AFI FEST 2012: 28 Films From the Festival We’ve Already Seen

By  · Published on October 31st, 2012

Kicking off this week with its Opening Night Gala for Hitchcock, Hollywood’s own AFI FEST effectively wraps up the year’s film festival-going season (a season that lasts approximately eleven months). Such calendar placement means that AFI FEST comes late enough in the year to serve as a last hurrah for titles that have been playing the festival circuit as far back as January (at Sundance) or as far away as France, Berlin, and Venice, and is the perfect opportunity for Southern California-based film geeks (or those willing to put some miles on their passport) to catch up on films they’ve been anticipating for months. Of course, of the 136 films playing at this year’s festival, we’ve managed to catch nearly a fifth of them at other fests, and we’re quite pleased to use this opportunity to remind you as such.

Confused over what to see at the festival? Be confused no more! After the break, jog your memories of our always-extensive festival coverage with reviews for twenty-eight films set to play at this week’s AFI FEST that we’ve already seen (and, you know, reviewed). It’s like getting your festival coverage whole days early!

Electrick Children

Our own Gwen Reyes deemed Rebecca Thomas’ debut film one of the 12 Best Movies of SXSW 2012. What more do you need? How about the promise that a “film that could have taken a dark, Mysterious Skin-like turn actually has a huge heart and so much whimsy it’s nearly impossible to walk out not smiling; or also get knocked up by the catchy cover of The Nerve’s ‘Hanging on the Telephone.’”


We liked Antiviral so much, we reviewed it twice! At Fantastic Fest, Brian Salisbury sums up his review of the film by writing that Brandon Croneberg’s film is “thoughtful, effectively shocking, well-shot and well-preformed” and is “a formidable introduction to the new Cronenberg.” Back at Cannes, Simon Gallagher wrote in his review that “you’ll wince, you’ll gasp, you’ll even laugh at the director’s audacity at including some of the more outrageously grotesque shots, but most of all you will be affected down to your core on more than one occasion.” Mmm, grotesque!

Somebody Up There Likes Me

Despite a game cast, Bob Byington’s Somebody Up There Likes Me didn’t strike my fancy at SXSW 2012. In fact, I think I may have hated the film, calling it “boring twaddle masquerading as something more exiciting and more important, thanks to a barely hidden high concept conceit that frequently make the production just look sloppy and inattentive” in my review. Ouch. Sorry, Bob, even I had to flinch at those harsh words. Perhaps it will play better at AFI?


Man, what was going on with my picks at SXSW 2012? Another debut at the festival, Sean Baker’s Starlet drove me positively batty. A meandering tale about losers in Hollywood, what bothered me most was that I could see and sense what Baker was going for, but that just didn’t translate to the screen. The saving grace of Starlet? Its own starlet, Dree Hemingway, whose lovely performance is worth the watch. Read my review to read the rest of my beefs.

Holy Motors

Remember how much we liked Antiviral? So much that we reviewed it twice? Scratch that, we liked Holy Motors so much that we reviewed it three times. Madness! At Cannes, Simon said in his review that it was in “conventional terms, Holy Motors is probably a failure: it is a deranged, experimental oddity, provocative to the extreme, and it defies all but surface explanation. But Denis Lavant’s performance shines as brilliant and Carax’s dedication to his nightmarish, occasionally impenetrable concept is admirable.” At Fantastic Fest, Adam Charles wrote in his take on the film that “to call Holy Motors unique would be an understatement, but its uniqueness is not cold nor off-putting.” And at NYFF, Daniel Walber used his review to consider that “Holy Motors might very well be undecided itself. It seems more likely that this is an open ended meditation than any sort of complicated yet definitive statement on the life or death of the art form. Some will find that infuriating, others will see in it the greatest of meta-artistic statements.”

Verdict? Must-see.

The Angels’ Share

At Cannes, Simon wrote in his review that Ken Loach’s latest is “a gentle, but politically loaded comedy, steeped in Gaelic identity but carrying a wider message that feels appropriate well beyond the geographical borders of the film.”

Ginger and Rosa

We dispatched Walber to check out Sally Potter’s Ginger and Rosa at this year’s NYFF, and he came back with a review that singled out Elle Fanning’s performance as the one to watch, writing that the young actress’s “naturalistic performance is breathtaking, and a major step forward for the actress.”

Room 237

A hit at Sundance, we sent our man Kevin Kelly in early to check out Rodney Ascher’s Room 237, and he came back with nothing but love for it. Kevin wrote that in his review that “this movie will force you to see The Shining differently, whether you like it or not. It will also give you a deeper appreciation of Kubrick’s films, including (oddly enough), Eyes Wide Shut.” Weird! Brian Salisbury was much less forgiving in his Fantastic Fest review of the film, writing that “the theories presented as often as silly as they are miserably supported and the editing leaves much to be desired.” Yowch!

West of Memphis

One of the most haunting films I’ve seen this year (and I’ve seen it twice), Amy Berg’s West of Memphis packs a punch. Yes, it’s yet another documentary on the West Memphis Three, but Berg’s comes with new access and interviews, and in my Sundance review for the film, I pointed out that “Berg uses a number of documentary filmmaking techniques to present the story ‐ all are exceedingly well-executed and, despite the film’s vast number of players and Berg’s decision to flit back and forth between time periods, it’s both easy to follow and to engage with.” Also, you’ll cry.

The Central Park Five

Simon spent some time with Ken Burns’ latest documentary at Cannes, and found it to be “a simple but artful chronological account of the case” that includes “stock footage, clippings and music choices [that] are all well-thought through and impressively executed.” Ultimately, he found The Central Park Five to be a worthy pick for movie-goers, and his well-reasoned review reflects that.


