The full lineup for AFI FEST 2021 is here! Featuring 115 titles, this year’s film festival will showcase internationally acclaimed and award-winning films, including Sony Pictures Classics’ PARALLEL MOTHERS, written and directed by Academy Award® winner Pedro Almodóvar, which will screen as a Red Carpet Premiere at the historic TCL Chinese Theatre on Saturday, November 13. The film joins the previously announced Red Carpet Premiere titles which include Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award® winner Lin-Manuel Miranda’s tick, tick…BOOM!, Reinaldo Marcus Green’s KING RICHARD starring Will Smith, Academy Award® winner Halle Berry’s directorial debut BRUISED and Academy Award® winner Benjamin Cleary’s feature directorial debut SWAN SONG.
The complete AFI FEST program represents 50 countries and includes six World Premieres, and of the 115 titles, 51% are directed by women, 40% directed by BIPOC filmmakers and 13% are directed by LGBTQIA+ filmmakers.
“We are excited to celebrate AFI FEST 2021 in person at the historic TCL Chinese theater and showcase both master filmmakers and emerging voices,” said Sarah Harris, Director of Programming, AFI Festivals. “In a time when we need movies more than ever, we look forward to audiences being inspired by the best films from around the world screening at this year’s AFI FEST.”
Early bird passes are now available at FEST.AFI.com, and individual tickets for in-person and virtual screenings and events will be available to AFI members on October 19 and the general public on October 20. With health and safety being top priority, AFI FEST 2021 will require all festival-goers who attend in-person events and/or screenings to be fully vaccinated. AFI members receive exclusive discounts and benefits to the film festival. To become an AFI member, visit AFI.com/join/.
Returning filmmakers to FEST include Hany Abu-Assad (HUDA’S SALON), Andrea Arnold (COW), Jacques Audiard (PARIS, 13TH DISTRICT), Sean Baker (RED ROCKET), Michel Franco (SUNDOWN), Miguel Gomes (THE TSUGUA DIARIES), Mahamat-Saleh Haroun (LINGUI, THE SACRED BONDS), Céline Sciamma (PETITE MAMAN), Apichatpong Weerasethakul (MEMORIA), and Zhang Yimou (ONE SECOND).
Internationally acclaimed and award-winning films include AHED’S KNEE (DIR Nadav Lapid), COSTA BRAVA, LEBANON (DIR Mounia Akl), DRIVE MY CAR (DIR Ryusuke Hamaguchi), THE GIRL AND THE SPIDER (DIR Ramon Zürcher, Silvan Zürcher), GOOD MADAM (DIR Jenna Bass), GREAT FREEDOM (DIR Sebastian Meise), HAPPENING (DIR Audrey Diwan), JOCKEY (DIR Clint Bentley), MEMORIA (DIR Apichatpong Weerakethakul), PRAYERS FOR THE STOLEN (DIR Tatiana Huezo), UNCLENCHING THE FISTS (DIR Kira Kovalenko), WHAT DO WE SEE WHEN WE LOOK AT THE SKY? (DIR Aleksandre Koberidze) and THE WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD (DIR Joachim Trier).
NBC News’ Meet the Press Film Festival at AFI FEST, now in its fifth year, will spotlight 15 compelling short documentaries about pressing issues facing our society. Since its launch, the Meet the Press Film Festival has showcased nearly 100 issue-based short films from nine countries, including more than a dozen Oscar® and Emmy® nominees. This year’s festival will feature five program tracks spotlighting issues from racial and gender equality, immigration and democracy to identity, criminal justice and police reform among others. Films include BREE WAYY: PROMISE WITNESS REMEMBRANCE by 2021 AFI DOCS Charles Guggenheim Symposium honoree Dawn Porter about art as a means of protesting and healing; CODED: THE HIDDEN LOVE OF J.C. LEYENDECKER about legendary early-20th century gay illustrator J.C. Leyendecker; and THE TRAIN STATION about the Lejac Indian Residential School by Lyana Patrick. The screenings of the films will be followed by conversations moderated by NBC News correspondents and anchors, including Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd.
