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Film Biz Keeping Watchful Eye on AFI

If you're at the AFI this week and bump into this man, well, he's the only the festival's founder, director and chairman -- guy by the name of Liener Temerlin.

And how can we kick off our AFI Dallas International Film Festival coverage today...? (Trust me, there's gonna be plenty this week and next. Fair warning.) Oh, here -- with someone else's coverage. Here's a Web-only story from Variety, and if the byline seems at all familiar, yeah, Dana Harris was the food critic for the paper version of Unfair Park way, way back when. Dana's actually gonna be around the AFI a great deal in coming days; Variety appears interested to see how well Dallas pulls off this nascent big-money ($4 mil and counting) fest that has big names behind it, none bigger than the festival's founder, director and chairman, legendary ad man Liener Temerlin. As we've noted before, and as Dana points out today, Temerlin -- who's behind those AFI "100 Best..." lists -- pushed for a massive fest populated by famous folks, and he got what he wanted as soon as he started trolling for dough and celebrities.

"The result was instant film festival: Just add water," Dana writes."Or white water, given the volume and speed with which money flowed into the festival's coffers."

Dana's a little skeptical about the artistic merit of the fest: When she writes that a "display of the festival's film posters include several that look as if they'd be more comfortable in the hallways of the American Film Market," she's referring to the weeklong event in Los Angeles where movies not picked up at other festivals are acquired for cheap -- and usually for the home-video market. (AFM's also a partner with AFI Fest, the L.A. version of what Dallas is paying a small fortune to franchise here.) Yeah, sure. There are some direct-to-Beta duds in the AFI; same goes for Sundance and Toronto and South by Southwest, for that matter. But any fest with King of Kong's OK by me. --Robert Wilonsky

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