Taking place at venues around Hollywood (Mann’s, Grauman’s, LACMA, Cinema Lounge, the Arclight/Cinerama Dome) from Thursday 30th tiil Sun day 9th, the American Film Institute’s annual festival this year features over 150 films from around the world. Take your pick from Chinese director Jia Zhangke’s semi-documentary about factory closure, 24 City (Mon 3, Sat 8), Beat Takeshi’s lastest, Achilles and the Tortoise, a meditation on art and money and life (Mon 3, Fri 7), or Paul Schrader’s Jeff Goldblum starrer Adam Resurrected, an unsentimental, semi-absurdist post-Holocaust flick (Sat 8, Sun 9).

Then there’s Before the Fall, about the days leading up to the end of the world, which being Spanish is probably quite crazy, and having won big at the Málaga film fest could also be quite good (Sun 2, Wed 5) and the new picture from Brick helmer Rian Johnson, The Brothers Bloom, starring Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo and Rachel Weisz about the world’s greatest conmen on a globe-trotting last hurrah (Mon 3, Sat 8).

Soderbergh’s already notorious Che turns up in all its 262-minute glory (Sat 1), as does Palme d’Or winner The Class, another semi-documentary about high school in the Parisian banlieues (Sun 2, Sat 8). Po-mo US indy Deadgirl might just be worth a look, tho it sounds like an extremely unpleasant balancing act concerned with the objectification of women (Fri 31, Mon 3). Much more fun, on the other hand, will be Divizionz by Ugandan visual (and musical) arts collective Yes! That’s Us (Fri 7, Sun 9).

Described as a cross between Momento and Rocky, Gachi Boy Wrestling With A Memory sounds like a fun Japanese high school wrestling picture, an under-exploited genre if ever there was one (Sat 8, Sun 9) whilst much-hyped from Naples comes local mafia saga Gomorrah (Sun 2, Fri 7). I like the sound of LA-based A Good Day To Be Black And Sexy, which promises to be about, erm, being black and sexy in contemporary LA (Wed 5, Fri 7) and of The Good The Bad And The Weird, described as a Korean take on The Good the Bad and the Ugly but, erm, weird (Sat 1, Thu 6).

Cannes Caméra d’Or winner Hunger comes to town, the story of the 1981 IRA hunger strike and dirty protests in the notorious Maze prison, directed by Turner Prize winner Alexander McQueen flailing around for a style, but held together mesmerically by the Michael Fassbender’s central performance (Sat 1, Sun 2). In complete contrast, how about Pindorama -The True Story of Seven Dwarves, a documentary about the eponymous Brazilian travelling circus and the seven dwarvish progeny of one of the nation’s most beloved clowns (Mon 3, Wed 5)? Still Orangutans could be infuriating but could just be brilliant, a Slacker-like whizz around the crazy population of a Brazilian town, shot in one take (Mon 3, Tue 4). The same goes for Time Crimes, a time-bending, weirdness-stuffed Spanish thriller (Fri 31, Mon 3).

Samira Makhmalbaf’s latest Two-Legged Horse was scripted by pa and Iranian maestro Mohsen and sounds like a typically clear-eyed look at socio-political conditions via a small-scale human story (man hires boy to carry disabled son around on his back) (Tue 4, Wed 5); apparently inspired by recent Iranian cinema, (Kiarostami specifically) another acclaimed female director, Kelly Reichardt, returns with Wendy and Lucy which sounds pleasingly Dardennesian and stars Michelle WIlliams, broke and wandering around Portland with her dog (Sat 1, Sat 8). And finally, much anticipated and apparently the highlight of a weak Venice fest, Aronovsky’s The Wrestler puts in an appearance, cannily using the plastic disaster of Mickey Rourke’s face in a Fat City-type tale of a once great mat-monkey (Thu 6).

That’s only the tip of the iceberg: with strands like the documentary and shorts competitions and showcases on Kazakhstan and Argentina, there’s plenty more to choose from . There’s an extensive tribute to French director Arnaud Desplechin, a bulging documentary competition and a Milestones section commemorating various dead folks: The Hustler, Major Dundee, Ned Kelly (for dead Ned Ledger, not Ned Jagger), The Talented Mr Ripley (for Anthony Minghella not Jude Law, sadly), They Shoot Horses Don’t They? - once again, no-one seems to care about Brad Renfro and whilst personally I don’t care a great deal about Bergman and not at all for Antonioni, a little something for each might have been a nice internationalist gesture.

Anyway, the fun thing about festivals is catching a good film that you might never hear of again, and the pot-luck element that might just lead to something great, so mosey on over to the site and check it out.

images: afi, wikipedia