- - Monday, November 13, 2017

When Oscar-winner Dame Helen Mirren spoke at Hollywood’s Egyptian Theater Sunday morning to introduce her new movie, “The Leisure Seeker,” at AFI Fest, she noted, “The reason I had a hard time getting to the theater and people are still late is due to the protest.”

Miss Mirren was referring to the hundreds of women participating in the #MeToo Survivors march in Tinseltown against sexual harassment in the entertainment industry.

“But it is important that they protest,” Miss Mirren said.

It’s just one way that issues facing women in Hollywood are being cast into the fore at this year’s festival.

Agnes Varda, the so-called “Mother of the French New Wave,” received an honorary Academy Award and presented her new documentary, “Faces Places,” which exalts ordinary women across France, including a trucker, dockworkers’ wives and a miner’s daughter. After the screening Ms. Varda, a contemporary of French cinema luminaries like Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard, participated in a “World Cinema Master in Conversation” with festival director Jacqueline Lyanga.

Other prominent women taking part in AFI Fest include Angelina Jolie, who is speaking on “Collaborative Storytelling” at the Egyptian Monday; Patty Jenkins, an AFI alumna who directed the box office hit “Wonder Woman”; and Polish director Agnieszka Holland, who helmed 1991’s “Europa, Europa” and was Oscar-nommed for 2011’s “In Darkness.”

In an onstage Q&A after the screening of her latest film, “Spoor” — featuring a middle-aged female protagonist in what Ms. Holland called “a feminist ecological thriller” — she discussed “this wave of women’s [rights] in the industry.”

Ms. Holland, who has also directed episodes of Netflix’s hit “House of Cards,” said when she heard about Kevin Spacey’s downfall due to allegations of sexual impropriety with young males, the series’ star had become “too powerful, he felt he could do anything.”

“We are facing lots of danger,” she said. “Movies talk about it, explore it and provoke.”

As AFI is also devoted to film preservation and history, the fest includes vintage films by Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni, including 1966’s “Blow-Up,” and countryman Sergio Leone’s Clint Eastwood-starring Spaghetti Western “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” as part of the festival’s “Cinema Legacy” presentations.

A major retrospective of director Robert Altman’s oeuvre was screened, including his 1992 acerbic take on the movie industry, “The Player,” starring Tim Robbins as a murderous studio executive, and Altman’s 1970 Oscar-winning Korean War black comedy “M*A*S*H.”

On the nonfiction front, Oscar-winner Errol Morris’ four-hour “Wormwood” explores the CIA’s 1950s mind-control program and a possible suicide. Sam Pollard’s 100-minute biopic “Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me” provides a historical chronicle and personal look at the iconic singer/dancer/actor/activist. Davis’ son Manny Davis was on hand for a post-screening panel chat.

AFI Fest’s gala screenings included “The Disaster Artist,” directed by and starring James Franco about notoriously awful film “The Room” and its mercurial director, Tommy Wiseau. Scott Cooper’s “Hostiles” is a Western co-starring Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike and American Indian actors Wes Studi and Adam Beach. Dee Rees’ “Mudbound,” about race and friendship in 1940s Mississippi, stars Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke and Mary J. Blige, and kicked off the festival.

However, the world premiere of Ridley Scott’s “All the Money in the World,” about the 1973 kidnapping of John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer), was withdrawn as the closing night gala because of the sexual misconduct accusations regarding Mr. Spacey, who is being removed from the film. Mr. Scott is reshooting Mr. Spacey’s scenes with Christopher Plummer as billionaire John Paul Getty.

The festival issued a statement about the controversial film: “AFI FEST celebrates film as a collaborative art form. We support Sony’s decision to postpone the premiere in order to ensure the thousands of people who worked together on this film are honored at a proper time and in a proper light.”

The movie, which co-stars Michelle Williams and Mark Wahlberg, will reportedly be released Dec. 22.

Director/screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s “Molly’s Game,” about a real-life high-stakes poker game raided by the FBI starring Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba and Kevin Costner, is replacing “All the Money in the World” as the prestigious festival closer.

L.A.-based film historian/critic Ed Rampell co-authored “The Hawaii Movie and Television Book.”

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