BECOMING AFI: 50 YEARS INSIDE THE AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE Book Review

Becoming AFI Review
AFI founding chairs and leaders on the terrace at Greystone in 1969 (left to right): founding director and CEO George Stevens Jr., founding chair of the National Council on the Arts Roger Stevens, board of trustees founding chair Gregory Peck, and board of trustees founding vice chair Sidney Poitier. Courtesy of AFI

In their new book, Becoming AFI: 50 Years Inside the American Film Institute, authors Jean Picker Firstenberg and James Hindman offer deep insight into the formation and development of the American Film Institute, an organization which promoted for the art of film and connected a slew of filmmakers, artists, and educators in order to bolster cinema.

Published this month by Santa Monica Press and dedicated “to all those who celebrate the past and create the future of the movies,” this substantial book pulls back the curtain to candidly share a personal history of the AFI, with each chapter focusing on one story about the institute which, when read in succession, comprise a larger view of the institution.

Becoming AFI Breaks Down the American Film Institute’s History

Firstenberg and Hindman have smartly constructed their deep dive into the American Film Institute’s history by breaking it down into easily digestible chunks that serve as focal points which discuss key historical moments in the institute’s lifetime.

Across thirteen chapters, you will learn about the formation of the American Film Institute, how technology has influenced its development, and about its various commitments over its fifty year history. Many of these commitments have had a profound and lasting impact on the development of film as an American art form, such as their commitment to film preservation, exhibition, and the formation of the Directing Workshop for Women, an initiative which addressed issues of equity in film with a top-down approach, educating women and helping create more female filmmakers.

Becoming AFI Book Review
Attendees at Target Presents AFI Night at the Movies at the ArcLight Hollywood in 2007 (left to right): Sir Howard Stringer, Sylvester Stallone, Tippi Hedren, Clint Eastwood, George Lucas, Kirk Douglas, Rob Reiner, Angela Lansbury, Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty, Julie Andrews, Billy Crystal, and Jean Picker Firstenberg. Courtesy of AFI.

Firstenberg and Hindman Share the Story

Although authored by Jean Picker Firstenberg and James Hindman, there are many more voices at play in shaping the story of the American Film Institute in Becoming AFI. Quotes and anecdotes from notable filmmakers and artists fill this expansive chronicle, from alumni like David Lynch, Lesli Linka Glatter, and Darren Aronofsky, to other noted leaders, such as artist director and master educator, Antonio Vellani. Their insights offer a personal look into what the American Film Institute has offered those engaged in its programming, and how it has transformed them.

Chock full of intriguing personal anecdotes and historical milestones, Becoming AFI is thus as much an easy to read narrative of the growth and development of a major non-profit as it is a useful compendium to page through. Thanks to Firstenberg and Hindman’s manageable cataloguing of its rich history, what could be an overwhelming amount of information becomes the story of a passionate group of individuals who overcame major obstacles to create a major educational arts organization.

BECOMING AFI: 50 YEARS INSIDE THE AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE
By Jean Picker Firstenberg and James Hindman
Foreword by Dana Gioia
Preface by Patty Jenkins
Afterword by David Lynch
Santa Monica Press/October 2017
Hardcover/$27.95
ISBN-13: 978-159580-094-7

 

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