The 2017 AFI Film Festival kicked off last week, taking over the Egyptian and TCL Chinese Theaters in the heart of Hollywood.

Spanning seven days, the festival has become infamous for showcasing heartfelt indie films, groundbreaking foreign features, and highly anticipated future Academy Award contenders. Despite the late lineup change (the Kevin Spacey-starring flick All the Money in the World was pulled from its slot as the closing night film due to the actor’s sexual misconduct allegations), AFI Fest provided another electrifying run as a mecca for film fans to explore the wonderful world of cinema. Below, the Cinemacy team shares their personal highlights from this year’s festival.


Morgan- Mr. Roosevelt

First-time writer/director Noël Wells brought her crowd pleaser, Mr. Roosevelt, to the big screen after a successful premiere during this year’s SXSW Film Festival. The indie centers around Emily (Wells), a struggling comedian who is forced to return home to Austin, TX, and face her ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend after a death unites them. Cue the awkward boundary issues, uncomfortable situations, and feelings of hopelessness that one would experience while having to stay in close quarters with an ex. Proving that laughter really is the best medicine, Wells brings the perfect amount of heart and humor to this hipster comedy, which should be celebrated for its originality and killer soundtrack. And not to be missed is our red carpet video interview with the cast of Mr. Roosevelt, coming soon to Cinemacy.

Ryan- The Shape of Water

Imagine Beauty and the Beast set in 1960s Cold War America and the beast is an amphibian-man wanted for use as a weapon by both U.S. and Russian intelligence. This is essentially Guillermo Del Toro’s latest film, The Shape of Water. You have the outline, however, the special ingredient to this magical film is that it’s an unapologetic fantasy romance, lush and loving in a way that Del Toro hasn’t done before. Sally Hawkins stars as the mute janitor Elisa who falls in love with “the asset,” the other-worldly Amphibian Man (Doug Jones). She plots to help him escape past the head of security, agent Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon), so that the two kindred souls can be together in love. With its gorgeous cinematography and wholly imaginative story, The Shape of Water will certainly be a film to see when it hits theaters this December.

Nelson- Sweet Country

In this Australian western from director Warwick Thornton, white frontiersmen and the indigenous Aboriginal people of the Outback grapple with the tensions felt between both cultures. Familiar faces (including Sam Neill, Jurassic Park) are cast against a mostly unknown ensemble of Australian actors to tell a gripping story of the aftermath of a murder. Shot on film in the gorgeous and sometimes bleak Aussie landscape, Sweet Country employs a unique story structure (being made from an international perspective) that arrives as a fresh take on America’s most archetypal film genre. In the film’s preceding Q&A, Thornton revealed that the script was written by his longtime sound editor David Tranter – an Aboriginal man himself – who adapted the story from his grandfather (and who the character of 11-year old Philomac was based on).

Jasper- Sammy Davis Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me

There’s a line in Sammy Davis Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me, that hails Davis as “showbiz.” The true definition of an entertainer. If Sam Pollard’s documentary proves nothing else, it’s that. Playing it fairly straight in telling Davis’ story, this is a reverent documentary, but honest. Pollard presents a complicated man and a pioneering American figure who can be found both singing on the stage and marching in the streets. A figure as multidimensional as Davis is deserving of a film as comprehensive as I’ve Gotta Be Me and, much like his own impeccable rhythm, not a beat is missed.