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Oscar watchers get head start at AFI Fest

Films screening in L.A. might be Academy Award contenders
/ Source: Reuters

Oscar watchers looking for early tips to this year’s Academy Award races will find several likely contenders among the collection of films from around the world screening next month at the AFI Fest in Los Angeles.

AFI Fest, run by the Los Angeles-based American Film Institute, opens on Nov. 3 and features 92 films in all -- 75 narrative movies and 17 documentaries -- over the course of 10 days. Several of the films, including opening-night movie “Walk the Line,” about country music icon Johnny Cash, are expected to compete for Oscars.

One of the festival’s showcase films, drama “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada,” directed by actor Tommy Lee Jones, figures in much of Hollywood’s pre-Oscar talk, as do two gender-bending offerings -- “Breakfast on Pluto,” starring Cillian Murphy as a transvestite, and “Transamerica,” with Felicity Huffman playing a transsexual.

“We received more than 3,000 (film) submissions, and I feel confident we’ve chosen the strongest program in years,” AFI Fest programming director Nancy Collet said.

AFI Fest has become a launching pad for Oscar hopefuls in recent years because it takes place in Hollywood at a time when films are jockeying for attention in the annual run-up to the Academy Award nominations in January.

The AFI event also is held in conjunction with the American Film Market, a huge gathering of filmmakers and distributors from around the world looking to buy and sell movies.

In addition to feature-length entries, the AFI Fest will screen 35 short films -- 17 narratives and eight documentaries. In all, 127 films will play from 40 different countries.

Since the festival’s invitations went out, nine of the overseas entries were chosen by their respective countries to compete in Oscar race for best foreign-language film.

Those movies include Austria’s “Hidden,” Canada’s ”C.R.A.Z.Y.,” France’s “Merry Christmas” (”Joyeux Noel”), Germany’s “Sophie Scholl,” Hungary’s “Fateless,” Mexico’s “On the Other Side,” Norway’s “Kissed by Winter” (Vinterkyss), Sweden’s “Zozo” and South Africa’s “Tsotsi.”

Nominees for the 78th annual Academy Awards will be announced on Jan. 31. The Oscars will be presented in Hollywood on March 5.