AFI FEST 2021 Full Lineup
RED CARPET PREMIERES
A celebration of the most anticipated films of the year, showcasing excellence in the art form.
Marking the directorial debut of Academy Award® winner Halle Berry, BRUISED is a triumphant story of a fighter who reclaims her power, in and out of the ring, when everyone has counted her out. DIR Halle Berry. SCR Michelle Rosenfarb. CAST Halle Berry, Adan Canto, Adriane Lenox, Sheila Atim, Valentina Shevchenko, Lela Loren, Nikolai Nikolaef, Danny Boyd, Jr., Shamier Anderson, Stephen Henderson. USA. World Premiere.
Based on the inspiring true story, KING RICHARD follows the journey of a family whose unwavering resolve and unconditional belief ultimately deliver two of the world’s greatest sports legends – Venus and Serena Williams. DIR Reinaldo Marcus Green. SCR Zach Baylin. CAST Will Smith, Aunjanue Ellis, Saniyya Sidney, Demi Singleton, Jon Bernthal, Tony Goldwyn. USA
Two women, Janis and Ana, are both single mothers that meet in the hospital before giving birth to their daughters. Their bond quickly becomes complicated in the latest drama from Spanish auteur Pedro Almodóvar. DIR Pedro Almodóvar. SCR Pedro Almodóvar. CAST Penélope Cruz, Melina Smit, Israel Elejalde, Aitana Sanchez-Gijon, Rossy de Palma, Julieta Serrano. Spain
Cameron (two-time Academy Award® winner Mahershala Ali), a loving husband and father diagnosed with a terminal illness, is presented with an alternative solution by his doctor to shield his family from grief. DIR Benjamin Cleary. SCR Benjamin Cleary. CAST Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Glenn Close, Awkwafina. USA. World Premiere.
Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award® winner Lin-Manuel Miranda makes his feature directorial debut with tick, tick…BOOM!, an adaptation of the autobiographical musical by composer and playwright Jonathan Larson, who revolutionized theater as the creator of “Rent.” DIR Lin-Manuel Miranda. SCR Steven Levenson. CAST Andrew Garfield, Alexandra Shipp, Robin de Jesús, Vanessa Hudgens, Joshua Henry, Bradley Whitford, Tariq Trotter, Judith Light. USA. World Premiere.
The best in contemporary cinema from renowned storytellers and new voices from across the globe.
Filmmaker Y has just arrived in the remote Arava Valley to introduce a retrospective of his films at the local library when librarian Yahalom presents him with a waiver restricting certain topics. DIR Nadav Lapid. SCR Nadav Lapid. CAST Avshalom Pollak, Nur Fibak, Avshalom Pollak, Nur Fibak, Yoram Honig, Lidor Ederi, Yonathan Kugler, Yehonathan Vilozni, Naama Preis. Israel
ALI & AVA
In this working-class romance filled with rich performances, Ali and Ava must navigate the emotional turmoil of their pasts to keep their newfound passion alive. DIR Clio Barnard. SCR Clio Barnard. CAST Claire Rushbrooke, Adeel Akhtar. UK
CASABLANCA BEATS (HAUT ET FORT)
A group of young students in Morocco begin a passionate journey of self-discovery and artistic expression by practicing rap as they confront the social issues explored in their lyrics. DIR Nabil Ayouch. SCR Nabil Ayouch with Maryam Touzani. CAST Meryem Nekkach, Anas Basbousi, Nouhaila Arif, Ismail Adouab. Morocco, France
