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Best Animation Oscar Contenders + Emilio Estevez Political Drama & More AFI FEST Movies

Press Release: Beverly Hills, CA – With 16 animated features submitted for consideration in 2006, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences anticipates that its Animated Feature Film category, for the first time since 2002, may include a full slate of five nominees.

The 16 features expected to compete for 79th Academy Awards nominations are:

The Ant Bully
Arthur and the Invisibles
Barnyard
Cars
Curious George
Everyone's Hero
Flushed Away
Happy Feet
Ice Age The Meltdown
Monster House
Open Season
Over the Hedge
Paprika
Renaissance
A Scanner Darkly
The Wild

Arthur and the Invisibles, Happy Feet and Paprika have not yet had their required Los Angeles releases. If any one of the group were not to meet that requirement, the field in the category would fall below 16, the number required to trigger the five-nominee slate. With 15 or fewer contenders, Academy rules allow a maximum of three nominated features.

Films submitted in the Animated Feature category also may qualify for Academy Awards in other categories, including Best Picture, provided they meet the requirements for those categories.

Nominations for the 79th Academy Awards will be announced on Tuesday, January 23, 2007, at 5:30 a.m. PST in the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2006 will be presented on Sunday, February 25, 2007, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center, and televised live by the ABC Television Network at 5 p.m. PST, beginning with a half-hour arrival segment.

A few picks for today, Nov. 5, at the AFI FEST:

The History Boys (2006) by Nicholas Hytner, with Richard Griffiths, Clive Merrison, and Frances de la Tour, written by Alan Bennett from hiw own play

Directed by Nicholas Hytner, and starring Richard Griffiths, Clive Merrison, and Frances de la Tour, the dramatic comedy The History Boys (12:30pm) was written by Alan Bennett from his own Tony Award-winning play about eight young students trying to get into college. The film has received 4 nominations for the 2006 British Independent Film Awards, including Best Actress (de la Tour) and Best Screenplay (Bennett).

Ten Canoes (2006) by Rolf de Heer, with Richard Birrinbirrin, David Gulpilil, Jamie GulpililAt 1:30pm, one can travel back in time to the ancient world of Rolf de Heer's Ten Canoes, which tells a story within a story within a story that isn't much of a story at all. But if Ten Canoes is lacking in terms of plot and drama, it offers an unsentimental, unflinching look at a culture – belonging to one of Australia's aboriginal groups – that has nearly vanished off the face of the planet.

I found the rhythm of Ten Canoes much too slow, especially at the end, but the film is still worth a look because it shows how human beings can be so different from “us” and at the same time be so very much like “us.” (I have the “us” in quotes because, after all, those spear-throwing, goose-egg hunting, big-headed people in de Heer's film are “us,” too.) Ten Canoes is Australia's submission for this year's Foreign Language Film Academy Award.

Fehér tenyér / White Palms (2006) by Szabólcs Hajdu, with Orion Radies, Silas Radies, Zoltán Miklós Hajdu, Kyle Shewfelt, Gheorghe DinicaBased on director Szabólcs Hajdu's brother's experiences, Fehér tenyér / White Palms (6:45pm) follows a talented Hungarian gymnast who, left traumatized by an abusive teacher, strives to regain his passion for the sport after emigrating to Canada. The film is Hungary's submission for this year's Foreign Language Film Academy Award. (The AFI FEST synopsis states that White Palms was nominated for an 2006 European Film Award for Best Film. It wasn't, though it was in the running for a nomination in that category.)

Das Leben der Anderen (2006) directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, starring Ulrich Muhe, Sebastian Koch, Martina Gedeck

Screenwriter-director Florian Henkel von Donnersmarck's Das Leben der Anderen / The Lives of Others (6pm), a drama about the Stasi, East Germany's feared state police-cum-spy agency, became a huge box office hit in Germany and has been widely praised. The film won 7 Lolas (Germany's Academy Awards), including Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor (Ulrich Mühe), and Best Screenplay. Das Leben der Anderen is Germany's submission for this year's Foreign Language Film Academy Award, and has been nominated for 6 European Film Awards (out of a mere 7 categories), including Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor (Mühe), Best Actress (Martina Gedeck), and Best Screenplay.

