A history of the American Film Institute

Deborah Jae Alexander


The American Film Institute (AFI) is a highly politicized, powerful organization. To date, most historical documentation and recording of AFI events and activities has been disseminated to the mass media from within the organization through its own publications or in other historical documentation as incidental history in relation to another topic. This dissertation, written as an overview, is the first comprehensive, independent historical examination of the AFI. The examination begins with an exploration of the development, activities and decline of the American Council on Education's original AFI and other film organizations that existed prior to the present day AFI. It then follows through to suggest an explanation for the contentious public discussions concerning the AFI's purpose and direction during its early years, which favored commercial film interests over educational/instructional film interests, as well as limited opportunities for women. This examination continues with documentation of the accomplishments of the AFI and the programs it sponsors concerning film education, preservation and promotion of U.S. films.