Instead of regurgitating everything you can already read in the official AFI FEST 2014 Film Guide on all 73 features, I've decided to give you a breakdown of the 24 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. NOTE: Nothing against short films, but I've omitted them from coverage in this list.
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2014 - I'm a sucker for a dark comedy, throw in a slacker and you've got my attention.
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2014 - Three words: cult, mind control.
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2014 - When the full schedule to AFI FEST 2014 went public I polled friends and followers on the most buzzed films. "Felt" was the most mentioned. It also was noted for being very weird. I like weird, mostly... either way I am in for the ride.
THOU WAST MILD & LOVELY
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2014 - This film sounds smutty and I could use a great smutty movie to like. It helps that I like actor Joe Swanberg and would watch pretty much anything he's in.
10,000 KM - Alexandra and Sergi's deeply passionate relationship is tested when it becomes long distance, with computer technology their only medium for communication. DIR Carlos Marques-Marcet. SCR Clara Roquet & Carlos Marques-Marcet. CAST Natalia Tena, David Verdaguer. Spain, USA.
HAPPY VALLEY - The Penn State child sex-abuse scandal, and subsequent downfall of local heroes Joe Paterno and Jerry Sandusky, is examined in this insightful documentary. DIR Amir Bar-Lev. USA.
HEAVEN KNOWS WHAT - The Safdie brothers' third narrative feature explores the lives of three heroin junkies living on the streets of New York City. DIR Benny Safdie & Josh Safdie. SCR Ronald Bronstein & Josh Safdie. CAST Arielle Holmes, Caleb Landry Jones, Buddy Duress, Necro. USA.
THE VANQUISHING OF THE WITCH BABA YAGA - This essay film finds a fertile metaphor for Eastern Europe's changing relationship with the natural world in the Slavic folktale of witch Baba Yaga. DIR Jessica Oreck. SCR Jessica Oreck. USA, Ukraine, Russia, Poland.
FISH & CAT
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2014 - More and more we are seeing filmmakers trying one take films and so far I'm willing to continue to see what they have to offer. Adding the slasher component only raises my excitement further to see how "Fish & Cat" turns out.
THE MIDNIGHT SWIM
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2014 - The synopsis reminds me of a Twilight Zone episode and for that alone I'm intrigued to see what this has to offer.
THE BLUE WAVE (MAVI DALGA) – Deniz and her friends are restless Turkish teenagers, distracted by love interests and ever-changing friendship dynamics, as they await the end of high school. DIR Zeynep Dadak & Merve Kayan. SCR Zeynep Dadak & Merve Kayan. CAST Ayris Alptekin, Onur Saylak, Baris Hacihan. Turkey, Germany, Netherlands, Greece.
MAY ALLAH BLESS FRANCE! (QU'ALLAH BENISSE LA FRANCE!) – French rapper Abd Al Malik adapts his raw memoir chronicling the way religion and hip-hop saved him from the streets. DIR Abd Al Malik. SCR Abd Al Malik. CAST Marc Zinga, Sabrina Ouazani, Larouci Didi, Mickaël Nagenraft, Matteo Falkone, Stéphane Fayette-Mikano. France. U.S. Premiere.
CINEMA'S LEGACY SELECTIONS
CINEMA PARADISO (1989) - A famous Italian film director reflects on his childhood friendship with a local theater projectionist in this must-see classic. DIR Giuseppe Tornatore. SCR Giuseppe Tornatore. CAST Philippe Noiret, Jacques Perrin, Antonella Attili, Enzo Cannavale, Isa Danieli, Leo Gullotta, Marco Leonardi, Pupella Maggio, Agnese Nano, Leopoldo Trieste, Salvatore Cascio. Italy.
LOVE STREAMS (1984) - Centering on a boozy, hedonistic writer and his beleaguered sister, this latter-era film by the great John Cassavetes celebrates its 30th anniversary. DIR John Cassavetes. SCR John Cassavetes. CAST Gena Rowlands, John Cassavetes, Diahnne Abbott, Seymour Cassel, Eddy Donno, Tom Badal, Joan Foley, Jakob Shaw, Al Ruban, Margaret Abbott. USA.
