FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, Los Angeles, CA, September 30, 2022 — The American Film Institute (AFI) announced today that Academy Award®-nominated filmmaker Ava DuVernay will serve as Guest Artistic Director at AFI FEST 2022. DuVernay has selected three independent films amplifying the voices and vision of women directors to showcase: HELLION (2014), directed by Kat Candler and starring Academy Award®-nominee Juliette Lewis and Aaron Paul; MOSQUITA Y MARI (2012), directed by Aurora Guerrero; and YELLING TO THE SKY (2011), directed by Victoria Mahoney and starring Academy Award®-nominee Gabourey Sidibe and Zoë Kravitz. In addition to the screenings, Ava DuVernay will moderate a special panel with the directors, who are part of the historic all-women directorial roster for the acclaimed drama series QUEEN SUGAR.

“AFI FEST holds a special place in my heart and career. My feature directorial debut I WILL FOLLOW made its Los Angeles premiere at AFI FEST 2010,” said DuVernay. “I still remember the feeling of validation and encouragement. It meant so much to me as a first-time woman director to be seen and embraced. So, it is a true honor to be invited to serve as the Guest Artistic Director. In this position, I’ve chosen to spotlight the role of women directors in independent cinema by sharing the work of three remarkable helmers: Kat Candler, Aurora Guerrero and Victoria Mahoney. This trio of filmmakers cut their teeth in indie film and have gone onto direct dynamic work in all formats following their television debuts on my series QUEEN SUGAR. With this programming, I want to wave a flag for what can happen when women have the opportunity and support that is consistent with our male counterparts. Beautiful things blossom. My thanks to AFI FEST for agreeing with and amplifying that notion.”

“The world looks to visionary artists to create a brighter future, and Ava DuVernay is leading the way,” said Bob Gazzale, AFI President & CEO.  “We are honored to shine a proper light upon her selections – films that will inspire audiences and artists alike.”

Previous Guest Artistic Directors for AFI FEST include Pedro Almodóvar, Bernardo Bertolucci, Agnès Varda and David Lynch, an Alumnus of the AFI Conservatory.

AFI FEST 2022 will take place exclusively in person in Los Angeles from November 2-6. Passes to AFI FEST 2022 will be available starting October 3 on FEST.AFI.com. Tickets will be available starting October 11 for AFI members and October 12 for the general public.

AFI Members receive discounts to tickets and passes and other exclusive benefits. To become an AFI member, visit AFI.com/join/.


About the films



Written and directed by Kat Candler

Featuring remarkably nuanced, heart-wrenching performances, this vérité-style drama set in southeastern Texas follows motocross-obsessed 13-year-old Jacob Wilson, in a breakout performance from Josh Wiggins, whose behavior becomes increasingly delinquent after the death of his mother. When Child Protective Services places his little brother with their aunt (Juliette Lewis), Jacob and his emotionally absent father (Aaron Paul) struggle to take responsibility for their actions and to support one another, which they will need to do in order to bring Wes home.


Written and directed by Aurora Guerrero

When Yolanda Olveros meets her new neighbor Mari Rodriguez, all they see in each other are their differences. A sheltered only child, Yolanda’s sole concern is fulfilling her parents’ dream of a college-bound future. With her father’s recent death, streetwise Mari, the elder of two, carries the weight of her sister as their mother works to keep them above water. But despite their contrasting realities, Yolanda and Mari are soon brought together when Mari is threatened with expulsion after saving Yolanda from an incident at school. The girls forge a friendship that soon proves more complex than anticipated when they unexpectedly share an intimate moment.


Written and directed by Victoria Mahoney

As her family falls apart, 17-year-old Sweetness O’Hara (Zoë Kravitz) is left to fend for herself in a neighborhood where her survival is uncertain. After suffering abuse from bully Latonya (Gabourey Sidibe) and her father’s violent behavior causes her mother and sister to move out, Sweetness spirals downward, becoming violent and aggressive, selling drugs, and getting suspended from school in this emotional drama nominated for a Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival.


