Contenders Lining Up at the AFI Fest Gate

6:00 AM PST 10/30/2012 by Gregg Kilday

Surveying the year's best, from Hitchcock to Lincoln, the festival serves as a tasty awards-season sampler.

When Fox Searchlight offered Jacqueline Lyanga, director of AFI Fest, a chance to present the world premiere of Hitchcock as the opening-night film when the festival kicks off at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood on Nov. 1, she jumped at the opportunity. Sacha Gervasi's movie about the famous director and his wife, Alma -- played by the blue-chip team of Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren -- re-creates the making of Psycho. "It looks at Hitchcock's creative process," says Lyanga. "It's very much about his collaboration with his wife, who helped him develop and edit Pyscho. Thematically, a film about the filmmaking process is a great way to open the festival."

Of course, it doesn't hurt that Searchlight hopes Hitchcock will be one of the season's prime contenders because the festival, presented by the American Film Institute with support from Audi, has developed into a prime showcase for movies seeking a leg up in the trophy chase. The lineup also includes 12 films, ranging alphabetically from Mexico's After Lucia to Canada's War Witch, that have been submitted by their respective countries for foreign-language Academy Award consideration. Offering tickets free of charge to the general public, the fest expects to be busier than ever: Last year it operated in four of six theaters at the adjacent Chinese 6, but this year it's taking over all six.

And, on Nov. 8, AFI Fest will offer as its closing-night feature the world premiere of Steven Spielberg's Lincoln. If organizers were at all perturbed when the rival New York Film Festival presented a sneak peek of the movie Oct. 9, Lyanga is too politic to admit it. "First and foremost, we support the filmmakers and the decisions they need to make," she says, adding, "I think it only builds excitement."

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GALAS AND SPECIAL SCREENINGS

Life of Pi | Grauman's, Nov. 2, 7:30 p.m.
Ang Lee's adaptation of Yann Martel's novel about a boy, a tiger and the open sea will unspool in 3D.

On the Road | Grauman's, Nov. 3, 8 p.m.
Walter Salles tackles Jack Kerouac's Beat generation novel with a cast that includes Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart and Amy Adams.

Rise of the Guardians | Grauman's, Nov. 4, 4 p.m.
DreamWorks Animation offers a new 3D take on such childhood favorites as Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.

Rust And Bone | Grauman's, Nov. 5, 7:30 p.m.
Jacques Audiard's tale of two damaged souls will screen along with a tribute to its star, Marion Cotillard.

The Impossible | Grauman's, Nov. 4, 8:30 p.m.;Chinese, Nov. 8, 4 p.m.
Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts confront the 2004 Asian tsunami.

Ginger & Rosa | Chinese, Nov. 7, 8 p.m.; Nov. 8, 1:15 p.m.
Elle Fanning is a young girl coming of age in 1960s England.

Silver Linings Playbook | Egyptian, Nov. 2, 8 p.m.;Chinese, Nov. 8, 3:45 p.m.
David O. Russell directs Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in an unconventional romantic comedy.

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