MAGICIAN: THE ASTONISHING LIFE AND WORK OF ORSON WELLES (2014) – Combining extensive filmmaker interviews and rare archival footage, Chuck Workman's documentary takes us through the life of one of cinema's greatest masters: Orson Welles. DIRChuck Workman. USA.
YESTERDAY, TODAY AND TOMORROW (IERI, OGGI, DOMANI) (1963) - Vittorio De Sica's unique, three-part omnibus film features the mega-watt star coupling of international icons Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni. DIR Vittorio De Sica. SCR Eduardo De Filippo, Isabella Quarantotti, Cesare Zavattini, Bella Billa and Lorenza Zanuso. CAST Sophia Loren, Marcello Mastroianni, Aldo Giuffrè, Agostino Salvietti, Lino Mattera, Tecla Scarano, Silvia Monelli, Carlo Croccolo, Pasquale Cennamo, Armando Trovajoli. Italy, France.
Saturday, November 8, 2014
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2014 - Paul Thomas Anderson.
FOXCATCHER – FOXCATCHER tells the story of Olympic Gold Medal-winning wrestler Mark Schultz (Tatum), who sees a way out from the shadow of his more celebrated wrestling brother Dave (Ruffalo) and a life of poverty when he is summoned by eccentric multi-millionaire John du Pont (Carell) to move onto his estate and train for the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Desperate to gain the respect of his disapproving mother, du Pont begins "coaching" a world-class athletic team and begins to lure Mark into an unhealthy lifestyle and erodes the athlete's already shaky self-esteem. Fueled by du Pont's mercurial personality, increasing paranoia and alienation from the brothers, the trio is propelled towards a tragedy no one could have foreseen. Based on actual events, FOXCATCHER, directed by Bennett Miller, is a gripping and profoundly American story of brotherly love, misguided loyalty, and the corruption and emotional bankruptcy that can accompany great power and wealth.
Thursday, November 13, 2014
THE GAMBLER – Jim Bennett (Academy Award® nominee Mark Wahlberg) is a risk taker. Both an English professor and a high-stakes gambler, Bennett bets it all when he borrows from a gangster (Michael Kenneth Williams) and offers his own life as collateral. Always one step ahead, Bennett pits his creditor against the operator of a gambling ring (Alvin Ing) and leaves his dysfunctional relationship with his wealthy mother (Academy Award® winner Jessica Lange) in his wake. He plays both sides, immersing himself in an illicit, underground world while garnering the attention of Frank (John Goodman), a loan shark with a paternal interest in Bennett's future. As his relationship with a student (Brie Larson) deepens, Bennett must take the ultimate risk for a second chance... World Premiere.
Monday, November 10, 2014
THE HOMESMAN – When three women living on the edge of the American frontier are driven mad by harsh pioneer life, the task of saving them falls to the pious, independent-minded Mary Bee Cuddy (Hilary Swank). Transporting the women by covered wagon to Iowa, she soon realizes just how daunting the journey will be, and employs a low-life drifter, George Briggs (Tommy Lee Jones), to join her. The unlikely pair and the three women (Grace Gummer, Miranda Otto, Sonja Richter) head east, where a waiting minister and his wife (Meryl Streep) have offered to take the women in. But the group first must traverse the harsh Nebraska Territories marked by stark beauty, psychological peril and constant threat.
Tuesday, November 11, 2014
A MOST VIOLENT YEAR – Set in 1981, during one of the most crime-ridden winters in New York City’s history, A MOST VIOLENT YEAR follows the lives of Abel and Anna Morales (Isaac and Chastain) as they attempt to capitalize on the American Dream, while the rampant violence, decay, and corruption of the day drag them in and threaten to destroy all they have built. World Premiere.
