Gerardo Naranjo

As it turns out, I’ve been slightly remiss when it comes to praising this year’s 25th edition of AFI FEST 2011 presented by Audi. I’ve tossed off comments about how the festival gets better with every passing year, but in the wake of today’s announcement of the festival’s Centerpiece Galas and Special Screenings, I’ve realized that I have not gone far enough. AFI FEST has not just gotten better this year, the festival has made a dramatic jump to top-tier status, rolling out titles that play like a cinephile’s Christmas list for 2011. Today’s lineup announcement is essentially a “best-of” list of this year’s festival favorites, including Michel Hazanavicius‘s The Artist, Steve McQueen‘s Shame, Oren Moverman‘s Rampart, Lynne Ramsay‘s We Need to Talk About Kevin, Roman Polanski‘s Carnage, Simon Curtis‘s My Week with Marilyn, Lars von Trier’s Melancholia, Gerardo Naranjo’s Miss Bala, and Wim Wenders‘s Pina. AFI FEST will run from November 3rd through the 10th in Hollywood, with all screenings taking place at The Chinese, the Chinese 6 Theatres, and the Egyptian Theatre. The best part? Tickets for all screenings are free (and available starting October 27). After the break, check out the full list, including descriptions and showtimes, of the films to be featured as AFI FEST Centerpiece Galas and Special Screenings.

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While at Cannes, our own Simon Gallagher called Miss Bala, “a blend of situational horror and politically-laced action thriller that I’d have no trouble recommending to anyone.” As a Briton, that’s the most excited he can legally get. The film from Gerardo Naranjo focuses on a young woman named Laura (played by Stephanie Sigman) who is entering the Miss Baja competition with a friend. When thugs shoot up the place and leave her alive, she finds herself in the quicksand of the drug cartel world where she’s in near constant danger. The film is also a social comment on how bad things have gotten in Mexico, told with the kinetic language of bullets and desperate situations. Now, you can check out the trailer for yourself:

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