Rona is an Israeli teaching a film class to a diverse group of eight women. The class becomes the catalyst for deeper discovery as these women bond over their shared experience. DIR Orit Fouks Rotem. SCR Orit Fouks Rotem. CAST Dana Ivgy, Joanna Said, Amal Murkus, Ruth Landau, Yulia Tagil, Marlene Bajali, Aseel Farhat, Orit Samuel, Liora Levi, Khawlah Hag Debsy. Israel
COSTA BRAVA, LEBANON
In this feature debut from Lebanese filmmaker Mounia Akl, a whimsical, close-knit family eludes the political and environmental crises of Beirut by isolating in the remote mountains – until their peaceful days are disrupted. DIR Mounia Akl. SCR Mounia Akl, Clara Roquet. CAST Nadine Labaki, Saleh Bakri, Nadia Charbel, Ceana and Geana Restom, Yumna Marwan, Liliane Chacar Khoury, François Nour. Lebanon, France, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Qatar
DRIVE MY CAR (DORAIBU MAI KÂ)
Based on a Haruki Murakami short story and awarded Best Screenplay at Cannes, Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s epic explores what is left behind when a love is lost and a city is decimated. DIR Ryusuke Hamaguchi. SCR Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Takamasa Oe. CAST Hidetoshi Nishijima, Toko Miura, Masaki Okada, Masaki Okada, Reika Kirishima, Park Yurim, Jin Daeyeon. Japan
THE GIRL AND THE SPIDER
Lisa is moving out of the apartment she shares with Mara. Friends and neighbors arrive to assist and unspoken tensions simmer just beneath the surface. DIR Ramon Zürcher, Silvan Zürcher. SCR Ramon Zürcher, Silvan Zürcher. CAST Henriette Confurius, Liliane Amuat, Ursina Lardi, Flurin Giger, André M. Hennicke, Ivan Georgiev, Dagna Litzenberger Vinet, Lea Draeger, Sabine Timoteo, Margherita Schoch, Seraphina Schweiger, Birte Schnöink. Switzerland
GOOD MADAM (MLUNGU WAM)
In Jenna Cato Bass’ psychological thriller steeped in remnants of postcolonialism and apartheid, Tsidi moves in with her estranged mother Mavis, a housekeeper under the spell of her mysterious and reclusive Madam. DIR Jenna Cato Bass. SCR Jenna Cato Bass, Babalwa Baartman, Chumisa Cosa, Nosipho Mtebe, Kamvalethu Jonas Raziya, Sanda Shandu, Khanyiso Kenqa, Chris Gxalaba, Peggy Tunyiswa, Sizwe Ginger Lubengu, Siya Sikawuti, Steve Larter. CAST Nosipho Mtebe, Chumisa Cosa, Kamvalethu Jonas Raziya, Khanyiso Kenqa, Sanda Shandu, Sizwe Ginger Lubengu, Siya Sikawuti, Peggy Tunyiswa, Chris Gxalaba. South Africa
GREAT FREEDOM (GROSSE FREIHEIT)
Winner of Cannes’ Un Certain Regard Jury Prize, this unlikely love story by director Sebastian Meise depicts the engrossing life of Hans, a man in postwar Germany who is continuously imprisoned for being gay. DIR Sebastian Meise. SCR Thomas Reider, Sebastian Meise. CAST Franz Rogowski, Georg Friedrich, Anton von Lucke, Thomas Prenn. Austria, Germany
Winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, Audrey Diwan’s timely adaptation of Annie Ernaux’s autobiographical novel depicts a young woman caught between her ambitions and an unexpected pregnancy in 1960s France. DIR Audrey Diwan. SCR Audrey Diwan and Marcia Romano. CAST Anamaria Vartolomei, Kacey Mottet-Klein, Luàna Bajrami, Louise Orry Diquiero, Louise Chevillotte, Pio Marmaï, Sandrine Bonnaire, Anna Mouglalis. France