Thursday, November 6, 2014
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2014 - In 2011 director David Robert Mitchell got my attention in a big way with "The Myth of the American Sleepover," this is his follow-up and I couldn't be more excited. Even better, it is a horror!
WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2014 - That poll I talked about earlier, this was the second most commented on film. Jemaine Clement (known most for Flight of the Conchords) stars in this highly anticipated midnight selection.
ALLELUIA – A hustler has the tables turned on him when a besotted con victim becomes his partner in crime in this genre-bending tale of sex and obsession. DIR Fabrice Du Welz. SCR Fabrice Du Welz & Vincent Tavier. CAST Laurent Lucas, Lola Dueñas, Stéphane Bissot, Edith Le Merdy, Anne-Marie Loop, Helena Noguerra, Pili Groyne, David Murgia. France, Belgium.
A HARD DAY (KKEUT-KKA-JI GAN-DA) – When corrupt Detective Ko is involved in a hit-and-run, a chain of events is unleashed that pits him against a diabolical nemesis. DIR Kim Seong-hun. SCR Kim Seong-hun. CAST Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Jin-woong. South Korea.
NEW AUTEURS SELECTIONS
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2014 - Going solely off synopsis, this sounds like compelling drama that is right up my alley.
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2014 - Another synopsis that grabbed my attention. The thought of losing your eyesight is terribly frightening.
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2014 - Road trip, yes please! I love road trip movies. Add the setting, black and white cinematography and I'm hopeful this debut is as good as it sounds.
SELF MADE (BOREG)
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2014 - Magical identity exchange? You have my interest. Are they talking like the old Fred Savage and Judge Reinhold movie "Vice Versa" identity exchange but with an ethnic flip? Regardless, I'm willing to see what happens.
FLAPPING IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE (ÐAP CÁNH GIUA KHÔNG TRUNG) - When Huyen dabbles in prostitution to earn money for an abortion, she meets a mysterious client who takes a tender yet obsessive interest in her pregnancy. DIR Nguyen Hoang Diep. SCR Nguyen Hoang Diep. CAST Nguyen Thuy Anh, Tran Bao Son, Hoang Ha, Pham Tran Thanh Duy. Vietnam, France, Norway, Germany. US Premiere.
RUN - This West African mystic fable follows a young man's trajectory from rainmaker-in-training to fugitive political assassin. DIR Philippe Lacôte. SCR Philippe Lacôte. CAST Abdoul Karim Konaté, Isaach de Bankolé, Reine Sali Coulibaly. Ivory Coast, France.
THE TRIBE (PLEMYA) - This daring film, acted entirely in sign language without the aid of subtitles or voiceover, follows a new student at a corrupt Ukrainian school for the deaf. DIR Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy. SCR Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy. CAST Grigoriy Fesenko, Yana Novikova. Ukraine.
VIKTORIA - Young Viktoria, born without an umbilical cord, is exalted as Bulgaria's "Child of the Future." But when the Communist Party falls, she faces a crisis. DIR Maya Vitkova. SCR Maya Vitkova. CAST Irmena Chichikova, Daria Vitkova, Kalina Vitkova, Mariana Krumova, Dimo Dimov, Georgi Spasov. Bulgaria.
VIOLET - In this visually stunning debut, teen Jesse must readjust to the world and cope with grief after witnessing his friend's murder at a local shopping mall. DIR Bas Devos. SCR Bas Devos. CAST César De Sutter, Raf Walschaerts, Mira Helmer, Brent Minne. Netherlands, Belgium. North American Premiere.
THE WONDERS (LE MERAVIGLIE) - When a television competition comes to the Italian countryside, farmer's daughter Gelsomina sees a way to assert her independence in this mesmerizing tale. DIR Alice Rohrwacher. SCR Alice Rohrwacher. CAST Alexandra Lungu, Sam Louwyck, Alba Rohrwacher, Sabine Timoteo, Monica Bellucci. Italy, Switzerland, Germany.