About Ava DuVernay

Ava DuVernay is the first African-American woman to be nominated for an Academy Award® as a director in any feature category. Winner of multiple Emmy®, BAFTA, NAACP and Peabody Awards, her feature film directorial work includes the historical drama SELMA, the criminal justice documentary 13TH and Disney’s A WRINKLE IN TIME, which made her the highest grossing Black woman director in American box office history. DuVernay is currently writing, directing and producing the narrative film adaptation of Pulitzer Prize winner Isabel Wilkerson’s bestseller “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent.” Through her company ARRAY Filmworks, she has created and produced the television projects QUEEN SUGAR, COLIN IN BLACK AND WHITE, RED LINE, DMZ, CHERISH THE DAY, NAOMI, HOME SWEET HOME and ONE PERFECT SHOT. Winner of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival’s Best Director Prize for her micro-budget film MIDDLE OF NOWHERE, DuVernay amplifies and distributes independent films for women filmmakers and directors of color through ARRAY Releasing. In addition to ARRAY Filmworks and ARRAY Releasing, her ARRAY organization also includes ARRAY Education, ARRAY Crew, ARRAY Public Programming, the ARRAY Creative Campus and the Law Enforcement Accountability Program known as LEAP. DuVernay sits on the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, representing the directors branch. She is also a Vice-President of the Directors Guild of America and an advisory board member of the American Film Institute.


As previously announced

The World Premiere of Apple Original Film’s SELENA GOMEZ: MY MIND AND ME will open the festival and U.S. premiere of Universal Pictures’ and Amblin Entertainment’s THE FABELMANS, directed by AFI Life Achievement Award recipient and Academy Award®-winning director Steven Spielberg, will close AFI FEST 2022.  Additional Red Carpet Premieres include BARDO, FALSE CHRONICLE OF A HANDFUL OF TRUTHS, directed by Academy Award®-winning director Alejandro González Iñárritu; the U.S. Premiere of GUILLERMO DEL TORO’S PINOCCHIO, directed by Academy Award®-winning director Guillermo del Toro and Emmy Award® winner Mark Gustafson; IS THAT BLACK ENOUGH FOR YOU?!?, directed by Elvis Mitchell; LIVING, directed by Oliver Hermanus; SHE SAID, directed by Emmy Award®-winning director Maria Schrader; and THE SON, directed by Academy Award® winner Florian Zeller.


About the American Film Institute (AFI)

The American Film Institute (AFI) is a nonprofit organization with a mandate to champion the moving image as an art form. Established in 1967, AFI launched the first comprehensive history of American film and sparked the movement for film preservation in the United States. In 1969, AFI opened the doors of the AFI Conservatory, a graduate-level program to train narrative filmmakers. The Conservatory, which counts Deniese Davis, Affonso Gonçalves, Susannah Grant, Matthew Libatique, David Lynch, Melina Matsoukas and Rachel Morrison as Alumni, is ranked the #1 film school in America. AFI’s enduring traditions include the AFI Life Achievement Award, which honors the masters for work that has stood the test of time; AFI AWARDS, which celebrates the creative ensembles of the most outstanding screen stories of the year; and scholarly efforts such as the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and the AFI Archive that preserve film history for future generations. AFI exhibition programs include AFI FESTAFI DOCS and year-round exhibition at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center in Maryland. AFI Movie Club is a destination for movie lovers from around the world to celebrate and engage with the art form every day. Other pioneering programs include workshops aimed at increasing diversity in the storytelling community, including AFI DWW+ and the AFI Cinematography Intensive for Women. Read about all of these programs and more at AFI.com and follow us on social media at Facebook.com/AmericanFilmInstitute, YouTube.com/AFI, Twitter.com/AmericanFilm and Instagram.com/AmericanFilmInstitute.


Now in its 36th year, AFI FEST is a world-class event, showcasing the best films from across the globe. This year’s edition takes place in Los Angeles from November 2-6, 2022.  With an innovative slate of programming, the five-day festival presents screenings, panels and conversations, featuring both master filmmakers and new cinematic voices.  AFI FEST includes high-profile films with Q&As featuring the films’ cast and crew and a robust lineup of fiction and nonfiction features and shorts, providing a one-of-a-kind experience for movie fans.  Additional information about AFI FEST is available FEST.AFI.com. Connect with AFI FEST at Facebook.com/AFIFEST, Twitter.com/AFIFEST, Instagram/AmericanFilmInstitute, TikTok/@AmericanFilmInstitute and YouTube.com/AFI.



Press contact:

American Film Institute: Shari Mesulam, [email protected]


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