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David Lynch Inland Empire AFI Centerpiece

"David Lynch is an artist," explained American Film Institute President and CEO Jean Picker Firstenberg.

Firstenberg introduced the writer-director and his new film, INLAND EMPIRE, Friday's Centerpiece Gala Presentation at AFI FEST 2006 presented by Audi.

"He see things we don't see," Firstenberg added about the AFI Conservatory alum.

Lynch was accepted as a directing fellow in 1970 and received a grant from AFI to make a 34-minute film, THE GRANDMOTHER.

Firstenberg explained: "We are proud to say David Lynch represents what AFI stands for."

Over the next five years working in and around AFI's Center for Advanced Film Studies (now the AFI Conservatory), Lynch created ERASERHEAD (1977).

The success of ERASERHEAD brought Lynch to the attention of Mel Brooks who recruited him to direct what subsequently became THE ELEPHANT MAN (1980).

The film was a critical and box-office success and earned eight Academy Award nominations, including Best Director and Best Screenplay nominations for Lynch.

"AFI put me on the map," Lynch has said. "There I was able to make my first feature film. Without AFI I don't know what would've happened to me. They were saviors."

Other groundbreaking projects followed, including BLUE VELVET (1986) for which Lynch received a Best Director Academy Award nomination, WILD AT HEART (1990), the television series TWIN PEAKS, and MULHOLLAND DRIVE, which earned Lynch his third Best Director Academy nomination in 2002.

"He inspires the next generation to dream," AFI's Firstenberg added.

Writer/director David Lynch arrives at the Centerpiece Gala screening of "Inland Empire" during AFI FEST 2006 presented by Audi, held at ArcLight Hollywood, November 3.
(Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
Lynch's latest film, INLAND EMPIRE, stars Laura Dern, Justin Theroux, Laura Harring and Harry Dean Stanton.

Dern plays a movie actress who learns her script, based on a folktale, is a remake of a previous film, never completed because the original stars were murdered.

Dern also starred in Lynch's WILD AT HEART and BLUE VELVET.

Stanton, who has appeared in three other Lynch features, scores a fourth in INLAND EMPIRE.

INLAND EMPIRE screens once more at AFI FEST 2006, Monday, November 6, 7:00 PM, at ArcLight Hollywood's Cinerama Dome.
Michelle Paster
Pictured: from left, actress/co-producer Laura Dern, director-producer David Lynch and AFI President and CEO Jean Picker Firstenberg after the Centerpiece Gala for INLAND EMPIRE during AFI FEST 2006 presented by Audi, November 3.
(Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)


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