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2014 - Julianne Moore is an incredible talent and I love watching her show it off. The word heartbreaking has me a tad hesitant to see this film, but I'm guessing with Moore it'll be worth it.
TALES OF THE GRIM SLEEPER
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2014 - Serial killer stories have always intrigued me and being a southern California native I remember this story growing up. My grandparents were the biggest worrywarts on the planet and they constantly reminded me of people like this. A documentary is usually a good change of pace at a film festival, so this Nick Broomfield doc immediately grabbed my attention.
TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT (DEUX JOURS, UNE NUIT)
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2014 - This movie won Cannes Palme d'Or, meaning French people really liked it. I kid, I kid. Marion Cotillard is a exceptional actress and this feature from the Dardenne brothers sounds like it will be worth seeing.
CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA – Actress Maria (Juliette Binoche) struggles to return to the stage play that made her famous 20 years earlier, but this time in a different role, and opposite a rising young starlet. DIR Olivier Assayas. SCR Olivier Assayas. CAST Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart, Chloë Grace Moretz, Lars Eidinger. Switzerland, Germany, France.
MERCHANTS OF DOUBT – Oscar® nominee Robert Kenner's (FOOD, INC.) latest documentary focuses on the PR masterminds and spin doctors who are paid to shift blame and delay governmental action on climate change. DIR Robert Kenner. SCR Robert Kenner & Kim Roberts. CAST Naomi Oreskes, Bob Inglis, James Hansen, Stan Glantz, Marc Morano, Patricia Callahan, Sam Roe, Jamy Ian Swiss, John Passacantando. USA.
MOMMY – Xavier Dolan's latest film, selected as Canada's official Oscar® entry, centers on a mother's tumultuous relationship with her teenage son after he returns home from a correctional facility. DIR Xavier Dolan. SCR Xavier Dolan. CAST Anne Dorval, Suzanne Clément, Antoine-Olivier Pilon. Canada.
MR. TURNER – Timothy Spall (in a Cannes Best Actor-winning performance) stars as unconventional, groundbreaking painter J.M.W. Turner in this gorgeous biopic by Mike Leigh. DIR Mike Leigh. SCR Mike Leigh. CAST Timothy Spall, Dorothy Atkinson, Marion Bailey, Paul Jesson, Lesley Manville, Martin Savage. UK.
SAINT LAURENT – Selected as France's official Oscar® entry, this stylish biopic follows the life and career of iconic fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent (Gaspard Ulliel), from 1967 through 1976. DIR Bertrand Bonello. SCR Thomas Bidegain & Bertrand Bonello. CAST Gaspard Ulliel, Aymeline Valade, Jérémie Renier, Léa Seydoux, Louis Garrel, Amira Casar. France.
WORLD CINEMA SELECTIONS
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2014 - I'm a sucker for war movies.
THE ABSENT (LOS AUSENTES)
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2014 - First, this sounds depressing but really really interesting. Second, I love this image matched with the synopsis and want to see it develop.
BLACK COAL, THIN ICE (BAI RI YAN HUO)
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2014 - You had me at detective procedural, throw in it won the Berlin Film Festival and you've got me super pumped.
THE DUKE OF BURGUNDY
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2014 - Peter Strickland got my attention with "Berberian Sound Studio" so it is of vital importance I see his next feature.
GOODNIGHT MOMMY (ICH SEH, ICH SEH)
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2014 - Back to that poll about buzzed festival movies, "Goodnight Mommy" was another one that received a number of mentions. Plus I really like the imagery for this feature. Not to mention the fun that can be had with the fear children can dream up about their parents.
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2014 - Buzz around this South Korean thriller is real good and the synopsis has me eagerly awaiting sitting down to see it play out for myself.
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2014 - What is it about drug trade movies? Oh yeah, I'm a sucker for them.
OVER YOUR DEAD BODY (KUIME)
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2014 - Takashi Miike
Why this is a top priority at AFI FEST 2014 - Writer and director Quentin Dupieux has yet to let me down with one of his feature films.
