AFI FEST 2022: Programmer Picks – American Film Institute


AFI FEST 2022: Programmer Picks

With AFI FEST 2022 right around the corner, we asked our dynamic AFI Festivals programmers (above photo: Nichole Young, Eric Moore, Malin Kan, Anna Li and Julia Kipnis) to highlight a few of the films that captivated them in an incredible year of diverse and inspiring cinema. Read their picks and buy tickets to each screening below.

Programmer Picks by Malin Kan, Senior Programmer, Feature Films


You’ve done the 3D thing and maybe you’ve even done the 4D thing, now you’ll have to try the 32 SOUNDS thing! The sound for this film was recorded using a head-shaped microphone to mimic the specific qualities of human hearing. It’s so fun! This delightfully charming, joyous sonic tour through sound science and the history of experimental music is guided by feminist dance punk icon JD Samson (Le Tigre!). You’re also sure to fall in love with – and catch the passion-for-sound bug from – literal-glass-breaking experimental composer Annea Lockwood. At the AFI FEST screening, we’ll be handing out a set of super-stereo, sound-blocking headphones to each attendee in order to watch this interactive, one-of-a-kind presentation in the best way possible.

Screening on Nov. 4 at 7:15 p.m to be followed by a conversation with sound designer Mark Mangini. Buy Tickets


Unassuming, and nestled demurely in the documentary section, this deliriously gorgeous second feature from Canadian filmmaker Jacquelyn Mills is an absolute darling among the programming team this year. Provocative, profound, and impactful, it will leave you, at the least, vowing to never buy another party balloon, but also potentially digging into some wacky film processing techniques or maybe even relocating to a beautiful remote island to live peacefully for the remainder of your days. This complex portrait of a woman living in isolation, her conversations with the filmmaker, their shared admiration of nature, of art and science and life and death, it’s anything but demure; it’s tremendous and powerful and invigorating!

Screening on Nov. 4 at 6:45 p.m to be followed by a conversation with director Jacquelyn Mills. Buy Tickets


I was completely floored by this one. I will always love a good archival documentary, exhibiting the power of what re-editing existing footage can do, exposing the disjunction between one edited narrative structure and another. Here, it’s the outtakes that are eye-opening, the space in-between what this television interview might have been and the reality of the lived experience of these two men: jazz legend Thelonious Monk and another jazz musician and French TV host Henri Renaud. The illusion that a respected musician might not experience racism as any other Black man would is completely shattered, and the complex and horrifying power dynamics of celebrity under white supremacy is laid bare. Features phenomenal extended music performances.

Screening on Nov. 3 at 11:00 p.m. Buy Tickets

Screening to be preceded by a special introduction from historian Robin D. G. Kelley, author of “Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original.”

Programmer Picks by Eric Moore, Senior Programmer, Short Films


One film I love, for its ability to beautifully paint a picture of a specific time and place, is the film BIRDS. This film follows a large ensemble cast of teenagers in Austin, Texas, throughout a normal summer’s day. The filmmaker, Katherine Propper, cast almost all first-time actors, and before completing the script, spent about six months hanging out and getting to know the cast to get an idea of their lives. The result is an intimate film that makes you feel like you are right there with them witnessing this simple day pass by. If you didn’t know this was a scripted piece, because of how natural it comes across, it could easily be confused for a doc.

Screens as part of Shorts Program 1 on Nov. 5 at 9:45 a.m. Buy Tickets


Another favorite is the film YOKE-LAN, 66. Director Yi Tang, who directed the 2020 short BLACK GOAT, returns with this charming film about a 66-year-old woman searching for love after being widowed. Through dance classes and a few awkward meals, she navigates the uncomfortable world of dating, after years of not being by herself. A lot of fun choices are made in this film, like great costume design and some quirky symbolic embellishments. For a story tackling heavier issues like loneliness and aging, it has a delightfully light touch.

Screening as part of Shorts Program 3 on Nov. 5 at 4:00 p.m. Buy Tickets


U.S. Premiere

I always love our more experimental films. A powerful example is the film SPIRAL, by Argentinian director María Silvia Esteve. This multimedia experimental short is basically a hypochondriac’s nightmare that devolves after one intrusive thought becomes an endless spiral of others. It explores the complex nature of mental health in a dizzying and haunting way. For a film that is fairly experimental it remains clear in its directorial voice, and comes across as something we all can relate to in many ways.

Screening as part of Shorts Program 3 on Nov. 5 at 4:00 p.m.  Buy Tickets

Programmer Picks by Julia Kipnis, AFI FEST Features Programmer


Probably one of the most brutal yet worthwhile viewing experiences in the 2022 AFI FEST program, Hlynur Pálmason’s third feature GODLAND is an unsparing and unhurried voyage film of epic proportions. Set in the late 1800s, we follow Danish priest Lucas (WINTER BROTHERS’ Elliott Crosset Hove) as he embarks on an arduous trek to a remote village in Iceland. His mission? To build a church before the bitter winter strikes, photograph the local community and stay sane during the treacherous journey. It’s your guess which of the two he fulfills… A tale of how a pompous priest with once pristine godliness slowly loses his mind and spirals into becoming a violent, cowardly sinner due to his severe surroundings. With stunning cinematography and an assured cinematic voice, GODLAND solidifies Pálmason’s status as a visionary filmmaker.

