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AFI Fest to Open With World Premiere of Sam Esmail’s ‘Leave the World Behind’ Starring Julia Roberts, Mahershala Ali and Ethan Hawke

Sam Esmail’s Leave the World Behind has a world premiere lined up.

The apocalyptic thriller, starring Oscar winners Julia Roberts and Mahershala Ali opposite Ethan Hawke, Myha’la Herrold, Farrah Mackenzie, Charlie Evans and Kevin Bacon, will open the 37th installment of AFI Fest at Hollywood’s TCL Chinese Theatre on Oct. 25.

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Esmail, an alum from AFI’s class of 2004, wrote and directed the film by adapting from the novel of the same name by Rumaan Alam. The plot follows Amanda (Roberts) and her husband Clay (Hawke) as they rent a luxurious home for the weekend with their kids, Archie (Evans) and Rose (Mackenzie). Their vacation is soon upended when two strangers — G.H. (Ali) and his daughter Ruth (Herrold) — 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.

The Netflix film was produced by Esmail Corp, Roberts’ Red Om Films and Barack and Michelle Obama’s Higher Ground Productions.

“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,” said 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.”

AFI Fest is scheduled for Oct. 25-29, and will unspool at the TCL Chinese Theatres. In addition to opening night, the festival will feature a selection of red carpet premieres, special screenings, world cinema, documentaries and shorts. AFI Fest film passes are now on sale.

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