AUGUST WINDS (VENTOS DE AGOSTO) – When a young Brazilian couple makes a discovery in the ocean waters off their small village, they must confront the realities of life and death. DIR Gabriel Mascaro. SCR Gabriel Mascaro & Rachel Ellis. CAST Dandara de Morais, Geová Manoel dos Santos, Maria Salvino dos Santos, Gabriel Mascaro. Brazil.
BREATHE (RESPIRE) – High school student Charlie is sent reeling after her intense friendship with Sarah falls apart in Mélanie Laurent's sophomore feature. DIR Mélanie Laurent. SCR Mélanie Laurent & Julien Lambroschini. CAST Joséphine Japy, Lou de Laâge, Isabelle Carré, Claire Keim. France.
EDEN – Mia Hansen-Løve's 20-year journey through the electronic dance music scene follows DJ Paul, whose love for the turntables stays strong even after the craze has ended. DIR Mia Hansen-Løve. SCR Mia Hansen-Løve & Sven Hansen-Løve. CAST Felix De Givry, Pauline Etienne, Vincent Macaigne, Greta Gerwig, Golshifteh Farahani, Laura Smet, Vincent Lacoste. France.
THE FOOL (DURAK) – A small-town plumber must evacuate a building before its occupants are put in a deadly situation, but citywide corruption makes it nearly impossible to find help. DIR Yury Bykov. SCR Yury Bykov. CAST Artem Bystrov, Natalia Surkova, Dmitry Kulichkov, Ilya Isaev, Maxim Pinsker, Lyubov Rudenko. Russia.
FROM WHAT IS BEFORE (MULA SA KUNG ANO ANG NOON) – Filipino arthouse sensation Lav Diaz's latest epic centers on a coastal village haunted by strange and supernatural occurrences. DIR Lav Diaz. SCR Lav Diaz. CAST Perry Dizon, Roeder Camañag, Hazel Orencio, Karenina Haniel, Joel Saracho, Reynan Abcede, Ching Valdes-Aran, Mailes Kanapi, Ian Lomongo, Noel Sto. Domingo, Evelyn Vargas, Bambi Beltran, Teng Mangansakan. Philippines. U.S. Premiere.
GETT, THE TRIAL OF VIVIANE AMSALEM – Unfolding entirely in a small courtroom, this edge-of-your-seat film follows Viviane Amsalem's tense battle for a divorce in Israel's strict rabbinical court. DIR Ronit Elkabetz & Shlomi Elkabetz. SCR Ronit Elkabetz & Shlomi Elkabetz. CAST Ronit Elkabetz, Menashe Noy, Simon Abkarian, Sasson Gabay , Eli Gorstein, Rami Danon, Roberto Pollack. Israel.
GIRLHOOD (BANDE DE FILLES)
Teenager Marieme drops out of school and finds acceptance with a gang of free-spirited girls, while taking on a new feminine identity. DIR Céline Sciamma. SCR Céline Sciamma. CAST Karidja Touré, Assa Sylla, Lindsay Karamoh, Mariétou Touré. France.
HUMAN CAPITAL (IL CAPITALE UMANO) – The fates of two seemingly unrelated families become increasingly intertwined in this stylish Italian murder mystery. DIR Paolo Virzì. SCR Paolo Virzì, Francesco Bruni and Francesco Piccolo. CAST Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Fabrizio Bentivoglio, Valeria Golino, Fabrizio Gifuni, Luigi Lo Cascio. Italy.
THE IRON MINISTRY – Three years spent on China's vast train system are distilled into a one-of-a-kind sensory experience in this immersive, formally daring documentary. DIR J.P. Sniadecki. China, USA.
JAUJA - Viggo Mortensen stars as a 19th-century Danish general who must search the unforgiving Patagonian wilderness for his runaway daughter. DIR Lisandro Alonso. SCR Lisandro Alonso & Fabián Casas. CAST Viggo Mortensen, Viilbjork Malling Agger, Ghita Nørby. Argentina, USA, Netherlands, France, Mexico.
