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2009 AFI Fest: Underground Selections

By Mike Everleth ⋅ October 28, 2009

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The 2009 AFI Fest is set to run in Hollywood on Oct. 30 – Nov. 7, which will feature screenings of big films like Wes Anderson’s The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, John Hillcoat’s The Road and more. But, AFI has a good history of showing smaller films that have played on the underground film festival circuit. The Underground Film Journal will be attending the fest and while I can’t guarantee I’ll see all the underground-ish films, these are the ones I’ll be particularly looking out for.

The most exciting event at AFI for the underground scene is a selection of films from Mike Plante‘s amazing Lunchfilm project. These are films that Plante, film journalist and programmer for CineVegas and Sundance, commissioned from filmmakers while buying them a lunch. I previously caught a Lunchfilm screening a few months ago that Plante hosted at the Echo Park Film Center and it was a helluva time. Plante has commissioned around 50 short films, so the AFI screening should include ones I haven’t seen. The lineup of what Plante has selected this time is on the AFI site, which includes films by Naomi Uman, David Fenster, Sam Green, Bobcat Goldthwait and more. The screening is Monday, Nov. 2 at 1:00 p.m., so check it out.

Also on Monday at 4:00 p.m., is a short film program that includes films by underground filmmakers Jim Finn and Kevin Jerome Everson, two names that pop up all over the Underground Film Journal. Also in the program is Don Hertzfeldt‘s amazing animated I Am So Proud of You that I reviewed for the 2008 Austin Underground Film Festival. Hertzfeldt is an Oscar-nominated animator and this film is a true gem.

Onto the feature films, Jessica Orek’s documentary Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo is screening Saturday, Oct. 31 at 10:00 a.m. The film previously screened at the inaugural Migrating Forms festival in NYC earlier this year and at the Chicago Underground Film Festival just last month. The film is an examination of Japan’s obsession with insects.

Nina Paley’s animated opus Sita Sings the Blues has been screening all over at festivals big and small. I actually saw an excerpt from the film years ago and was blown away. Due to rights issues, the film hasn’t secured distribution even though it’s been a huge hit on the festival circuit. At the underground fests, this year it screened both in Australia at the Revelation Perth International Film Festival and in the U.S. at the Atlanta Underground Film Festival, where it won the award for Best Animated Feature. It’s screening at AFI on Tuesday, Nov. 3 at 10:00 a.m.

AFI Fest has also teamed up with the L.A. Filmforum, the underground screening series I regularly post events for, to present three film premieres. The premieres are all on Sunday, Nov. 1. At 4:30 p.m., they will be screening Eugenio Polgovsky’s Los Herederos, a documentary about children living in poverty in Mexico. That film will be preceded by Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s short film A Letter to Uncle Boomee, which was recently reviewed by The Auteurs. Then, at 7:30 p.m., will be C.W. Winter and Anders Edstrom’s The Anchorage, a film about a woman’s relationship to nature.

Lastly, not “underground” per se, but AFI presents a series of films running throughout the fest under the program of Alt. Cinema, which they say are a series of challenges, excitements and even provocations.” These include films Michael Paul Stephenson’s Best Worst Movie, Frankie Latina’s Modus Operandi, Sean Byrne’s The Loved Ones and Harmony Korine’s Trash Humpers; plus others.