Becoming AFI: 50 Years Inside the American Film Institute by Jean Picker Firstenberg and James Hindman gives an unique look inside this remarkable organization and the impact its had on entertainment industry.
My late mother was born in 1924 and was a lover of old films. She often told me how the only joy she had growing up and living during the depression was taking her few coins and going to the movies. MCM and 20th Century Fox films featuring Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Errol Flynn, Shirley Temple and countless others offered her an escape from the difficulties she faced. It was this love of movies that she instilled in my twin sister and myself. I remember watching these movies and being in awe of the acting and production values exhibited in a time when the film industry was at its infancy. As a fifty-two year old woman whose seen many movies, my favorites remain the film classics.
When I had the opportunity to read and review Becoming AFI: 50 Years Inside the American Film Institute, I jumped at the chance. I have long admired the work done by the American Film Institute and to be able to read a comprehensive account by those involved with it was something I didn’t want to pass up. The American Film Institute was founded on June 5, 1967 with the mission to educate future filmmakers to help honor and preserve the motion picture arts. For 50 years, it has trained some of the greatest talent in front and behind the camera. Those such as Jane Fonda, Meryl Streep, Gregory Peck, Steven Spielberg and Shonda Rhimes are just some of its famous faculty, supporters, graduates and trustees. Everyone that have been involved with the American Film Institute has a reason to be proud of its achievements and its lasting influence in the film industry.
Along with co-author James Hindman, Jean Picker Firstenberg gives readers an rare view inside the American Film Institute in this book. For those who may not know, Jean Picker Firstenberg was President and CEO of the American Film Institute from 1980 to 2007. She helped with the development of AFI and later received an AFI Life Achievement Award for Service. The fact that Behind AFI: 50 Years Inside the American Film Institute is written in memoir style prose offers a feel of being a part of the journey. The personal accounts from people who were a part of the American Film Institute makes the book more autobiographical. I was familiar with the America Film Institute, but now even more so from reading Becoming AFI: 50 Years Inside the American Film Institute. I could feel the passion and pride in the American Film Institute from those who contributed to this book. The details provided through the essays in the book help you picture the path of the American Film Institute. I initially thought about quoting some of the passages in the book, but decided against it as I didn’t want to spoil it for the reader. I want everyone who reads this book to experience the words for the first time and be stirred by the emotions expressed. I want the reader to see the greatness behind the American Film Institute and appreciate the road forged by its founding members and the path yet to be explored.
I’d encourage everyone to get a copy of Becoming AFI: 50 Years Inside the American Film Institute. It’ll give you a new appreciation of films.
Founding trustees at the first AFI board meeting in 1967, including Gregory Peck (seated, far left), George Stevens Jr. (foreground, center), Sidney Poitier (seated, fourth from left), and Francis Ford Coppola (standing, center).
CREDIT: Courtesy AFI
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
CREDIT: Courtesy AFI
Presenters and honorary degree recipients at the 2006 AFI Commencement ceremony (left to right): Josh Whedon, George Lucas, James Earl Jones, Jeanine Basinger, Sidney Pollock, Chuck Fries, Jon Avnet, and John F. Cooke.
CREDIT: Courtesy AFI/Veronika Cernadas
To learn more about the American Film Institute, check out the website:
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