LEVIATHAN – In the latest work from Russian filmmaker Andrey Zvyagintsev, a small-town auto mechanic becomes embroiled in a property dispute with devastating consequences. DIR Andrey Zvyagintsev. SCR Oleg Negin & Andrey Zvyagintsev. CAST Alexey Serebryakov, Elena Lyadova, Vladimir Vdovitchenkov, Roman Madyanov, Anna Ukolova, Alexey Rozin, Sergey Pokhodaev. Russia.
RED ARMY – The Cold War plays out with vivid intensity – on the ice – in this vibrant documentary on the history of the Soviet Union's Red Army hockey team. DIR Gabe Polsky. FEATURING Slava Fetisov, Vladislav Tretiak, Scotty Bowman, Vladimir Pozner. USA, Russia.
THE SALT OF THE EARTH – This documentary on Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado, often referred to as the master of black-and-white photojournalism, is co-directed by filmmaker Wim Wenders and Salgado's son, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado. DIR Wim Wenders & Juliano Ribeiro Salgado. SCR Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, Wim Wenders and David Rosier. France.
SONG OF THE SEA – In this Irish animated film, a brother and sister embark on a magical journey to discover their connection to the mythical selkies. DIR Tomm Moore. SCR Will Collins. CAST Brendan Gleeson, Fionnula Flanagan, Pat Shortt, Jon Kenny, Liam Hourican, Colm Ó'Snodaigh, Lucy O'Connell, Kevin Swierszcz, David Rawle, Lisa Hannigan. Ireland. U.S. Premiere.
STATIONS OF THE CROSS (KREUZWEG) – Fourteen masterfully composed single-shot scenes tell the story of adolescent Maria, a girl caught between a secular world and the strict religious teachings of her church. DIR Dietrich Brüggemann. SCR Anna Brüggemann & Dietrich Brüggemann. CAST Lea van Acken, Franziska Weisz, Florian Stetter. Germany.
TIMBUKTU – Mauritania's official entry for the Best Foreign-Language Film Oscar® centers on the 2012 Islamic jihadist takeover of northern Mali, and its toll on the region's civilians. DIR Abderrahmane Sissako. SCR Abderrahmane Sissako & Kessen Tall. CAST Ibrahim Ahmed, Toulou Kiki, Abel Jafri, Fatoumata Diawara. France, Mauritania.
TITLI – Young Titli must risk everything to escape his life of abject poverty and intergenerational crime in this assured debut feature. DIR Kanu Behl. SCR Sharat Katariya & Kanu Behl. CAST Ranvir Shorey, Amit Sial, Lalit Behl, Shivani Raghuvanshi, Shashank Arora. India.
TU DORS NICOLE – Nicole trips aimlessly through her post-college summer in this delightfully light and sublime film. DIR Stéphane Lafleur. SCR Stéphane Lafleur. CAST Julianne Côté, Catherine St-Laurent, Francis La Haye, Simon Larouche, Godefroy Reding, Marc-André Grondin. Canada.
VILLA TOUMA – A teenage Palestinian orphan's life is turned upside down when she goes to live in the secluded home of her three aristocrat aunts. DIR Suha Arraf. SCR Suha Arraf. CAST Nisreen Faour, Ula Tabri , Cherien Dabis , Maria Zriek.
WILD TALES (RELATOS SALVAJES) – Characters are pushed to delightfully deranged savagery in this anthology of six sublimely absurd short films. DIR Damián Szifrón. SCR Damián Szifrón. CAST Ricardo Darin, Oscar Martinez, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Érica Rivas, Rita Cortese, Julieta Zylberberg, Dario Grandinetti. Argentina, Spain.
Reminder: While AFI FEST 2014 is currently running November 6-13, if you live in Los Angeles and haven't yet got tickets to some of these films, tickets remain available. The festival does a great job of allotting tickets incrementally so that potential patrons who are determined will get a chance to see a particular movie. In other words, try and keep trying.
Source: AFI FEST