Every April since 2006, the Dallas International Film Festival (formerly known as the AFI DALLAS International Film Festival) has been one of the rites of spring in the city’s arts community. Documentaries, shorts, animated films and full-length features by filmmakers from Texas and around the world are presented for the enjoyment of the festival-going masses — with a chance for participants to win one of several prestigious awards and prizes. Here’s the lowdown on what to know, do and see at this year’s schedule of events:
What To Know
Movie tickets. It’s always best to attack the festival with a plan, so veterans tend to purchase access to screenings in advance. Visit the event website for the full calendar of events, a film guide and show times. Individual movie tickets are $10, while a booklet of 10 screening vouchers is $75. And for those who want as much flexibility as possible, film passes start at $275 and must be ordered via phone for in-person pick-up. Everyone is advised to arrive 30 minutes before a screening, as pass holders have priority seating, followed by ticket holders, and then voucher holders, who are queued in a rush line.
Theater hopping. This year’s festival runs April 4 to 14, and consists of more than 175 films spread across six screening locations, all of which are reachable via the DART light rail or official festival shuttles. The benefit of utilizing multiple venues is that movie buffs have the chance to enjoy the unique setting of each theater. The Angelika Film Center anchors the live/work/play development of Mockingbird Station and offers a contemporary and industrial-chic feel. The Magnolia is in the heart of the trendy West Village neighborhood, and the intimate theater’s styling is classic with a modern twist. The historic Texas Theatre is a beautifully restored movie house that originally opened in 1931 and retains all of the magic of the golden age of cinema. The newly opened LOOK Cinemas offers a sophisticated take on the dine-in movie experience. Cuisine is provided by Dallas’ acclaimed Nick & Sam’s Grill, and guests can lounge at the Lofts bar between screenings. The Dallas City Performance Hall is one of the latest jewels added to the burgeoning arts district. The cutting-edge space is luxuriously refined, and architecturally stunning.
What To Do
All of the fun doesn’t just happen in the dark, however. Centerpiece screenings of must-see films Sweetwater, Decoding Annie Parker and 42 are followed by parties that are sure to attract tastemakers and socialites. There are also a number of Talk/Show events that feature panel discussions on topics like legal issues in filmmaking, screenwriting and grassroots funding. Each panel discussion is followed by a featured screening. The scene-stealer of the Talk/Show series promises to be the 40th-anniversary screening of The Exorcist, followed by a discussion with director William Friedkin.
The DFS Honors awards dinner is by far the hottest ticket of the festival. If you’d like to try to snag a seat, a limited number of tickets were made available at the festival’s Prekindle Box Office at Mockingbird Station. Winners of the Grand Jury prizes will be crowned, Audience Awards bestowed and Dallas Star Awards presented. The gala event is always a night to remember.
What To See
Eight films make up the Premiere Series, and Dallas audiences will have the privilege to witness their silver screen debuts. Standout efforts include Mud, a story of two boys who befriend an outlaw (played by Matthew McConaughey), and Kings of Summer, in which three teenage boys flee their homes to build a parent-free life in the woods.
The Documentary Feature Competition pits six films against each other to duke it out for the $10,000 Grand Jury Prize. Each story is wildly compelling in its own way, but the ones you’ll want to keep an eye out for are: We Always Lie to Strangers, a look into the lives of the performers and families in Branson, Missouri; Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp, an engrossing biopic of the reformed pimp and urban storyteller; and Terms and Conditions Apply, an uncomfortable look at how so-called private information collected online is used and sometimes exploited.
Each of the categories has at least one film that begs your attention, such as Reality in the Italian Cinema Spotlight; 20 Feet From Stardom in Deep Ellum Sounds; and Chasing Shakespeare, starring Danny Glover, in the Community Showcase.
Whether you take in just one film or engage in a movie marathon, the people watching during the festival is second to none. It’s an event that brings together all sorts of personas, united in their appreciation for cinema.
Photos courtesy of The Texas Theater, Manny Rodriguez, The Dallas International Film Festival