Sam Esmail’s ‘Leave the World Behind’ to Open AFI Fest

After a bidding war in 2020 for Rumaan Alam’s acclaimed psychological thriller novel, Netflix won the rights to “Leave the World Behind,” which has been selected as the opening-night film of the 2023 AFI Fest, to take place on Wednesday, Oct. 25, at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles.

The dramatic film reunites director Sam Esmail (“Mr. Robot”) with his “Homecoming” lead Julia Roberts, who plays one half of a married couple (along with Ethan Hawke) who rent a luxury home and find their sojourn interrupted by the presence of another couple (Mahershala Ali and Myha’la Herrold) who arrive in the middle of the night bringing news of a cyberattack and the insistence that the home is theirs. Roberts was initially to costar with her “The Pelican Brief” costar Denzel Washington, who was to play Ali’s role.

“Sam Esmail is a commanding voice in the new generation of cinematic storytellers, and we are proud to present the world premiere of his new film at AFI Fest,” AFI president and CEO Bob Gazzale said. “That he is a graduate of the AFI Conservatory only adds to the pride we feel in celebrating this accomplishment – which is both powerful and profound.”

This marks the 37th year for AFI Fest, which will take place from Oct. 25-29, 2023, and is often an early stop in the Oscar buzz world tour, though it remains to be seen if actors and writers will be on hand to promote the various films screening (more are expected to be announced soon), due to the ongoing SAG-AFTRA and Writers Guild strikes.

For more information on AFI Fest and upcoming screenings and passes, visit their official website.

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