Logo of the AFI Los Angeles International Film Festival, also known as AFI FEST In only two decades the AFI Los Angeles International Film Festival, known as AFI FEST for short, has arguably become the premiere film festival in the United States. The greatest moviemakers and studio executives in tinseltown and the industry at large converge on LA in early November each year to evaluate films and negotiate deals.

Feeling the heat from other increasingly popular American film festivals such as the Sundance and several other Los Angeles based ones, in 2004 the AFI joined with the American Film Market Festival to ensure it's place as the top festival in North America. Combining meetings for top executives and industry experts with the festival has created a powerful collection of cultural and commercial opportunities for attendees.

The AFI Los Angeles International Film Festival also offers a number of other opportunities. The horribly-named Kodak Connect allows visiting filmmakers to 'connect' with representatives from all sectors of the film industry. Life-changing contacts are often made: the connections made here may be pivotal to careers. Personal, one on one meetings regularly take place, with brunches, lunches and roundtables. 's event saw more than 100 high-powered representatives from the film industry attend. They came from all areas, ranging from distribution, financing, development, music, marketing and publicity communities to "offer fresh insight, establish cross-cultural relationships and nurture talent, creativity and careers in the long-term."

Not only does the festival offer ten days of screenings and meetings, but the AFI also has nightly red-carpet, gala premieres. All festivals have premieres, but few compare in terms of extravagance and popularity. Each night, the streets near the cinemas fill with excitement and magic as glam-clad stars arrive in their limousines to appear at the premieres. Over the years, AFI has premiered such films as Life is Beautiful, The Libertine, City of God, O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Walk The Line.

AFI FEST employs multiple screens at the state-of-the-art ArcLight Cinema complex on Sunset Boulevard (pictured below) and the adjoining famed Cinerama Dome. A chic Cinema Lounge where Festival attendees meet and interact, frequent receptions and special events complete the centralized, AFI FEST village atmosphere.

Picture taken at last November's AFI Los Angeles Film Festival from UKHotMovies.com's Californian reporter

History of the Los Angeles International Film Festival

Poster advertising a past Los Angeles Film Festival when it was known as Filmex

The Festival began in 1971 under the name First Los Angeles International Film Exposition, better known as Filmex. It was supported by The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Harold Lloyd Foundation, USC, UCLA, CalArts and the American Film Institute. According to the Festival's founders it was intended to "broaden appreciation for the work of 'filmmakers from around the world.'" In 1974, The Three Musketeers opened the festival.

Funny Lady opened the 1975 Festival and a glamorous Filmex Society Benefit Ball took place. Over twenty countries participated, and the Foreign Language Film event was created.

1976 was the United States' two hundredth anniversary, so the Festival opened with a Bicentennial Extravaganza. Forty-eight films were screened in the Cowboy Film Marathon. A fifty hours Movie Musical Marathon was celebrated, while AFI created a special event known as AFI Critics Choice. Along the same lines, 1978 was celebrated with a 50-hour film marathon thrown in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Oscars.

The AFI Fest of 1978 opened with a Tribute to Hal Wallis at the Beverly Hills Music Hall with Lizabeth Scott, Charlton Heston, Bette Davis, and many other stars. Cary Grant was honored by a 30-hour marathon of his films. Nineteen Foreign Language Oscar entries were shown.

For the 1981 10th anniversary, films were shown at nine different locations in and around Hollywood. Additionally, a special section, "Treasures from AFI" was presented to celebrate the great films shown at AFI over the years. A horror film marathon lasting 50 hours was also shown.

In 1987, along with other changes, the Festival became more diverse, offering screenings of 19 Oscar Foreign Language entries; there was also a salute to Latin American Film and film production in Berlin.

1989 added a tribute to British Film; the section was known as New British Cinema. A 50th anniversary tribute to the National Film Board of Canada was also held.

1994 was an interesting year for the Festival. The World Cup was taking place in Los Angeles at the same time, so the AFI chose to coordinate their plans with those of FIFA. Football players attended the Opening Night festivities as the crowd watched the now-popular film Wyatt Earp. Dennis Hopper and Holly Hunter were presented with Tributes.

Life is Beautiful opened the 1998 Festival, culminating in a standing ovation for Roberto Benigni. AFI broadened its horizons by introducing the European Film Showcase, a surprisingly popular section of the Festival.

Omar Sharif was presented with a Tribute in 2003. Twenty minutes of never-before-seen footage from Cold Mountain was introduced by Anthony Minghella.

In 2005, Winter Kiss wins the Grand Jury Prize for Best Feature, while The Refugee All Stars is named as the Best Documentary. Johnny Depp's career is feted in a special Tribute.

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