Jan Sverak's Dark Blue World - distributed in the US by Sony Pictures Classics - will open the AFI Fest 2001 on Nov 1 in Los Angeles, while Marc Forster's Monster's Ball - fully financed by Lions Gate Films - will have its world premiere as the closing night film on Nov 11.

Dark Blue World, which is being primed as for Oscar consideration, will be screened at Mann's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. Starring Ondrej Vetchy, Krystof H-dek and Tara Fitzgerald, the film will open domestically on Dec 28.

Monster's Ball is the second film by Marc Forster who made his mark with his first film Everything Put Together. Starring Billy Bob Thornton, Heath Ledger, Halle Berry, Sean Combs and Peter Boyle, the film will also hit US theatres for Oscar time on Dec 28.

Meanwhile critically acclaimed Australian thriller Lantana directed by Ray Lawrence (Bliss) and starring Anthony LaPaglia, Barbara Hershey and Geoffrey Rush, will fill the festival's centrepiece gala slot.

The announcements were made by festival director Christian Gaines, who has grown the event into one of the country's premier international events. The festival is a division of the American Film Institute.