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At the opening night of this year’s AFI Fest, American Film Institute president and CEO Bob Gazzale took the stage at the TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood to tell a story.
He talked of a young mother who called in to AFI wanting to become a member, at the time having a 5-year-old son and a 3-year-old daughter. He told the audience about how, over the next three decades, this woman would continue to support AFI and would recount stories of her daughter as she grew, became an actor, won and Oscar and started a family.
“We gather tonight to celebrate the journey of that three year old girl,” said Gazzale.
The woman in the story was Marcheline Bertrand and her daughter: Angelina Jolie Pitt, whose film By the Sea was opening the festival.
Following the introduction, Jolie Pitt came on stage with the cast of the film, which she wrote, directed and produced. She offered: “This film, at it’s core, is about grief and that grief comes from the loss of my mother.”
Jolie Pitt was incredibly close to her mother, who divorced actor Jon Voight several years after the actress was born. Bertrand passed away after nearly a decade long battle with ovarian cancer in 2007.
Before the screening, Jolie Pitt talked to The Hollywood Reporter on the red carpet about why she chose AFI Fest as the venue to premiere By the Sea. “This film is an art film and we wanted it to be in a place that respects art,” she explained.
By the Sea centers on a disenchanted married couple, one an alcoholic writer and the other a former dancer with a pill addiction, both plagued with a serious case of ennui as they vacation in a sleepy French town on the coast. Jolie Pitt stars in the film alongside her real life husband Brad Pitt, with Melanie Laurent and Melvil Poupaud in the role of their newlywed neighbors.
Although it stars arguably the two biggest names in contemporary American cinema, the movie has been likened to a foreign film, drawing from the modernist European cinema of the ‘60s and ‘70s.
“My mom loved films of that period,” explained Jolie Pitt to THR. “So in a way I wanted to make a film that spoke to her and films that she loved.”
Before walking off stage to start the screening of the world premiere of her latest directorial endeavor, Jolie Pitt offered a few final words:
“This film is about learning to move on.”
By the Sea opens in select theaters on Nov. 13.
AFI Fest runs Nov. 5 to Nov. 12.
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