Screening Nov. 5 at 6:15 p.m. Buy Tickets


A tender documentary guaranteed to pull on your heartstrings, WILDCAT takes us inside the Peruvian Amazon rainforest where two young conservationists, Harry and Samantha, are hard at work operating a wildlife rescue and rehabilitation center. Harry is a former British soldier suffering from PTSD after serving in Afghanistan. When he begins working with baby ocelots to raise and reintroduce them into the wild, he develops a deep, wholehearted bond with the wildcats that will, for an interval, curb his mental instability. Immense vulnerability is shown from Harry and Samantha as they allow their struggles to be recorded constantly and put on display. A gratifying, full circle journey of healing and emotional support that is sure to elicit a powerful response.

Screening on Nov. 6 at 3:30 p.m to be followed by a conversation with co-directors Melissa Lesh and Trevor Beck Frost, executive producer Trevor Groth and producers Joshua Altman and Alysa Nahmias. Buy Tickets


U.S. Premiere

A true discovery for the festival as AFI FEST will host the U.S. premiere of Miles Warren’s debut feature based on his short film of the same name from last year. Exploring themes of identity, toxic masculinity and generational violence, Warren’s engaging coming-of-age narrative features a breakout performance from Jalyn Hall as the young protagonist Darious, as well as strikingly protective turns from both Trevante Rhodes (MOONLIGHT) and Shamier Anderson. A profound and visually stunning climax makes this mysterious, tense and compelling film one to look out for!

Screening on Nov. 4 at 7:00 p.m. to be followed by a conversation with director Miles Warren. Buy Tickets

Programmer Picks by Anna Li, AFI FEST Features Programmer


No doubt one of the year’s highlights in Argentinean cinema, TRENQUE LAUQUEN takes us on an unclassifiable, dazzlingly delightful journey full of secrets, mysteries, love triangles and untold stories centered around the disappearance of one inquisitive heroine. Highly engaging throughout its 260-minute runtime, Laura Citarella crafts a labyrinthine, shapeshifting adventure sprinkled with literary flourishes. Let yourself fall into the rabbit hole and witness a new auteur in the making!

Screening Nov. 6 at 1:00 p.m. Buy Tickets


Co-directed by veteran documentarian Adirley Queirós and Joana Pimenta of the Harvard Sensory Ethnography Lab (a collective that also produced DE HUMANI CORPORIS FABRICA, presented in our Documentary section this year), DRY GROUND BURNING seamlessly intertwines facets of legend and reality to create an expansive vision of modern Brazil. Following two sisters, Chitara and Léa, fearsome leaders of an all-female biker gang with a black market gasoline operation in militarized, authoritarian Brazil, this is docu-fiction at its most daring and radical.

Screening on Nov. 3 at 7:15 p.m. to be followed by a conversation with director Joana Pimenta. Buy Tickets


One for the genre fans, Léa Mysius returns with an assured sophomore feature (after the impressive debut AVA, AFI FEST 2017) that confidently explores witchcraft, time travel and the supernatural through a hauntingly mysterious love story. Chronicling a strange little girl’s journey into the untold past of her family, THE FIVE DEVILS takes us on a twisty, vibrant adventure bursting at the seams with fiery vigor. The palpable magnetism between Adèle Exarchopoulos and Swala Emati will keep you yearning for more.

Screening on Nov. 5 at 10:00 p.m. Buy Tickets

Programmer Picks by Nichole Young, Programming Coordinator and Associate Programmer, Short Films


During a starless night in Lisbon, a chance meet between Larissa and Cláudio unfolds into fleeting moments of vulnerability, self-discovery and companionship. The two share a rare and authentic chemistry that, just for a short while, makes the world feel less lonely. Gaya de Medeiros and Ivo Canelas’ enchanting performances fuel this intimate short that’ll have you searching for a hand to hold and adding glittery, blue eyeshadow to your next shopping list.

Screening as part of Shorts Program 5 on Nov. 5 at 9:45 p.m. Buy Tickets


In EVERYTHING WRONG AND NOWHERE TO GO, a filmmaker struggling to cope with the overwhelming, ever-present threat of climate change seeks advice from a climate psychologist. Together, they discuss therapeutic methods of dealing with and understanding climate-based anxieties – which, I think, is something we can all learn from. Aren’t we all just trying to find a modicum of peace and sanity in this menacing world? Sindha Agha’s work doesn’t seek to cure the planet of all ailments, but instead find a way to hopefully heal alongside it. This is my personal equivalent to the comfort of cupping a warm mug of tea.

Screening as part of Shorts Program 2 on Nov. 5 at 1:00 p.m. Buy Tickets


Sander Joon’s animated short, SIERRA, follows a young boy who finds himself in the center of a folk race with his father. As he tries to appease both of his parents yet also discover his own sense of individuality, he ends up transforming into a car tire. This quirky story is brimming with speedy action, vibrant colors, and will leave you chuckling the entire way through. It’s an Estonian delight: 10/10 hold on to your animated mustaches!!!

Screening as part of Shorts Program 5 on Nov. 5 at 9:45 p.m. Buy Tickets

To buy your tickets to these films and more at AFI FEST, visit

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