Two of 2017’s most talked-about — and likely award-destined — LGBTQ movies are set to make their Los Angeles-area debuts at Hollywood’s AFI Fest. The annual fall event, one of the city’s best and most respected film festivals, opens on Thursday, November 9 and runs through the following Thursday, November 16, with most screenings happening at the TCL Chinese Theatres and the nearby Egyptian Theatre.
Call Me By Your Name, the Luca Guadagnino film based on the 2007 Andre Aciman novel about a 17-year-old who falls in love with a beguiling doctorate student while summering at his parents’ seaside Italian villa, will be featured as one of AFI Fest’s prestigious Centerpiece Gala selections. The sultry and visually stunning film, which stars Armie Hammer as the hunky older half of the young gay romance, made its debut at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. It’s since received broad critical acclaim, and is expected to be a contender come movie awards season.
Another strong competitor – and one that could break awards ground for trans performances – is A Fantastic Woman (Una Mujer Fantastica), Chile’s entry this year for the Best Foreign Language Academy Award. The film, which debuted earlier this year at the Berlin International Film Festival, stars Daniela Vega as a trans woman who, upon the sudden death of her older boyfriend, is shunned and tormented by his family, and eyed with increasing suspicion by police. Vega’s resplendent performance is already receiving Best Actress awards buzz, and could mark the first time that a trans actor receives major accolades from Hollywood.
Yet another LGBTQ-themed Best Foreign Language Oscar entry screening at AFI Fest this year comes from Norway. In the gripping thriller Thelma, Joachim Trier directs the story of a young woman who suddenly develops supernatural powers as she breaks away from her devoutly Christian parents and explores her sexuality.
Two more full-length queer films will also show at this year’s AFI Fest, which has established a strong track record for screening some of the best and most provocative queer titles from around the world.
From Canada comes A Skin So Soft (Ta peau si lisse), the hyper-masculine latest from maverick Québécois director Denis Côté, who also helmed 2013’s lesbian-themed Vic + Flo Saw a Bear. Melding the documentary format with improvised dialogue, Côté follows as group of male French Canadian bodybuilders as they work out, tan, oil up and cavort with each other.
From South Africa comes the American premiere of High Fantasy, the identity-exploring tale of four young friends who head into the wilderness for an overnight camping trip, and wake to discover that they’ve swapped bodies, genders and races. Director Jenna Bass filmed with an iPhone, giving the work a particularly millennial feel.
Several LGBTQ-themed shorts will also be part of this year’s AFI Fest. House of JXN looks at the dance clubs and rainbow families of Jackson, Mississippi. Still Devout is the story of a 23-year-old woman, still living at home, who must choose between her own needs (especially romance) and those of her family. From France comes Islands (Les îles) the latest from Yann Gonzalez (director of the 2013 queer feature You and the Night), which follows three characters through a labyrinth of love and desire.
A slew of excellent non-LGBTQ-themed films will of course also be screened at AFI Fest, including festival opener Mudbound (from lesbian director Dee Rees) and closer All the Money in the World (the world premiere of the latest from Ridley Scott, following a special AFI tribute to the director).
AFI Fest is one of few major festivals in the world to offer public tickets to screenings for absolutely free — but the process requires good timing and a bit of luck. Free tickets became available online on November 1, but they don’t always get snatched up immediately, and more free tickets are often released to the public as the festival gets closer. The best way to avoid disappointment and ensure access to all screenings is with a festival pass, which starts at $400.
A word of caution for those hoping to snag free tickets to Call Me By Your Name: Since this is a Gala screening, regular free tickets are unavailable. Instead, the festival offers free “Gala voucher” reservations, which are then redeemable for free tickets at the screening purely on a space-available basis. Successful conversion of a Gala voucher into an actual ticket generally requires queuing at least an hour early.
2017 AFI Fest screening schedule:
Call Me By Your Name: Fri Nov 10, 7:30pm at TCL Chinese Theatre
A Fantastic Woman: Mon Nov 13, 9:30pm at Chinese 1; Tue Nov 14, 3:45pm at Chinese 1
Thelma: Sat Nov 11, 9:15pm at Chinese 5; Mon Nov 13, 1pm at Chinese 2
A Skin So Soft: Sun Nov 12, 7pm at Chinese 2; Wed Nov 15, 7:30pm at Chinese 2
High Fantasy: Sat Nov 11, 7pm at Chinese 5; Wed Nov 15, 3:45pm at Chinese 3
House of JXN (Shorts Program 2): Fri Nov 10, 9:45pm at Chinese 2; Mon Nov 13, 6:45pm at Chinese 2
Still Devout (Shorts Program 5): Sat Nov 11, 5:30pm at Chinese 2; Tue Nov 14, 4:15pm at Chinese 2
Islands (Shorts Program 6): Fri Nov 10, 11:59pm at Chinese 6; Sun Nov 12, 1pm at Chinese 2