Landis’ ‘Plan’ preems at AFI fest

Event unspools Oct. 22

AFI Fest ’98, running Oct. 22-31, will be top heavy with world and U.S. premieres including new films by John Landis and Claude Chabrol and such acclaimed international titles as France’s “Dream Life of Angels,” “The Apple” from Iran and Spain’s antic comedy “Airbag.”

This year’s edition will spotlight more than 50 features and will include two competitive sections focusing on new American indies and a selection of 12 international features. Among the films in the official competition is this year’s curtain raiser “Life Is Beautiful,” Italian Roberto Benigni’s comic drama of the Nazi occupation, which was awarded second prize at Cannes and the audience award at the recently concluded Toronto fest.

Also competing for top honors are Germany’s box office hit “The Comedian Harmonists,” “Sweety Barrett” from Ireland, Chabrol’s “The Swindle” with Isabelle Huppert and Michel Serrault, “Samurai Fiction” from Japan, Mexico’s “The Other Conquest” and the Swedish thriller “The Last Contract.”

“I’m really delighted about this year’s selections,” said fest director Jon Fitzgerald. “Last year we had a very short lead time, but we were fortunate to get ‘Character,’ which went on to win the Oscar. There’s also a stronger selection of new American features.”

This year’s event will screen at the Mann Chinese, the Music Hall on Wilshire Boulevard and the Laemmle Monicas. The organizers decided to screen all the films in a particular section at a single venue, so competition films unspool at the Chinese while the European Showcase is at the Music Hall and the competitive New Directions U.S. and World Cinema play at the Monicas.

New Directions U.S. includes “Southie,” a crime drama directed by John Shea that received top honors at the Seattle fest. Also vying for awards in the section are the Hollywood insider comedy “Free Enterprise” with William Shatner spoofing himself; the interracial high school drama “Detention”; “12 Bucks,” a tale of two brothers; the road movie “Jerome”; and the unusual thriller “The Little Girl Who Fell From a Tree,” shot in Germany in German by American Michael Bartlett.

Fitzgerald said a handful of slots are being held for possible last-minute special presentations. He’s already confirmed the world premiere of Landis’ “Susan’s Plan” with Nastassja Kinski, Billy Zane, Lara Flynn Boyle and Dan Aykroyd. The comic thriller centers on a woman whose plans to kill her ex-husband go awry. Also debuting is “Meeting Daddy” with Lloyd and Beau Bridges, Josh Charles and Kristy Swanson in which a young man takes his fiancee from New York to meet his eccentric family in Savannah, Ga.

Many of the World Cinema selections have already received acclaim internationally, including Austria’s “The Inheritors,” South Africa’s Oscar submission “Paljas,” “Amy” by Australian filmmaker Nadia Tass and “My Son the Fanatic” from England. The separate European Showcase features “Going to Kansas City” from Finland, Gaspar Noe’s award-winning and controversial “I Stand Alone,” “Georgica” from Estonia and Cannes Critics Week winner “The Polish Bride” from Holland.

The arts figure prominently in this year’s documentary section with “Leonard Bernstein: Reaching for the Note,” “Dancemaker” and “Voice of Bergman,” on the influential Swedish filmmaker. The potent profile “A Place Called Chiapas” will also be screened.

Further information on the festival may be obtained by calling the American Film Institute at: (323) 856-7600.

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