The American Film Institute announced today that Pedro Almodóvar is set to serve as the Guest Artistic Director for this year’s AFI FEST. As the festival is celebrating its twenty-fifth year in existence with this next festival, the addition of Almodóvar shows just how much the fest is expanding, both in terms of size and prestige.
As part of his duties, Almodóvar will a present a coincidentally-timed twenty-fifth anniversary screening of his Law of Desire. The filmmaker will also create his own sidebar program of films that he credits as inspirations to his work. Many of Almodóvar’s films have shown over the years at AFI FEST, including Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, High Heels, All About My Mother, Talk to Her, Volver, The Headless Woman, Broken Embraces, and Bad Education. His next film, The Skin I Live In, premiered at Cannes and will open in New York and Los Angeles on October 14, so I wonder if AFI FEST won’t see some sort of special cast and crew screening with Almodóvar now involved in the festival.
I’ve witnessed firsthand the growth of AFI FEST over just a short amount of time, having attended the fest for the past four years. Last year’s premiere films alone made up were monster hits – AFI FEST showed The Fighter, The King’s Speech, and Black Swan. The year before that, the festival’s big films included fare such as Precious, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, and Fantastic Mr. Fox.And those were just the big name films that I can recall off the top of my head, as the festival also provides a home for works from very new filmmakers and foreign filmmakers. While AFI FEST might not have the name-brand recognition of bigger fests, they consistently deliver an interesting and well-curated program of films. Adding on Almodóvar is a further progression that shows just how far the festival wants to go.
Last year’s Guest Artistic Director was David Lynch, who provided, at the very least, the most actually and truly Lynchian festival bumper I’ve ever watched in my entire life.
The festival takes place every year in Hollywood, using the Chinese Theatre as its main premiere venue for large screening events, along with other screenings at the Chinese 6 Theatres and the Egyptian Theatre. Most non-film events take place the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel (located just across the street from the Chinese). AFI FEST also offers free tickets to all screenings, making it one of LA’s most accessible festivals. This year’s festival runs from November 3 to November 10.