Instead of regurgitating everything you can read in the official AFI FEST 2013 Film Guide on all 83 features, I've decided to give you a breakdown of the 33 films I am considering a top priority at this year's festival. For ease, I have kept everything separated by the same categories AFI FEST already divided the films into. At the top of each section you will find the film(s) that are top priority, below them will be the rest of the films in a given section listed alphabetically. Each film in this comprehensive list includes title, director, country, and synopsis, however the top priority films will have added insight as to why I am so keen on seeing that particular title.
AMERICAN INDEPENDENTS SELECTIONS
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2013 - The words road trip grab my attention, plus Todd Sklar is a director that has my attention.
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2013 - BLUE RUIN received tremendous buzz from Austin's Fantastic Fest back in September. I read so many positive comments from trusted sources this film instantly went on my radar as something I hoped to see in the AFI FEST 2013 line-up and thankfully here it is.
CHARLIE VICTOR ROMEO
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2013 - This sounds incredible, not to mention something a bit outside of the box.
WE GOTTA GET OUT OF THIS PLACE
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2013 - Friendly bias, I have a few friends involved behind the scenes on this feature. Better, the film walked away from Toronto International Film Festival with plenty of positive word of mouth and reviews.
BREATHE IN – When a foreign exchange student arrives in a small upstate New York town, she challenges the dynamics of her host family's relationships and alters their lives forever. DIR Drake Doremus. SCR Drake Doremus, Ben York Jones. USA.
CAUCUS – This intimate documentary takes us behind the scenes of straw polls and sound bites to watch the 2012 field of Republican presidential hopefuls polish their platforms and butt heads for the first time. DIR AJ Schnack. USA.
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2013 - I could use a little absurdist comedy told through the guise of a old sleuth. This might have just the right level of brevity in what seems to be a darker year at AFI FEST.
MY AFGHANISTAN – LIFE IN THE FORBIDDEN ZONE
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2013 - This might be a hard watch considering the content but it is a necessary watch for a better understanding of the situations and conflicts continuing in the Middle East.
B FOR BOY – This elegant, realist drama set in Nigeria highlights cultural and religious discrimination in its story of one woman's desperate need for a male child. DIR/SCR Chika Anadu. Nigeria. North American Premiere.
LITTLE BLACK SPIDERS – Pregnant teens await the birth of their babies and forge lasting friendships in a secret attic of a Belgian hospital ward in this film inspired by true events. DIR Patrice Toye. SCR Ina Vandewijer, Patrice Toye. Belgium.
INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2013 - The Coen brothers are my favorite directors. Their films continue to be premium quality time and time again. I cherish their films (some more than others) but I have a serious hope that this drama/comedy will be another favorite to add to my collection. The buzz remains solid on this feature and if it so happens I can land myself coverage of the Closing Night film, I will not miss it.
THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2013 - This is my most anticipated film left in 2013, so yeah I really want to see it. The first trailer for this feature hit me like a bag of hammers (who the hell has a bag of hammers?) and ever since I have been dumbfounded or it. Plus this movie releases on Christmas day and I never get out to the movies on Christmas day so if I could see it ahead of time it will save me a whole lot of complaining leading up to Christmas day when I can't see it.
AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY – Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts star in this dramatic comedy with an all-star cast about a crisis that reunites the women of an Oklahoma family and re-ignites their dysfunction. DIR John Wells. SCR Tracy Letts. CAST Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Julianne Nicholson, Juliette Lewis, Dermot Mulroney, Abigail Breslin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Margo Martindale, Sam Shepard. USA. Friday, November 8, 2013.
THE LAST EMPEROR 3D – Winner of nine Oscars®, this visually sumptuous drama has been transformed into 3-D by director Bernardo Bertolucci and cinematographer Vittorio Storaro. This presentation will be the North American Premiere of the 3D version of the film. DIR Bernardo Bertolucci. SCR Mark Peploe, Bernardo Bertolucci. CAST John Lone, Joan Chen, Peter O'Toole. China, Italy, UK, France. Sunday, November 10, 2013.
