AFI Fest: The 8 Films on Everyone's Radar

Christian Geismaes/Magnolia Pictures

Lars Von Trier's "Melancholia" and Clint Eastwood's "J. Edgar" are among the 2011 festival's brightest contenders.

This story appears in the Nov. 11 issue of The Hollywood Reporter.

"I like to think of ourselves as the festival that kicks off awards season," says festival director jacqueline lyanga, who oversees the American Film Institute's annual cinema smorgasbord, which this year will feature the world premiere of J.Edgar, directed by AFI Life Achievement Award recipient Clint Eastwood. The screening represents a special coup for the festival, which runs Nov. 2 through Nov. 10 in theaters in Hollywood. "The film has been on everyone's radar, and the timing was perfect for us," adds Lyanga. Last year's lineup featured such Academy Award winners as The King's Speech and Black Swan, so Oscar predictors will be watching closely. Here are eight more films generating buzz.

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Carnage: After debuting in Venice and then serving as the opening-night film at the New York Film Festival, Roman Polanski's look at two civilized but warring couples will screen in advance of its Dec. 16 opening through Sony Pictures Classics.

Melancholia: While a number of world-class filmmakers will be in attendance, there's "no word yet" on whether the controversial Lars Von Trier will attend, Lyanga says, although his apocalyptic film, starring Kirsten Dunst, will be on display.

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Law of Desire: Guest artistic director Pedro Almodovar has selected a number of his favorite films and, along with Antonio Banderas, will be on hand for a 25th anniversary screening of  his 1986 film on Nov. 7. "We've shown most of Pedro's movies," Lyanga says of the director's longtime association with the fest.

Rampart: After seeing the film in Toronto, Lyanga knew she had to have it for the fest because the cop drama, directed by Oren Moverman, "is a real L.A. story, modern L.A. noir with a searing performance from Woody Harrelson."

My Week With Marilyn: The Weinstein Co.'s new film offers a portrait of the ultimate movie star, Marilyn Monroe, as reincarnated by Michelle Williams -- so what better setting to show it off than a film festival set in Hollywood?

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Pina: Wim Wenders' study of choreographer Pina Bausch is not the first upscale 3D movie to play the fest -- last year, it presented Werner Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams.

Miss Bala: This Mexican film about a beauty queen kidnapped by a drug cartel is one of eight features in the festival that have been submitted for the foreign-language Oscar. And its writer-director, Gerardo Naranjo, was a classmate of Lyanga's at AFI.

Shame: After igniting debate in Venice, Toronto and New York, Steve McQueen's raw, NC-17 film, starring Michael Fassbender as a sex addict, will have its first public Los Angeles showing in advance of its Dec. 2 release by Fox Searchlight.