At TIFF, Andrew Robinson found Pieta to be a worthy new South Korean revenge film that stands out from an increasingly large pack. Find out why when you read his review.


Ugh, BRB, crying. (Read Caitlin Hughes’ NYFF review for the film HERE.)

Sun Don’t Shine

Finally, a solid choice from SXSW 2012! Amy Seimetz’s feature debut still haunts me to this day, with the fever dream that is Sun Don’t Shine refuses to let go its “creepy and freaky” hold on me. And as far as performance? Lead Kate Lyn Sheil, an indie darling who, as I told it in my review of the film, has “reached a higher register” with her work here. She chills. She thrills. She…well, you’ll see.

Beyond the Hills

Walber gave Beyond the Hills a startling A+ at NYFF. What more do you want? Perhaps to read his review?

Caesar Must Die

Yeah, Walber’s NYFF review of Paolo and Vittorio Taviani’s film makes it sound straight-up breathtaking. Read it now, see the film soon.

The Hunt

Simon’s Cannes review of the film made me want to see it at AFI FEST. It should do the same for you.

Laurence Anyways

Again at Cannes, Simon didn’t have as much love for Laurence Anyways in his review, writing that it is an “infuriating mix of shattered expectations and self-important artistic masturbation, with the successful elements cruelly washed away in a torrent of messy, ill-conceived artifice. Yes there is accomplishment in the film-making, and Dolan clearly has a strict dedication to his own aesthetic and compositional choices, but there is too little restraint or intellect in most of the film. Perhaps that accounts for the over-bloated running time.” Oof.

Like Someone in Love

At NYFF, Caitlin wrote in her review that Kiarostami’s film is “a powerful meditation on people being disconnected from one another.” Again, BRB, crying.

Paradise: Love

At Cannes, Simon called Paradise: Love many things. Like grotesque, uncomfortable, baffling, and distasteful. His review sounds like more fun than the actual film.

Berberian Sound Studio

One of Allison’s Most Anticipated Films of AFI FEST, Adam checked out Berbarian Sound Studio at Fantastic Fest, writing in his review that, despite some initial confusion about this reaction to the film, he “can recall a lot about it, so it obviously isn’t forgettable or throwaway and a lot of that has to do with Peter Strickland having a vision for what he wanted and executing it well, even though it isn’t directly apparent to me what that is. It’s an obscurely comatose film. It doesn’t noticeably fluctuate in its tone or intensity and I gather that was deliberate, because for a film about the behind-the-scenes of recording film Strickland knows what people put in horror films to make them frightening.”


Both Simon (who reviewed the film at Cannes) and Andrew (who caught the movie at TIFF) found it to be a compelling and entertaining take on the oversaturation of reality television. Certainly better than watching more of those damn Kardashians.

Something In the Air

Caitlin found Olivier Assayas’s Something in the Air to be perhaps too close to its subject matter at NYFF, writing in her review that the 1970s-set film “accurately evokes this time, complete with its youthful yet misguided intensity.”

The Sapphires

What, Aboriginal Dreamgirls? What more do you need? Chris O’Dowd is in it? If you’re insane and need more convincing, check out Simon’s review from Cannes.


Things got so divisive over at Reject HQ that we felt compelled to review Wrong three times. It’s all so right. Here’s the breakdown: I liked it a lot at Sundance, while both Salisbury and Hunter saddled it with a C- grade at Fantasia and Fantastic Fest, respectively. What can it all mean? Most likely ‐ nothing. And that might be just the way Quentin Dupieux wants it to be.

The ABC’s of Death

There is simply so much to tackle with the short-fest that is ABCs (there are, of course, 26 films encased in its running time) that it’s not surprising that our own Luke Mullen decided to break it down in a fun way out of Fantastic Fest, writing up ten segments he liked and five he didn’t for his review of the film. The other 11? Who knows!

Come Out and Play

Wait, “hordes of psychotic tots”? Pardon? Salisbury took in the film at Fantastic Fest, and despite the promise of a FF film about nutty kiddos, it seemed to miss the mark. In his review, B-Sali did write, however, that “despite the foreknowledge of the pint-sized threat, the script still offers adequate twists and turns, but…it is largely beholden to Who Can Kill a Child? And once more, let us not shy away from the unrelenting truth that kids are in fact fucking terrifying.” Fair enough.

Here Comes the Devil

Doesn’t it feel like Here Comes the Devil should have a super-jaunty theme song? While it doesn’t, Adam wrote in his review from Fantastic Fest that the film “may contain more of its midnight movie roots than its arthouse influences…, the fact that it contains both and weaves them together well enough to not feel too much of either is a testament to a filmmaker and cast that knows when too much gratuity is too much to take seriously; and too little seriousness is not enough to make us care about any of the horrors experienced.” That sounds…kinda great really.

John Dies at the End

One of the most interesting films to hit the festival circuit in ages, Don Coscarelli‘s adaptation of the book of the same name has gone through a number of changes since it premiered as a work-in-progress screening at Sundance. Back then, Allison wrote in her review that the movie “is escapism at its best and, in a time when most films rely on technology and special effects to drive their stories, it was almost refreshing to see the inventive ways Coscarelli achieved his out-there vision.” At SXSW, Jack Giroux saw a slightly tweaked version, which he promised in his review will leave audience members “wanting more of this world.”

For more AFI FEST 2012 coverage, keep it locked right here at Film School Rejects.

What are you seeing at this year’s AFI FEST? Let us know in the comments below.

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