LONE SURVIVOR – This thriller dramatizes the story of a Navy SEAL and his small team's failed mission in 2005 to capture or kill a notorious Taliban leader in Afghanistan. DIR/SCR Peter Berg. CAST Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster, Ali Suliman, Alexander Ludwig, Eric Bana. USA. World Premiere. Tuesday, November 12, 2013.
NEBRASKA (featuring a Tribute to Bruce Dern) – Bruce Dern stars as a stubborn elderly man who travels to Nebraska with his son (Will Forte) to collect sweepstakes money in this elegant, black-and-white bittersweet journey. DIR Alexander Payne. SCR Bob Nelson. CAST Bruce Dern, Will Forte, Bob Odenkirk, Stacy Keach, June Squibb. USA. Monday, November 11, 2013.
OUT OF THE FURNACE – In this all-star, griping drama, a steel mill worker (Christian Bale) searches for his brother (Casey Affleck) in one of the most ruthless crime rings in the Northeast. DIR Scott Cooper. SCR Scott Cooper, Brad Ingelsby. CAST Christian Bale, Zoe Saldana, Woody Harrelson, Willem Dafoe. USA. World Premiere. Saturday, November 9, 2013.
SAVING MR. BANKS – The extraordinary, untold story of how Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) and author P. L. Travers (Emma Thompson) proceed to turn her novel into the film MARY POPPINS. DIR John Lee Hancock. SCR Kelly Marcel, Sue Smith. CAST Tom Hanks, Colin Farrell, Emma Thompson, Paul Giamatti, Bradley Whitford, Jason Schwartzman, B.J. Novak. USA. North American Premiere. Thursday, November 7, 2013. (Opening Night Gala)
BIG BAD WOLVES
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2013 - Navot Papushado and Aharon Keshlaes struck a chord with their last horror comedy KALEVET (RABIES) and I gotta see what they follow it up with.
THE GREEN INFERNO
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2013 - Eli Roth making an ode to cannibal movies? Yes, please!
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2013 - Ti West is an incredible director and he has yet to let me down. Word is, THE SACRAMENT is another gem and as an added bonus A.J. Bowen has a leading role.
R100 – A single father signs up for an exclusive new bondage club and gets more than he bargained for in this latest installment of Japanese shock cinema. DIR/SCR Hitoshi Matsumoto. Japan.
THE STRANGE COLOUR OF YOUR BODY'S TEARS – As Dan searches for his missing wife, he begins to suffer from hallucinations and the threat of madness in this gorgeous hommage to classic Italian Giallo movies. DIR/SCR Hélène Cattet, Bruno Forzani. Belgium, France, Luxembourg.
NEW AUTEURS SELECTIONS
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2013 - This kinda sorta sounds like an animated version of THERE WILL BE BLOOD, in any event, to see a hand drawn animated movie in this day and age is a blessing. Plus this looks to be confronting some issues that I'd like to see play out in.
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2013 - I'm a sucker for sociology and when you combine corporal punishment and revenge, my eyebrows raise and you have my full attention.
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2013 - If you didn't already know, my profession is a high school history teacher and this film jumps out at me. Patriarchal expectations of girls in the Soviet Union following the collapse of Iron Curtain, yup this sounds extremely intriguing.
A SPELL TO WARD OFF THE DARKNESS
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2013 - One word, experimental has me interested to see how this tale unfolds.
WE ARE MARI PEPA
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2013 - This sounds like it could be a refreshing slice of life in a festival that is (for the most part) pretty dark.
MY DOG KILLER – This simmering drama follows a lonely young adult living in rural Slovakia, where bubbling ethnic tensions and inner turmoil lead to dark consequences. DIR Mira Fornay. SCR Mira Fornay. CAST Adam Mihal, Marian Kuruc, Irena Bendova, Libor Filo. Slovakia, Czech Republic.
NOTHING BAD CAN HAPPEN – A new member of a fundamentalist Christian group moves in with a family, but soon descends into a vortex of dogmatism, heresy and violence. DIR Katrin Gebbe. SCR Katrin Gebbe. CAST Julius Feldmeier, Sascha Gersak, Swantje Kohlhof, Annika Kuhl. Germany.
