked Antiviral so much, we reviewed it twice! At Fantastic Fest, Brian Salisbury sums up his review of the film by writing that Brandon Croneberg‘s film is “thoughtful, effectively shocking, well-shot and well-preformed” and is “a formidable introduction to the new Cronenberg.” Back at Cannes, Simon Gallagher wrote in his review that “you’ll wince, you’ll gasp, you’ll even laugh at the director’s audacity at including some of the more outrageously grotesque shots, but most of all you will be affected down to your core on more than one occasion.” Mmm, grotesque!

Somebody Up There Likes Me

Despite a game cast, Bob Byington‘s Somebody Up There Likes Me didn’t strike my fancy at SXSW 2012. In fact, I think I may have hated the film, calling it “boring twaddle masquerading as something more exiciting and more important, thanks to a barely hidden high concept conceit that frequently make the production just look sloppy and inattentive” in my review. Ouch. Sorry, Bob, even I had to flinch at those harsh words. Perhaps it will play better at AFI?


Man, what was going on with my picks at SXSW 2012? Another debut at the festival, Sean Baker‘s Starlet drove me positively batty. A meandering tale about losers in Hollywood, what bothered me most was that I could see and sense what Baker was going for, but that just didn’t translate to the screen. The saving grace of Starlet? Its own starlet, Dree Hemingway, whose lovely performance is worth the watch. Read my review to read the rest of my beefs.

Holy Motors

Holy Motors AFI FEST

Remember how much we liked Antiviral? So much that we reviewed it twice? Scratch that, we liked Holy Motors so much that we reviewed it three times. Madness! At Cannes, Simon said in his review that it was in “conventional terms, Holy Motors is probably a failure: it is a deranged, experimental oddity, provocative to the extreme, and it defies all but surface explanation. But Denis Lavant’s performance shines as brilliant and Carax’s dedication to his nightmarish, occasionally impenetrable concept is admirable.” At Fantastic Fest, Adam Charles wrote in his take on the film that “to call Holy Motors unique would be an understatement, but its uniqueness is not cold nor off-putting.” And at NYFF, Daniel Walber used his review to consider that “Holy Motors might very well be undecided itself. It seems more likely that this is an open ended meditation than any sort of complicated yet definitive statement on the life or death of the art form. Some will find that infuriating, others will see in it the greatest of meta-artistic statements.”

Verdict? Must-see.

The Angels’ Share

At Cannes, Simon wrote in his review that Ken Loach‘s latest is “a gentle, but politically loaded comedy, steeped in Gaelic identity but carrying a wider message that feels appropriate well beyond the geographical borders of the film.”

Ginger and Rosa

We dispatched Walber to check out Sally Potter‘s Ginger and Rosa at this year’s NYFF, and he came back with a review that singled out Elle Fanning‘s performance as the one to watch, writing that the young actress’s “naturalistic performance is breathtaking, and a major step forward for the actress.”

Room 237

Room 237 AFI FEST

A hit at Sundance, we sent our man Kevin Kelly in early to check out Rodney Ascher‘s Room 237, and he came back with nothing but love for it. Kevin wrote that in his review that “this movie will force you to see The Shining differently, whether you like it or not. It will also give you a deeper appreciation of Kubrick’s films, including (oddly enough), Eyes Wide Shut.” Weird! Brian Salisbury was much less forgiving in his Fantastic Fest review of the film, writing that “the theories presented as often as silly as they are miserably supported and the editing leaves much to be desired.” Yowch!

West of Memphis

One of the most haunting films I’ve seen this year (and I’ve seen it twice), Amy Berg‘s West of Memphis packs a punch. Yes, it’s yet another documentary on the West Memphis Three, but Berg’s comes with new access and interviews, and in my Sundance review for the film, I pointed out that “Berg uses a number of documentary filmmaking techniques to present the story – all are exceedingly well-executed and, despite the film’s vast number of players and Berg’s decision to flit back and forth between time periods, it’s both easy to follow and to engage with.” Also, you’ll cry.

The Central Park Five

Simon spent some time with Ken Burns‘ latest documentary at Cannes, and found it to be “a simple but artful chronological account of the case” that includes “stock footage, clippings and music choices [that] are all well-thought through and impressively executed.” Ultimately, he found The Central Park Five to be a worthy pick for movie-goers, and his well-reasoned review reflects that.


At TIFF, Andrew Robinson found Pieta to be a worthy new South Korean revenge film that stands out from an increasingly large pack. Find out why when you read his review.



Ugh, BRB, crying. (Read Caitlin Hughes’ NYFF review for the film HERE.)

Sun Don’t Shine

Finally, a solid choice from SXSW 2012! Amy Seimetz‘s feature debut still haunts me to this day, with the fever dream that is Sun Don’t Shine refuses to let go its “creepy and freaky” hold on me. And as far as performance? Lead Kate Lyn Sheil, an indie darling who, as I told it in my review of the film, has “reached a higher register” with her work here. She chills. She thrills. She…well, you’ll see.

Beyond the Hills

Walber gave Beyond the Hills a startling A+ at NYFF. What more do you want? Perhaps to read his review

Caesar Must Die

Yeah, Walber’s NYFF review of Paolo and Vittorio Taviani‘s film makes it sound straight-up breathtaking. Read it now, see the film soon.

Kate is an entertainment and culture writer and editor living in New York City. She is also a contributing writer for,,, Vulture,,, The Dissolve, Screen Crush, New York Daily News, Mental Floss, and amNY. Her previous work can also be found at MSN Movies, Boxoffice Magazine, and She lives her life like a French movie, Steve.

Read More from Kate Erbland
Get Film School Rejects in your email. All the cool kids are doing it:
Previous Article
Next Article
Reject Nation
Leave a comment
Comment Policy: No hate speech allowed. If you must argue, please debate intelligently. Comments containing selected keywords or outbound links will be put into moderation to help prevent spam. Film School Rejects reserves the right to delete comments and ban anyone who doesn't follow the rules. We also reserve the right to modify any curse words in your comments and make you look like an idiot. Thank You!