AFI lauds debatable pix

Dubs 'Christ,' '9/11' inspiring

AFI named “The Passion of the Christ” and “Fahrenheit 9/11” as the top films to inspire national debate in its 2004 Moments of Significance awards. The two films, according to AFI, transcended traditional art forms and spurred national debates in theology and politics, respectively.

AFI applauded the fact that though “The Passion of the Christ” and “Fahrenheit 9/11” overlooked Hollywood convention in their production, hordes of people who would not normally buy a ticket for a violent, subtitled film or documentary nonetheless thronged movie theaters.

That’s not to say a film had to have a major budget or well-known helmer to garner attention from AFI. Org also lauded those who scrimped during the production process, particularly Jonathan Caouette, whose documentary “Tarnation,” about growing up with a mentally ill mother, cost a mere $218 to make, and the filmmakers of Paramount’s “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow,” who used desktop Macintosh computers to produce the film’s effects shots.

In addition, AFI paid tribute to changes within the news world; the “invertical integration” of TV and film groups with the merger of NBC and Universal; the role of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” in providing the lighter side of the news; comedies including “Sex and the City,” “Frasier” and “Friends” that said goodbye in 2004; comedies that are thriving into 2005; technological developments in television like the premiere of the pilot of WB’s “Jack & Bobby” online before the broadcast premiere; the rising role of the Federal Communications Commission in programming; and the legacy of actor Marlon Brando.

The creative ensembles of the honorees for the nine categories will be officially recognized at a Jan. 14 luncheon in Los Angeles.

The AFI Awards 2004 winners were chosen after two days of deliberation by a 13-person panel that included scholars, artists, critics and AFI trustees. Two juries – one for motion pictures and one for television – met to discuss media that made a negative or positive impression; current trends, either new or re-emerging; anniversaries; and technological innovations.

The AFI announced the other component of its 2004 awards, the top 10 AFI movies and television programs of the year, last week.

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