Nov. 6, Monday, at the AFI FEST 2006 - a few picks:

Das Leben der Anderen (2006) directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, starring Ulrich Muhe, Sebastian Koch, Martina Gedeck

At 12:30pm, screenwriter-director Florian Henkel von Donnersmarck's Das Leben der Anderen / The Lives of Others, a much-praised drama about East Germany's feared state police, the Stasi. The Sunday evening audience enthusiastically applauded the film, though I was quite disappointed. I was expecting a hard-hitting political tragedy but got instead an overlong, old-fashioned melodrama. Ulrich Mühe, however, is remarkable as the Stasi eavesdropper who starts questioning his allegiance to the ruling party, and was certainly a deserving winner of Germany's 2005 Best Actor Lola Award. More interesting than the film was von Donnersmarck's lengthy discourse on current German politics – but more on that later.

Ecoute le temps / Fissures (2006) by Alante Kavaite, with Emilie DequenneAt 4:15pm, Alanté Kavaïté's Ecoute le temps / Fissures is a gritty psychological-paranormal drama that boasts an outstanding performance by its young lead, Emilie Dequenne. The film revolves around a sound engineer (Dequenne) who, while staying at the crumbling house of her recently murdered clairvoyant mother, manages to capture sounds from the past that will eventually help her crack the case. Both director and star were present at the Sunday evening screening.

At 6pm, Marwan Hamed's The Yacoubian Building, a controversial drama involving sex, corruption, and assorted human relationships in an iconic Cairo building. The film caused a furor among political and religious reactionaries in Egypt, and is that country's submissions for the 2006 Foreign Language Film Oscar.

At 7pm, David Lynch's Inland Empire. The film stars Laura Dern, Justin Theroux, Harry Dean Stanton, and Jeremy Irons, among others. The AFI website refers to it as a “ sophisticated puzzle.” Some who've seen it have been left quite puzzled indeed.

Vier Minuten / Four Minutes (2006) by Chris Kraus, with Monica Bleibtreu, Hannah HerzsprungNov. 8, Wednesday, AFI FEST picks:

At 1:15pm, Chris Kraus' Vier Minuten / Four Minutes, the story of an elderly piano teacher (Monica Bleibtreu) who tries to reform a murderess (Hannah Herzsprung) by developing the young woman's musical talents. Vier Minuten won the Golden Goblet for Best Film at this year's Shanghai International Film Festival.

Grbavica (2006) Mirjana Karanovic Luna Mijovic Leon LucevAt 4pm, Jasmila Zbanic's Grbavica, a Bosnian War drama about a young woman who discovers the truth about her father's role in the war (and in her mother's life). The film won the Golden Bear at this year's 2006 Berlin Film Festival and has been nominated for two European Film Awards (Best Film and Best Actress – Mirjana Karanovic).

Farval Falkenberg / Falkenberg Farewell (2006) directed by Jesper Ganslandt, starring John Axel Eriksson, Holger Eriksson, David Johnson, Jesper Ganslandt

At 7pm, Jesper Ganslandt's Farval Falkenberg / Falkenberg, Farewell, Sweden's entry for the upcoming Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award. Set in a small Swedish town, Farval Falkenberg follows four young friends on the cusp of adulthood as circumstances begin to push them apart.

My Name Is Jackie Beat (2006) by Randolph Mark Viverito, with Jackie Beat a.k.a. Kent FuherAnd at 9:45pm, Randolph Mark Viverito's My Name Is Jackie Beat, described as a “concert-style documentary.” As per the AFI FEST catalog, Viverito “follows the life of one of today's most notorious bad-girl drag performers – Jackie Beat. Backstage we meet Kent Fuher, the man behind Jackie Beat, an incredibly talented performer whose life is ruled by constant doubts and insecurities. As Kent Fuher travels between New York City, Toronto, Los Angeles, Fire Island and then across the Atlantic to Berlin, he constantly questions his life and profession and slowly reveals his personal life.”

Friday evening at the AFI FEST 06:

At 4:15pm, Roger Michells Venus, starring Peter OToole who has been touted for an Oscar win as an elderly actor (married to Vanessa Redgrave) who befriends the grandniece (Jodie Whittaker) of a fellow veteran actor (Leslie Phillips). Venus was nominated for five British Independent Film Awards: Best Actor (OToole), Best Supporting Performance (Redgrave, Phillips), Best Newcomer (Whittaker), and Best Screenplay (Hanif Kureishi).

At 7pm, Argentinas submission for the 2006 Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award, Derecho de familia / Family Law. Directed by Daniel Burman, Derecho de familia is a dramatic comedy starring Daniel Hendler as thirty-something attorney who must come to terms with his role as both father and son.

At 7:15pm, Tony Gatlifs Transylvania, a road movie of sorts, starring Asia Argento as a woman who travels to Romania to meet with one man, but ends up hooking up with another, played by Birol Unel of Head-On.

