A lot of themes and subjects touched upon by the films of AMFEST 2017, a new iteration of the annual American cinema festival, would seem quite familiar to both the audience of long-standing festival and any connoisseur of American cinema. There is a couple of New York comedies in the shape of Woody Allen-esque dramatic panorama of everyday life in Person to Person and romantic comedy The Boy Downstairs featuring Zosia Mamet, one of the stars of HBO’s Girls. There are stark genre reports from the far less glamorous outskirts of American local life, such as Katie Says Goodbye, a wrenching drama of American dream gone wrong in small-town New Mexico, and Sweet Virginia, a gripping slice of moody neo-noir set in the harsh wilderness of Alaska. Then there’s Porto, a dreamy meditation on love, romance and loss, framed as a European voyage undertaken by an American, played in one of his final performances by the late Anton Yelchin.
Among other staples of the Amfest program are the independent film and the debut. The former slot this year is taken by Sylvio directed by actor Kentucker Audley known as a heartthrob of the ultra-independent cinema world. The latter is Brigsby Bear, a whimsical and heartbreaking debut by SNL’s Dave McCary featuring Claire Daines, Andy Samberg, Greg Kinnear, Mark Hammill and McCary’s SNL colleague Kyle Mooney.
The festival is to open with the latest Doug Liman film American Made featuring Tom Cruise, a hard-to-believe real-life drama of a pilot who went on to smuggle drugs for both CIA and South American drug lords.