HIT THE ROAD (JADDE KHAKI)
An endearing yet frenzied family of four embarks on a mysterious road trip to an unknown destination in this distinctive and surprising debut from Panah Panahi, the son of acclaimed Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi. DIR Panah Panahi. SCR Panah Panahi. CAST Hassan Madjooni, Pantea Panahiha, Rayan Sarlak, Amin Simiar. Iran
HOLY EMY (AGIA EMY)
Living in Athens and keeping to themselves, Emy and Teresa live a simple life centered around attending mass, working in a fish market and avoiding the locals, but the outside world soon encroaches. DIR Araceli Lemos. SCR Araceli Lemos, Giulia Caruso. CAST Abigael Loma, Hasmine Kilip, Angeli Bayani, Ku Aquino, Michalis Siriopoulos, Irene Inglesi. Greece, France, USA
Academy Award®-nominated filmmaker and AFI FEST alum Hany Abu-Assad (OMAR; PARADISE NOW) portrays the harrowing experience of a Palestinian mother who is blackmailed one fateful day at Huda’s Salon. DIR Hany Abu-Assad. SCR Hany Abu-Assad. CAST Ali Suliman, Maisa Abd Elhadi, Manal Awad, Kamel El Basha, Samer Bisharat, Omar Abu Amer. Palestine, Egypt, Netherlands
The mission of three humanitarian aid workers is diverted when they offer a ride to an elderly man along the side of the road and find themselves suddenly stranded. DIR Radu Muntean. SCR Radu Muntean, Răzvan Rădulescu, Alexandru Baciu. CAST Maria Popistașu, Alex Bogdan, Ilona Brezoianu, Luca Sabin. Romania
An aging jockey hopes to win one last title for his longtime trainer who has acquired what appears to be a championship horse. But the years – and injuries – have taken a toll on his body, throwing into question his ability to continue his lifelong passion. DIR Clint Bentley. SCR Clint Bentley, Greg Kwedar. CAST Clifton Collins Jr., Molly Parker, Moises Arias. USA
LINGUI, THE SACRED BONDS (LINGUI)
Despite abortion being illegal in Chad and forbidden in Islam, Amina is determined to support her teenage daughter’s decision to end her pregnancy and must navigate the fragile fabric of female support within a patriarchal society. DIR Mahamat-Saleh Haroun. SCR Mahamat-Saleh Haroun. CAST Achouackh Abakar Souleymane, Rihane Khalil Alio, Youssouf Djaoro, Briya Gomdigue, Hadjé Fatimé Ngoua. Chad, France, Germany, Belgium
Anita Rocha da Silveira (KILL ME PLEASE) returns to AFI FEST with a horror-satire that fiercely critiques evangelical fanaticism, focusing on a virtuous Christian girl gang that is hellbent on publicly shaming sinful women. DIR Anita Rocha da Silveira. SCR Anita Rocha da Silveira. CAST Mari Oliveira, Lara Tremouroux, Joana Medeiros, Felipe Frazão, Bruna G. Brazil
While visiting Bogotá, Colombia, Jessica (Tilda Swinton), a Scottish orchid farmer grappling with deep existential unease, becomes tormented by a sound only she can hear. DIR Apichatpong Weerasethakul. SCR Apichatpong Weerasethakul. CAST Tilda Swinton. Colombia, Thailand, UK, Mexico, France
Master Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou crafts a charming celebration of cinema in this epic story of an escaped prisoner bonding with an orphan and a village projectionist. DIR Zhang Yimou. SCR Zhang Yimou, Zou Jingzhi. CAST Fan Wei, Liu Haocun, Zhang Yi. China