At 9:30pm, Jens Liens quirky comedy Den brysomme mannen / The Bothersome Man, winner of the Best Director, Best Actor (Trond Fausa Aurvaag), and Best Screenwriting awards at this years Norwegian Film Institute Amanda Awards.

Thursday at the AFI FEST:

At 4:15pm, Jesper Ganslandts touching and more than a little disturbing Farval Falkenberg / Falkenberg, Farewell, Swedens entry for the upcoming Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award. Set in a small Swedish coastal town, Farval Falkenberg follows five young friends on the cusp of adulthood, as they do drugs and loaf around until tragedy unexpectedly strikes.

At 6:30pm, Rachid Boucharebs Indigènes / Days of Glory, the story of North Africans fighting for France during World War II, and the winner of an ensemble Best Actor Award at the Cannes Film FestivalIndigènes is Algerias selection for the 2006 Best Foreign-Language Film Academy Award. (Bouchareb was born in France, but is of Algerian ancestry.)

At 6:45pm, Roger Michells Venus, starring Peter OToole who has been touted for an Oscar win as an elderly actor (married to Vanessa Redgrave) who befriends the grandniece (Jodie Whittaker) of a fellow veteran actor (Leslie Phillips). Venus was nominated for five British Independent Film Awards: Best Actor (OToole), Best Supporting Performance (Redgrave, Phillips), Best Newcomer (Whittaker), and Best Screenplay (Hanif Kureishi).

At 12am, Mexicos selection for the 2006 Best Foreign-Language Film Academy Award, El Laberinto del fauno / Pans Labyrinth, a mix of politics and fantasy in which a young girl escapes from the brutal reality of the right-wing regime of Spains General Francisco Franco by creating an imaginary world of mystery and horror. Directed and written by Guillermo del ToroPans Labyrinth stars Ivana Baquero and Doug Jones.

AFI FEST

The AFI FEST 2006, which takes off tonight at the Grauman”s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, will screen Emilio Estevez”s Bobby as its opening-night gala presentation.

From the AFI press release:

AFI FEST 2006 presented by Audi: AFI Los Angeles International Film Festival announces that Emilio Estevez”s Bobby has been chosen as the Festival”s Opening Night Gala presentation. Written and directed by Emilio Estevez, Bobby revisits the night Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles in 1968. This presentation will mark the film”s US premiere.

The film features a remarkable ensemble cast including: Harry Belafonte, Joy Bryant, Nick Cannon, Emilio Estevez, Laurence Fishburne, Brian Geraghty, Heather GrahamAnthony HopkinsHelen Hunt, Joshua Jackson, David Krumholtz, Ashton KutcherShia LaBeoufLindsay Lohan, William H. Macy, Svetlana Metkina, Demi Moore, Freddy Rodriguez, Martin SheenChristian Slater, Sharon Stone, Jacob Vargas, Mary Elizabeth Winstead
and Elijah Wood. Many from the cast are expected to attend.

With an incredible ensemble cast portraying fictionalized characters from a cross-section of America, Bobby follows 22 disparate individuals whose lives intersect at the hotel as they anticipate Kennedy”s arrival for the presidential primary election night party-an event which would change their lives forever. This historic night is set against the backdrop of the cultural issues gripping the country at the time: racism, sexual inequality and class differences. Bobby is a Bold Films production of a Weinstein Company presentation and is being distributed in theaters by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. (MGM).

Bobby will open AFI FEST 2006 on Wednesday, November 1, 2006 at Grauman”s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. A reception will follow at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. The Opening Night Film and Gala are presented by Audi of America with support from the Hollywood Sign Trust.

"We are honored to launch AFI FEST 2006 with the US Premiere of Bobby. This is a film that chronicles a powerful moment in American history—a moment that is also significant in the history of the city of Los Angeles," says Jean Picker Firstenberg, AFI”s President and CEO. "As AFI FEST celebrates its 20th year, we are especially proud to premiere this film here."

"When I began writing Bobby is the summer of 2000, I had a growing frustration with “runaway production.” It seemed that one remedy was to create a piece indigenous to Los Angeles by setting the film at the infamous Ambassador Hotel," said Estevez. "Surely, this grand hotel could never be duplicated north of the border. It is only fitting that the US premiere takes place in Los Angeles. AFI FEST choosing my picture for the opening night is as big of a thrill as a filmmaker could hope for. I am honored to be chosen for this auspicious event."

Thirteen of the films making their World Premieres at AFI FEST 2006 include:
AFTER (USA) Director: David Cunningham 
AFTER is a visceral, high energy, adrenaline fueled thriller about urban explorers in the Moscow underground, featuring original music by The Crystal Method.

