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AFI Fest 2023: Julia Roberts, Ethan Hawke, star in Sam Esmail’s Opening Night film Premieres October 25 

AFI Fest 2023: Julia Roberts, Ethan Hawke, Opening Night film announced, October 25 

This year’s AFI Fest Opening Night film has been announced,  the World Premiere of:

Leave the World Behind

written and directed by AFI Conservatory Alum Sam Esmail (AFI Class of 2004), will open the 37th edition of AFI FEST

Based on the acclaimed novel of the same name by Rumaan Alam, the highly anticipated apocalyptic thriller stars Academy Award® winner Julia Roberts, Academy Award® winner Mahershala Ali, Academy Award® nominee Ethan Hawke, Myha’la, Farrah Mackenzie, Charlie Evans and Kevin Bacon, and is produced by Esmail Corp, Red Om Films and Higher Ground Productions from Netflix Studios. 

The Opening Night Red Carpet Premiere screening will take place Wednesday, October 25, 2023, at the historic TCL Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles.

In this apocalyptic thriller, Amanda (Julia Roberts) and her husband Clay (Ethan Hawke), rent a luxurious home for the weekend with their kids, Archie (Charlie Evans) and Rose (Farrah Mackenzie). Their vacation is soon upended when two strangers — G.H. (Mahershala Ali) and his daughter Ruth (Myha’la) — arrive in the night, bearing news of a mysterious cyberattack and seeking refuge in the house they claim is theirs. The two families reckon with a looming disaster that grows more terrifying by the minute, forcing everyone to come to terms with their places in a collapsing world.

“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,”

Bob Gazzale, AFI President and CEO.

“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.”


Learn more about this AFI FEST world premiere.


Get your passes for AFI FEST now and join us for the best in global cinema!

Festival passes for AFI FEST are now on sale.


Festivalgoers have the opportunity to select either a FEST Pass or a Premium FEST Pass. The Premium FEST Pass includes access to all screenings including Red Carpet Premieres, priority screening selection and theater access, access to the AFI FEST Festival Lounge and more. Explore Festival Passes.


AFI FEST is a world-class event, showcasing the best films from across the globe to captivated audiences in Los Angeles. With a diverse and innovative slate of programming, the film festival presents a robust lineup of fiction and nonfiction features and shorts presented in established AFI FEST sections, along with panels and conversations featuring both master filmmakers and new cinematic voices.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognizes AFI FEST as a qualifying festival for both Short Films categories of the annual Academy Awards®.

Through annual tributes and conversations, the festival has honored numerous influential artists and icons, including Halle Berry, Danny Boyle, Marion Cotillard, Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert, Barry Jenkins, Sophia Loren, Nicole Kidman, Mira Nair, Rita Moreno, Sofia Coppola, Steve McQueen, Natalie Portman, Christopher Plummer and Tilda Swinton. Past Guest Artistic Directors have included Pedro Almodóvar, Bernardo Bertolucci, Ava DuVernay, David Lynch and Agnès Varda.


AFI members are among the first to receive festival news and updates, as well as an array of other exciting member benefits targeted to movie lovers. To learn more about AFI Membership, or to become a member, click here.


Joe Wehinger
Joe Wehinger (nicknamed Joe Winger) has written for over 20 years about the business of lifestyle and entertainment. Joe is an entertainment producer, media entrepreneur, public speaker, and C-level consultant who owns businesses in entertainment, lifestyle, tourism and publishing. He is an award-winning filmmaker, published author, member of the Directors Guild of America, International Food Travel Wine Authors Association, WSET Level 2 Wine student, WSET Level 2 Cocktail student, member of the LA Wine Writers. Email to: [email protected]
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