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AFI Brings Annual Hollywood Experience Into Our Homes

Movie lovers around the globe have missed the live film festival experience since the COVID-19 pandemic began—but the show must go on. The silver lining for the 34th annual AFI Fest 2020 online is that anyone can access 125 films and special events from their homes—no Hollywood bustle required. This year, 53% of the film selections are directed by women, a long-overdue course correction for representation in the industry.

This year's festival will take place online Oct. 15-22. As with previous festivals, you'll find diverse programming featuring emerging directors, world cinema, filmmaker conversations, 16 world premieres, and the AFI Summit. Mira Nair, Sofia Coppola, Kirby Dick and Rita Moreno will give tributes to notable film-industry figures.

AFI's Director of Programming Sarah Harris says that a virtual festival offers new opportunities for filmmakers who might otherwise be limited by an inability to travel. "We've had so many more filmmakers engaged in creating this event. Based on our experience with AFI DOCS earlier this summer, there's also an increase in engagement from audiences. Going virtual is an opportunity to reach people who may not have been able to participate in the past."

Some aspects will remain the same, however. "AFI FEST has always been a strong supporter of new voices and we're committed to a high standard of programming that's defined us over the years," Harris says. "This year is no different - we've dug deep to find these amazing films and we're excited for audiences to discover them like we did."

Full festival passes are on sale now; tickets to individual films and events go on sale Oct. 7. Festival highlights include:

Opening film: I'm Your Woman

Rachel Brosnahan, who won Golden Globe and Emmy awards for her work on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, stars in this 1970s' crime drama about a woman (and her baby) on a dangerous journey triggered when her husband gets into trouble with some unsavory characters. Directed by Julia Hart and written by Hart and Jordan Horowitz, the film also stars Marsha Stephanie Blake, Arinzé Kene, James McMenamin, Marceline Hugot, Frankie Faison and Bill Heck.

"Now more than ever it is important for film festivals to create a platform for audiences to discover great films," said Michael Lumpkin, Director of AFI Festivals, "I'm Your Woman is cinematic storytelling at its best. With a captivating and complex narrative of a woman on the run, director and writer Julia Hart takes us on unexpected journey that speaks directly to the current state of our world and the real meaning of friendship, love and family."

Closing Film: My Psychedelic Love Story

Errol Morris directs this fascinating look at the strange turn of Timothy Leary, a godfather of the counterculture movement, considered the "high priest" of LSD. The film tells of Leaery's shift to becoming a narc in 1974 and subsequent abandonment of the millions of followers who turned on, tuned in and dropped out under his influence.

Allen Ginsberg suggested Leary's "perfect love" Joanna Harcourt-Smith was a government pawn who helped him to shut down the counterculture movement—but perhaps she was simply a rich, beautiful, young woman out for the adventure of a lifetime. The film is based on Harcourt-Smith's memoir, Tripping the Bardo with Timothy Leary: My Psychedelic Love Story.

AFI Summit, 1-2:30 PDT, Sunday, Oct. 18

Ever wonder about the challenges and joys of independent film? Join the Indie Contenders Roundtable for a conversation with actors Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal), Rachel Brosnahan (I'm Your Woman), Winston Duke (Nine Days), Julia Garner (The Assistant), Vanessa Kirby (Pieces of a Woman), Elisabeth Moss (The Invisible Man and Shirley), Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman) and Andy Samberg (Palm Springs). The Hollywood Reporter's Scott Feinberg hosts.

Audi returns for its 17th year as the exclusive presenting sponsor of AFI Fest as part of its visionary commitment to create opportunities for equality in film and television. Additional top sponsors include AT&T and APPLE.

Harris says she hopes audiences still get a sense of movie magic, even if they're not watching in a theater. "Movies lift spirits and help create a sense of community and there have been so many great films that audiences can see from the safety of their home. I hope audiences feel inspired, connected and comforted by watching a virtual AFI FEST."

For a full schedule, festival passes and individual-event tickets, visit FEST.AFI.com.