Combining the spirit of independent cinema with star power is one of the hallmarks of the American Film Festival's Highlights section. This year's section will traditionally include productions by independent American directors graced with performances by Hollywood's leading talent. The 2020 American Shorts section deserves special attention for proving that short films often have more energy than many of their feature-length counterparts. The short film program was prepared in cooperation with Warsaw's CINEMAFORUM festival.
Enjoy the 11th American Film Festival - combined with the 20th New Horizons International Film Festival, November 5-15. The complete programs of the 11th AFF and 20th NH will be announced on October 20; individual tickets go on sale October 22.
AFF will begin with the The World to Come (distribution in Poland - UIP) straight from the main competition in Venice, starring Venessa Kirby, who won Best Actress for Pieces of a Woman at that same event. It co-stars Katherine Waterston, Christopher Abbott and Casey Affleck (who also gets production crdits) in a dramatic tale of loneliness and the search for intimacy, set in a remote 19th-century farm. The World to Come has been compared to the famous Portrait of a Woman on Fire; the Norwegian director, Mona Fastvold, like Céline Sciamma, manages to subtly build emotional tension here.
Michael Almereyda (familiar to Wrocław audiences from Marjorie Prime, from the 2017 festival) - the doyen and enfant terrible of American indie cinema - presents an extraordinary and original biography of Serbian inventor Nicola Tesla. Ethan Hawke perfectly reflects the engineer's neuroticism while Kyle MacLachlan (the legendary agent Cooper from Twin Peaks) co-stars as Tesla's antagonist and employer, Thomas Edison. Both have worked with Almereyda since his famous Hamlet 20 years ago. In January this year, at the Sundance Festival, Tesla won the Alfred P. Sloan Prize for an outstanding feature film that focuses on science.
Kajillionaire, also screened at the recent Sundance festival, is a genre-defying perverse work by writer and visual artist Miranda July, known to fans of independent American cinema for her films Me and You and Everyone We Know and The Future. Great as always, Debra Winger and Richard Jenkins play the roles of inept cheats; when Melanie (Gina Rodriguez) gets drawn into their latest nefariously crazy plan, she turns the duo's bizarrely constructed world upside down.
"Live like there’s no tomorrow" is the motto for the stunning script by Max Barbakow in his feature-length debut Palm Springs, which also traveled from Sundance to AFF (Gutek Film / Monolith distribution in Poland). Sometimes compared to Groundhog Day, the comedy has a chance to become - like the movie with Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell - a timeless hit, not only thanks to the genius actors of the younger generation, Cristin Milioti (It Must Be You, Fargo miniseries) and Andy Samberg (Friends with Benefits, Brooklyn 9-9), but also an always up-to-date topic: is love 'til death do us part' possible?
Is it possible to have an intimate encounter while social distancing? How thin is the line between friendship and desire? What can you use blocks for, apart from playing with your kids? What could go wrong when you invite friends over to watch porn?
You will learn all this and more, if you watch film in the American Shorts Section, organized jointly with the CINEMAFORUM festival. This cinematic form has so far been missing at the American Film Festival, but it is very often an oasis of freedom for young artists, who use it to tell stories about the contemporary United States (and the world in general) in a mischievous, bold, and often humorous way.
The encounter between a corporate executive and a window washer in Morgan Krantz's Squeegee is absurd and grotesque, but so very relevant during the pandemic. Meanwhile, the protagonists in Sophie Kargman's Query find out that a conversation about sexuality can shift into practice in a surprising way. Every mother will surely be able to recognize an episode from her own life in the Bridget Moloney’s existential comedy Blocks (starring the 2019 Indie Star Award winner Mark Webber as the father). The influence of the #metoo movement is clear in Jessie Kahnweiler's He's the One, where a date very quickly turns into an oppressive situation.