BACK HOME (USA/Rwanda) Director: J.B. Rutagarama 
The first film about the Rwandan genocide made by an actual survivor, BACK HOME is the true story of director J.B. Rutagarama, who was adopted by reporters as he fled the killings. They gave him a new life — and the courage to eventually return to his homeland to confront what happened there.

BEAUTIFUL OHIO (USA) Director: Chad Lowe 
Starring William HurtRita Wilson and Julianna Margulies; BEAUTIFUL OHIO is a coming-of-age story of an entire family in the late ”70s.

BIG DREAMS LITTLE TOKYO (USA) Director: David Boyle 
BIG DREAMS, LITLLE TOKYO is the story of Boyd, who aspires to succeed in the world of Japanese business but finds himself mostly on the outside looking in. His roommate, Jerome, is a Japanese American who has always felt too American to be Japanese but too Japanese to be American. Together they struggle to find their place in a world where cultural identity is elusive.

BROKEN (USA,) Director: Alan White 
Hope (Heather Graham) confronts all the wrong turns she has made in her short life and ultimately ends up facing the biggest wrong turn of all: her dangerous ex-boyfriend Will (Jeremy Sisto), who”s determined to win back her love or die trying.

COMIC EVANGELISTS (USA/Canada) Director: Daniel Jones, Dann Sytsma 
In the small town of Kalamazoo, Michigan, the world”s first improv troupe, the Comic Evangelists are on a mission from God. When group co-founder Nigel suggests that the group enter the Toronto International Improv Festival, the group immediately leaps on the opportunity to spread the gospel to a larger audience. But will the group”s faith be enough to get them through this experience?

FISSURES / ECOUTE LE TEMPS (France) Director: Alante Kavaite 
After Charlotte”s mother is murdered, she decides to take action. As a sound engineer, she uses her equipment to carry out her own investigation. While listening to a recording just made in the house where the murder took place, Charlotte discovers a strange phenomenon—sounds from the past blend in with sounds from the present.

GIRL 27 (USA) Director: David Stenn Note: This film has been withdrawn from the festival.
In 1937 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the most prestigious and powerful movie studio in the world, tricked 120 underage dancers into attending a stag party for its salesmen. Patricia Douglas was raped trying to escape. Instead of heeding studio advice and staying silent, she went public and filed a landmark lawsuit. The resulting scandal and studio cover-up drove Douglas into hiding. "We had her killed," an MGM executive boasted at the time. Now, 65 years later, Patricia Douglasemerges in this documentary to tell her incredible story.

HOLLYWOOD DREAMS (USA) Director: Henry Jaglom
Set in the City of Angels, featuring engaging performances by David Proval, Karen Black, Zack Norman and Melissa Leo, a young girl fresh off the bus from Iowa (Tanna Frederick) falls in love with a promising young actor (Justin Kirk), complicating her goal of becoming a famous actress.

MEMORIES OF TOMORROW (Japan) Director: Yokihiko Tsutsumi
Suffering from dizziness and headaches, unable to find the words he is looking for or remember people”s names, Saeki (Ken Watanabe) is diagnosed with anearly onset of Alzheimer”s disease. This emotionally touching story depicts and questions, what it is to love and share a life with someone who has lost his memory.

MOTHERLAND AFGHANISTAN (USA/Afghanistan) Director: Sedika Mojadidi
An Afghan-American filmmaker follows her father”s return to Afghanistan to battle one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. Following their travels from Kabul”s Laura Bush Maternity Ward to one of the country”s most isolated rural hospitals in Ghazni province, this documentary gives a rare insider”s view into the lives of the women behind the statistics.

NO SWEAT (USA) Director: Arnie Williams
An all-American tale about an all-American garment—the T-shirt—this documentary takes a wild ride into the Los Angeles garment industry. Mostly undocumented workers at American Apparel and SweatX are offered better wages, benefits, even a shot at worker-ownership. But what”s really behind the label?

SCREAMERS (UK) Director: Carla Garapedian
The film follows the Grammy-award winning rock band System of a Down as they confront the issue of the Armenian genocide in 1915 Turkey and efforts by the Turkish government to deny it. Through the band”s personal campaign to stop all such tragedies, this documentary traces the Armenian genocide”s links to the Holocaust, Rwanda, Bosnia, the Iraqi Kurds and today”s conflict in Darfur. We may say “never again” but we do we mean it?

As previously announced, AFI FEST 2006 will be celebrating 20 years in 2006, with plans to celebrate AFI FEST and 15 years of FILMEX through a series of commemorative events, series and special programs throughout the 11 day festival.


         
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