PARIS, 13TH DISTRICT (LES OLYMPIADES, PARIS 13E)
A response to a roommate ad and a case of mistaken identity blossoms into a complex web of love and friendship in this modern, panoramic tale by director Jacques Audiard. DIR Jacques Audiard. SCR Jacques Audiard, Lea Mysius, Céline Sciamma, Adrian Tomine. CAST Noémie Merlant, Geneviève Doang, Jehnny Beth, Line Phé, Stephen Manas. France
In Céline Sciamma’s (PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE) enchanting and poetic coming-of-age story, eight-year-old Nelly – mourning the recent death of her beloved grandmother – meets a girl building a tree fort, like her mother once did. DIR Céline Sciamma. SCR Céline Sciamma. France
In this raw and powerful debut feature, Bella arrives in Los Angeles from Sweden to pursue her dreams of stardom – in the adult film industry.DIR Ninja Thyberg. SCR Ninja Thyberg, Peter Modestij. CAST Sofia Kappel, Revika Anne Reustle, Evelyn Claire. Sweden, Netherlands, France
PRAYERS FOR THE STOLEN (NOCHE DE FUEGO)
This devastating narrative debut from documentary filmmaker Tatiana Huezo set in the mountains of Mexico follows Ana and her two best friends who live under the constant threat of kidnappings and drug cartel violence. DIR Tatiana Huezo. SCR Tatiana Huezo. CAST Mayra Batalla, Marya Membreño, Ana Cristina Ordoñez Gonzalez. Mexico
In Sean Baker’s bold and provocative new film, Simon Rex gives a hypnotic performance as an adult film star and hustler returning to his hometown in search of a fresh start. DIR Sean Baker. SCR Sean Baker, Chris Bergoch. CAST Simon Rex, Suzanna Son, Bree Elrod, Brenda Deiss, Ethan Darbone, Brittney Rodriguez, Judy Hill. USA
Opting to stay on permanent vacation instead of tending to family, wealthy heir Neil Bennett quietly fights to control his life in a world where violence and leisure are one and the same. DIR Michel Franco. SCR Michel Franco. CAST Tim Roth, Iazua Larios, Charlotte Gainsbourg. Mexico
THE TSUGUA DIARIES (DIÁRIOS DE OTSOGA)
Friends Crista, Carloto and João are building a greenhouse for butterflies, cleaning out an above-ground pool and participating in spontaneous dance parties when there is a sudden global virus outbreak. DIR Maureen Fazendeiro, Miguel Gomes. SCR Maureen Fazendeiro, Miguel Gomes, Mariana Ricardo. CAST Crista Alfaiate, Carloto Cotta, João Nunes Monteiro. Portugal, France
UNCLENCHING THE FISTS (RAZZHIMAYA KULAKI)
In a remote mining town, Ada is coming of age in a deeply dysfunctional family isolated by the men that surround her. The welcome attentions of a local boy present the possibility of new experiences, and a potential escape. DIR Kira Kovalenko. SCR Kira Kovalenko, Anton Yarush, Lyubov Mulmenko. CAST Milana Aguzarova, Alik Karaev, Soslan Khugaev, Khetag Bibilov, Arsen Khetagurov, Milana Pagieva. Russia
VERA DREAMS OF THE SEA (VERA ANDRRON DETIN)
Reeling from her husband’s suicide, sign language interpreter Vera (Teuta Ajdini) must summon untapped strength when her inheritance is violently challenged by a male in-law in deeply patriarchal Kosovo. DIR Kaltrina Krasniqi. SCR Doruntina Basha. CAST Teuta Ajdini, Alketa Sylaj, Astrit Kabashi, Refet Abazi. Kosovo, North Macedonia, Albania
WHAT DO WE SEE WHEN WE LOOK AT THE SKY?
