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By Marc Lee

Good films often get lost in the churn of Hollywood. Once person’s art becomes another person’s business opportunity, and before you know it, a filmmaker’s creative dream is shouldered aside for a project whose only goal is big dollars.

With Hollywood being what it is, it’s ironic that AFI Fest 2007 presented by Audi operates in the midst of the shark’s jaws. For 21 years, the American Film Institute’s festival has set itself apart by presenting work by independent filmmakers from around the world. And this year’s festival, held from November 1st to 11th, is bigger than ever before, and proof, perhaps, that somebody in Hollywood still cares about art.

However, that’s not to say that big films are ignored by the festival – that would be snobbish. This year’s AFI opens with the North American premiere of Lions for Lambs, directed by Robert Redford and starring himself, as well as Tom Cruise and Meryl Streep. The film explores the nightmarish effects of terrorism, the war in Afghanistan and political maneuvering.

AFI Fest’s closing film is Mike Newell’s adaptation of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s lonely and romantic novel Love in the Time of Cholera, another highly anticipated film. Shot in the 16th-century walled city of Cartagena, Columbia, the story of a 50-year-long love triangle stars John Leguizamo, Javier Bardem, Liev Schreiber and Italian actress Giovanna Mezzogiorno.

Screenings by well-known outsider filmmakers, including John Sayles and Liverpool’s Alex Cox, show (yet again) that great independent filmmaking can resonate with both critics and general audiences. With Honeydripper, Sayles spins the story of a broke rural Alabama nightclub owner who resorts to a risky scam to save his business. Cox’s old-fashioned showdown, Searchers 2.0, follows two former American Western actors as they seek revenge on famed screenwriter Fritz Frobisher.

Opportunities to get up close and personal with filmmakers, actors and screenwriters are a big draw of any festival, and AFI Fest has more than its fair share on hand. One of the many events includes a conversation on The Savages with Laura Linney, who stars in Tamara Jenkins’ dramatic comedy about siblings who have to care for their sick parents.

Also on show are screenwriters and novelists James Ellroy and Bruce Wagner who’ll share their unique visions of Los Angeles and the movie industry. Of course, this is all just the tip of the iceberg at AFI Fest 2007. Information on parties, passes, special screenings and show times can be found at