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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - AFI Fest, the film festival backed by the American Film Institute, on Tuesday named David Lynch as its first ever guest artistic director for its November event, returning the Oscar-nominated filmmaker to his movie roots.
Lynch, who enjoys a loyal cult following from films that include "Blue Velvet" and "Mulholland Drive," studied filmmaking at the American Film Institute and his career received a big break when AFI helped in getting his "Eraserhead" made and screened.
"AFI changed my life," he told Reuters. "When I was accepted to the center for film studies, it was like getting a ticket to heaven. AFI has been so good to me, that I like to support them and do whatever I can to help if they ask."
As the festival's guest artistic director, Lynch will choose a group of movies that have inspired him throughout his career, and he has created the event's poster which shows a clay figure of a person hovering in the air over Los Angeles.
Lynch, 64, said the image just "felt right. The idea of a poster is something that catches a person's eye, and it caught my eye," he said.
Bob Gazzale, president and CEO of the American Film Institute, called Lynch "an artist who embodies the institute's national mandate to both educate the next generation and to honor the masters."
Lynch, whose movies have long been considered offbeat and on the far edge of Hollywood moviemaking, would not disclose the films he has programed for his section of the festival, saying he must wait for a formal announcement.
Along with his movies, the writer and director scored a hit with 1990s television show "Twin Peaks." His other movie credits include "Dune," "The Elephant Man," and "Wild At Heart." He earned Oscar nominations for writing and directing "The Elephant Man," and for directing "Blue Velvet and "Mulholland Drive."
Lynch, who as a young man was an art student, said this past summer he has spent much of his time painting, and in recent years he has been working on a documentary about Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
The Los Angeles-based American Film Institute is among the top film schools in the United States, and it has numerous programs for film preservation and history. AFI Fest, which runs from November 4-11, is a leading festival and a key stop for movies hoping to win media attention.
Reporting by Bob Tourtellotte; Editing by Jill Serjeant