THE OWNERS – A comic look at class struggle, this Argentine tale of estate workers and their employers makes full use of its ensemble cast to explore the difficulty of sustaining a lie. DIR Agustín Toscano & Ezequiel Radusky. SCR Agustín Toscano & Ezequiel Radusky. CAST Rosario Blefari, Germán De Silva, Sergio Prina, Cynthia Avellaneda. Argentina. North American Premiere.
THE SELFISH GIANT – In this memorable example of British realism, feisty menace Arbor and his friend Swifty are expelled from school and turn to illegal means of making money. DIR Clio Barnard. SCR Clio Barnard. CAST Connor Chapman, Shaun Thomas, Sean Gilder, Rebecca Manley. United Kingdom.
THE STRANGE LITTLE CAT – A whimsical exploration of the tensions and pleasures of everyday life is made in a cramped Berlin apartment overflowing with adults, children and pets. DIR Ramon Zürcher. SCR Ramon Zürcher. Jenny Schily, Anjorka Strechel, Mia Kasalo, Luk Pfaff. Germany.
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2013 - This will be in theaters soon after it screens at AFI so technically I should just wait but I love everything Spike Jonze has done thus far and I really need to see this film as soon as possible, it looks to be a great twist on a traditional love story.
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2013 - The buzz that has followed this film through its film festival circuit is all positive and as a big time fan of "Dune" there's no denying I will be adjusting my schedule to this film's screening times.
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2013 - This is another film that will be out immediately following AFI but dammit it looks tremendous and heart felt, something this big softy would love to see before its theatrical release.
THE INVISIBLE WOMAN – Director/Actor Ralph Fiennes presents this extravagant period drama about novelist Charles Dickens and his secret, years-long affair with an actress. DIR Ralph Fiennes. SCR Abi Morgan. CAST Ralph Fiennes, Felicity Jones, Kristin Scott Thomas. United Kingdom.
MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM – Based on Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, this drama chronicles his life and 27 years in prison before becoming South Africa’s president. DIR Justin Chadwick. SCR William Nicholson. CAST Idris Elba, Naomie Harris, Tony Kgoroge, Riaad Moosa, Jamie Bartlett, Lindiwe Matshikiza, Terry Pheto, Deon Lotz. South Africa.
THE PAST (LE PASSÉ) – An Iranian man who deserted his French family to return to his homeland comes back to Paris to discover that his wife is involved with another man. DIR/SCR Asghar Farhadi. CAST Bérénice Bejo, Tahar Rahim, Ali Mosaffa, Pauline Burlet. France, Iran, Italy.
THE UNKNOWN KNOWN: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF DONALD RUMSFELD – The latest from Errol Morris focuses on former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Probing and insightful, Morris is the unequalled master of unpacking and contextualizing our recent shared history. DIR Errol Morris. USA.
WORLD CINEMA SELECTIONS
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2013 - I'm worried this could infuriate me, but I'm willing to see it either way.
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2013 - Tragic and tense, yes please!
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2013 - Who couldn't use a little sweet with all the heavy material at this year's festival?
HALF OF A YELLOW SUN
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2013 - This could be hit or miss, but I am hoping for hit.
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2013 - I'm hooked just reading the synopsis.
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2013 - This sounds brutal and I hope it elevates.
LA JAULA DE ORO
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2013 - Friendship dynamics in a road trip type film always speak to me.
MANUSCRIPTS DON'T BURN
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2013 - I really hope this ends up as riveting as it sounds.
THE MISSING PICTURE
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2013 - Khmer Rouge in claymation? Why not, the history teacher in me is foaming at the mouth.
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2013 - Kim Ki-duk blew me away with PIETA at last year's AFI FEST, so there is no doubt I will make sure to see this sure to be jarring film.
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2013 - I'm fascinated with the Middle East and its culture, add a thriller to the environment and I'm all in.
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2013 - This just sounds simply inspiring.
WE ARE THE BEST!
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2013 - Teenage angst in the form of a punk band, sign me up.
THE WIND RISES
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2013 - This is the final film of master Hayao Miyazaki. While it kills me that he will no longer direct, I can't wait to see this one at AFI.
BORGMAN – A man's unexpected arrival begins a series of unsettling events that unravel the facade of a wealthy couple, their three children and their nanny. DIR/SCR Alex van Warmerdam. Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark.
