Benigni’s ‘Life’ to kick off AFI fest

Event unspools Oct. 22

The U.S. premiere of Roberto Benigni’s “Life is Beautiful” (“La Vita e Bella”) kicks off the American Film Institute’s Los Angeles International Film Festival, which runs Oct. 22-31.

The AFI fest will also pay tribute to “the next wave” of independent filmmakers from the U.S. and abroad, festival director Jon Fitzgerald said.

“With the recent rise of independent film production on an international scale, this wave of filmmakers is having a greater impact on the world of cinema than ever before — socially, critically and economically,” Fitzgerald said.

“Life is Beautiful,” a Cecchi Gori production whose international rights were picked up by Miramax Films, won the Grand Jury Prize this year at the Cannes Film Festival. It also won eight of Italy’s David di Donatello awards, including best picture, as well as the Best Jewish Experience Award at the 1998 Jerusalem International Film Festival. The film stars Benigni, Nicoletta Braschi and Giorgio Cantarini.

The AFI fest, celebrating its 12th year, will showcase about 75 films from around the world at Mann’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood, Laemmle Music Hall in Beverly Hills and the Laemmle Monica 4-Plex in Santa Monica.

For the first time, the fest will present about a dozen films from what it considers to be the best of the new European directors.

For ticket information, call (323) 520-2000. For general facts about the fest, call (323) 856-7707. The fest’s Web site is http://www.afifest.com.

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