AFTER PRESIDENT JOHNSON signed the 1965 Arts and Humanities bill, he recommended the establishment of the American Film Institute. And the AFI was born June 5, 1967 -- exactly 20 years ago. The anniversary will be commemorated this Friday night by among others, Prince Antoine de Ligne of Belgium, husband and wife Federico Fellini and Giulietta Masina, Catherine Deneuve and AFI President Charlton Heston. The celebrity gathering will also kick off a 12-day festival of films from the European Economic Community, as well as seminars (Saturday and Sunday, $10 per seminar) led by Deneuve, Masina and Heston. Director Constantin ("Z," "Missing") Costa-Gavras whose Conseil de Famille (Family Business) closes the festival, June 17, is also scheduled to appear with "Conseil" actress Fanny Ardant.
In 1967, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ford Foundation and the Motion Picture Association's seven member companies started the AFI ball rolling with $4 million. The institute's umpteen-year mission was to boldly promote American films past and present, and its three-year, nonprofit mission was to stay in the black. Today, the NEA supports approximately 25 percent of the AFI budget (the rest of that $13-million-plus annual budget, says AFI spokeswoman Patty Prendergast, comes from "innovative fund-raising").
The AFI also provides a showcase for many film and video makers, preserves old films and honors veteran Hollywood figures. In addition to the Washington offices and AFI Theater, the AFI has an 8 1/2-acre spread in Los Angeles that has film and video centers for preservation and academic study. It's more than moving right along.
All EEC countries will be represented at this month's festival. Tonight's opening screenings are the Belgian-made Brel, a Shout, a documentary on songwriter Jacques Brel, and director Paul Cammermans' The Van Paemel Family, about Flemish resistance to French rule in the late 1800s. Other films that look initially promising are Portuguese director Jose Nascimento's Reporter X (this Wednesday and Thursday) -- a sort of Portuguese film noir; Dutch director Jos Stelling's The Pointsman (June 15 & 16), a story about an unlikely coupling at a switching station; German director Manfred Stelzer's The Chinese Are Coming (this Sunday and Monday), apparently a German version of Ron Howard's Gung Ho; and Irish filmmaker Thaddeus O'Sullivan's The Woman Who Married Clark Gable (Tuesday and Wednesday, with other Irish shorts), a 28-minute short in which a devout Catholic woman attending the premiere of San Francisco believes a man she meets at the screening (Bob Hoskins) is lead actor Clark Gable himself. Call 785-4600. Tickets are $6 ($5 for AFI members).
The Smithsonian Resident Associates are providing a valuable (if expensive) opportunity to view three French films, two for the first time in Washington. But what else do you do Monday nights -- laundry? This Monday's film is Robin Davis's I Married a Shadow (1982), followed by Alain Resnais' Life Is a Bed of Roses (1983) on June 15, and Jean-Luc Godard's First Name: Carmen, June 22. All films are shown at the American History Museum's Carmichael Auditorium. A three-film ticket costs $18 and each admission is $6.50. The Residents will feature three films by the accomplished West German director Margarethe von Trotta next month. More on that next week.