AFI FEST 2023 Celebrates Global Cinema with Star-Studded Premieres and Award-Winning Short Films

LOS ANGELES (AP) — AFI FEST 2023, a renowned film festival held in Los Angeles, recently concluded its five-day run with a lineup filled with star-studded premieres and thought-provoking cinematic works. The festival kicked off with the world premiere of “Leave the World Behind,” a film written and directed by Sam Esmail and starring Julia Roberts, Ethan Hawke, and Mahershala Ali. AFI FEST closed with “Maestro,” a love story portraying the lifelong relationship between Leonard Bernstein and Felicia Montealegre Cohn Bernstein, directed by Bradley Cooper.

Greta Gerwig, the Guest Artistic Director for AFI FEST, curated five films for the festival, including “A Matter of Life and Death” and “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.” Alongside these highlights, the festival showcased 20 Best International Oscar® submissions and a selection of unique and inspiring short films from around the world.

The Short Film Competition at AFI FEST awarded several standout works. The Grand Jury Prize for Live Action Short was presented to “Closing Dynasty,” a film directed by Lloyd Lee Choi. The jury praised its expert blend of humor and pain, capturing the perspective of a young girl in a distinctive portrayal of New York City.

In the Documentary Short category, “NǍI NAI & WÀI PÓ (Grandma & Grandma)” directed by Sean Wang received the Grand Jury Prize. The jury commended the film for its tender and comedic portrait of an unconventional family dynamic, showcasing sensitivity to the perspectives of elderly individuals.

For Animated Short, the Grand Jury Prize went to “Chutes,” directed by Kenzie Sutton. The jury described it as a delightful and bizarre rollercoaster, capturing the interplay between social relationships and materialism through clever visual metaphors.

The Short Film Competition also recognized exceptional work with special mentions. “Sèt Lam,” directed by Vincent Fontana, received a Special Jury Mention for Editing in the Live Action Short category. The jury praised its lyrical and affecting edit, which immersed viewers in a trancelike state through rhythmic evocations of dance and community.

In the Documentary Short category, “Quiet as It’s Kept” directed by Ja’Tovia M. Gary received a Special Jury Mention for Experimentation. The film expands its exploration of Black femininity through hypnotic manipulations of sound and image, incorporating the works of Toni Morrison and TikTok.

Other special mentions went to “Alpha Kings,” directed by Enrique Pedráza Botero and Faye Tsakas, for its observational character portrait capturing a fascinating but typically invisible world; “The Miracle,” directed by Nienke Deutz, for its vivid and unique construction of a hilarious and unsettling animated world; “Miisufy,” directed by Liisi Grünberg, for its distinctive illustrations and the unique journey it took viewers on; “Basri & Salma in a Never-Ending Comedy,” directed by Khozy Rizal, for its unforgettable cinematography adding humor and vibrancy to emotional material; “Madden,” directed by Malin Ingrid Johansson, for a beautifully tender and subtle lead performance; and “Dildotectonics,” directed by Tomás Paula Marques, for its brilliant blending of two separate sexual explorations with offhand fluidity.

The Grand Jury Award winners in the Live Action, Documentary, and Animated Short categories are eligible for consideration at the 2023 Academy Awards® in their respective categories.

Bob Gazzale, President and CEO of AFI, expressed his pride in the attendance records and the festival’s ability to bring people together through the power of cinema. With more than 140 titles showcased, including a diverse range of voices, AFI FEST 2023 continues to be a platform for world-class cinema.

In conclusion, AFI FEST 2023 concluded its successful run, leaving audiences captivated with its diverse lineup of films and recognizing exceptional talent in the Short Film Competition. As the festival continues to grow, it reaffirms its commitment to showcasing the very best of world cinema and looks forward to welcoming even more people to the movies in the future.