Alexandre Koberidze’s Berlinale FIPRESCI Prize winner follows Lisa and Giorgi who fall in love at first sight, only for a curse to strike the pair, leaving them unrecognizable to one another. DIR Alexandre Koberidze. SCR Alexandre Koberidze. CAST Giorgi Bochorishvili, Ani Karseladze, Oliko Barbakadze, Giorgi Ambroladze, Vakhtang Fanchulidze. Georgia, Germany
Link, an indigenous Mi’kmaw teen, and his younger half-brother go on a journey to find Link’s long-lost mother. Joining their trek, Pasmay, a two-spirit teen, awakens something new inside of Link. DIR Bretten Hannam. SCR Bretten Hannam. CAST Phillip Lewitski, Joshua Odjick, Avery Winters-Anthony, Michael Greyeyes. Canada
THE WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD
This modern dramedy chronicles four years in the life of Julie, a young woman navigating love and life in Oslo. DIR Joachim Trier. SCR Joachim Trier, Eskil Vogt. CAST Renate REINSVE, Herbert Nordrum, Anders Danielsen Lie. Norway, France, Sweden, Denmark
The most engaging and powerful real-life stories depicted in global nonfiction cinema that enlighten, educate and entertain.
Director Douglas Tirola documents the life of composer Leonard Bernstein (WEST SIDE STORY) from his early life in New England, to his early orchestral career, his work on television and his constant advocacy of worthy causes. DIR Douglas Tirola. USA
Filmmakers Rex Miller and Sam Pollard (MLK/FBI) honor the life and enduring impact of groundbreaking tennis champion, civil rights activist and humanitarian Arthur Ashe in this stirring documentary. DIR Rex Miller, Sam Pollard. USA, UK
A mother. A provider. A cow. AFI Alumna Andrea Arnold’s first-ever documentary is a visceral, up-close portrait of Luma, a singular dairy cow who despite her tenacity is subject to the whim of others. DIR Andrea Arnold. UK
THE FIRST WAVE
In early 2020, New York City is the number one hotspot for COVID-19 in the United States. Academy Award®-nominated documentary filmmaker Matthew Heineman takes a poignant look at the turmoil and resilience on the hospital frontlines. DIR Matthew Heineman. USA
This intimate documentary explores the life and death of the young hip hop star Juice WRLD. DIR Tommy Oliver. FEATURING JuiceWRLD, The Kid Laroi, Lil Bibby, Polo G, G Herbo, Benny Blanco, Rex Kudo, Hit-Boy, Cole Bennett, Trippie Redd. USA. World Premiere.
Highlighting delightful, never-before-seen clips from Julia Child’s public television show, veteran filmmakers Julie Cohen and Betsy West explore the trailblazing career of a culinary icon. DIR Julie Cohen, Betsy West. USA
A NIGHT OF KNOWING NOTHING
In Payal Kapadia’s semi-fictionalized experimental documentary, the diary of a student to her absent lover recounts a period of political upheaval in India, her own heartbreak reflecting that of a generation of students. DIR Payal Kapadia. SCR Payal Kapadia, Himanshu Prajapati. France, India
Robert Greene’s poignant documentary chronicles six men using drama therapy to process childhood sexual abuse and explores their journey to create something truly beautiful out of horrible trauma. DIR Robert Greene. USA
THE REAL CHARLIE CHAPLIN
This uniquely crafted portrait of iconic silent film comedian Charlie Chaplin features rare insights and never-before-heard recordings by those closest to the mercurial film legend, introducing characters previously written out of the narrative. DIR Peter Middleton, James Spinney. USA
SIMPLE AS WATER
Oscar-winning director Megan Mylan documents a handful of courageous refugee families affected by the Syrian civil war and the efforts to rebuild their lives in new surroundings around the world. DIR Megan Mylan. USA
TO WHAT REMAINS
This powerful documentary follows Project Recover, an organization with a mission to bring home missing-in-action World War II veterans from forgotten South Pacific battlefields. DIR Chris Woods. SCR Mark Monroe. USA. World Premiere.
WHO WE ARE: A CHRONICLE OF RACISM IN AMERICA
Filmmakers Emily Kunstler and Sarah Kunstler chronicle ACLU lawyer Jeffrey Robinson’s essential deep dive into America’s 400-year history of white supremacy and anti-Black racism. DIR Emily Kunstler, Sarah Kunstler. SCR Jeffery Robinson. USA