CHILD'S POSE – This dark tragicomedy presents an overly protective and domineering mother who uses every means at her disposal to protect her son from the law. DIR Călin Peter Netzer. SCR Răzvan Rădulescu, Călin Peter Netzer. Romania.
CLOSED CURTAIN – Banned Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi returns with an allegorical narrative about a man hiding from authorities with his dog at a secluded house. DIR Jafar Panahi, Kamboziya Partovi. SCR Jafar Panahi. Iran.
THE CONGRESS – In this sci-fi tale, Robin Wright plays an actress who licenses her image – so she can be turned into a virtual movie star – with unforeseen consequences. DIR/SCR Ari Folman. Israel, Germany, Poland, Luxembourg.
AN EPISODE IN THE LIFE OF AN IRON PICKER - This dramatic reenactment of true events follows a Roma family in Bosnia as they desperately seek medical attention from the state health care system. DIR Danis Tanovic. Bosnia, Herzegovina, France, Slovenia.
EXHIBITION – Inside a stylish modern London house, the relationship between a pair of artists undergoes tensions as they prepare to leave their beloved home. DIR/SCR Joanna Hogg. United Kingdom.
GLORIA – Gloria is an independent, 50-something woman who dominates Santiago's nightclub scene until she meets a naval officer and launches a challenging relationship. DIR Sebastián Lelio. SCR Sebastián Lelio, Gonzalo Maza. Chile, Spain.
GRAND CENTRAL – A young worker at a nuclear power plant in the south of France finds himself falling into an illicit romance in this drama about uncontrollable forces. DIR Rebecca Zlotowski. SCR Gaëlle Mace, Rebecca Zlotowski. France, Austria.
THE GREAT BEAUTY – This ambitious homage to the resplendent history of Italian cinema explores a 65-year-old aristocrat's existential crisis that's sparked when his former lover dies. DIR Paolo Sorrentino. SCR Paolo Sorrentino, Umberto Contarello. Italy, France.
LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON – Hirokazu Kore-eda's touching drama tells the story of two families who learn that their six-year-old sons were switched at birth. DIR/SCR Hirokazu Kore-eda. Japan.
THE LUNCHBOX – A mistaken lunchbox delivery in Mumbai leads to a relationship between an unfulfilled housewife and an isolated accountant on the verge of retirement. DIR/SCR Ritesh Batra. India, France, Germany.
MANAKAMANA – High above a jungle in Nepal, pilgrims make an ancient journey by cable car to worship at the legendary Manakamana temple. DIR Stephanie Spray, Pacho Velez. Nepal, USA.
MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS – The personal story of the 16th century royal figure who played a key role in Great Britain's historic conflict between Protestants and Catholics. DIR Thomas Imbach. SCR Thomas Imbach, Andrea Štaka, Eduard Habsburg. Switzerland, France.
OUR SUNHI – South Korean auteur Hong Sang-soo returns with this character study of a recent film school grad and the three men who revolve around her life. DIR/SCR Hong Sang-soo. South Korea.
STRANGER BY THE LAKE – A lakeside beach in the French countryside is the setting for this frank exploration of gay cruising and the mysterious spell of danger and desire. DIR/SCR Alain Guiraudie. France.
TOM AT THE FARM – 24-year-old Xavier Dolan's ambitious fourth feature presents the story of a young gay man who travels to a farm in Quebec and faces a family in denial. DIR Xavier Dolan. SCR Xavier Dolan, Michel Marc Bouchard. Canada, France.
VIC + FLO SAW A BEAR – Two lesbian lovers and former convicts settle in the countryside of Quebec after they're released from prison in this offbeat and engrossing crime drama. DIR/SCR Denis Côté. Canada.
WHEN EVENING FALLS ON BUCHAREST OR METABOLISM – Romanian New Wave filmmaker Corneliu Poremboiu is back with this cunning portrait of sexual hypocrisy between a film director and his lead actress. DIR/SCR Corneliu Porumboiu. Romania, France.
Hopefully you have already pre-registered for free tickets to the best annual film festival in Los Angeles, if not beginning November 2nd additional tickets will be available both online and at the AFI FEST AT&T Box Office through the Closing Night of the festival.
Source: AFI FEST