11 Must-See DIFF Films: Trust Us, We're Professionals.

Josh Radner in his new film Liberal Arts
Josh Radner in his new film Liberal Arts


The Dallas 2012 Dallas International Film Festival kicks off its boots tomorrow and starts that film ferris wheel a-rolling for 11 days of features, docs, shorts, animated films, awards, Q&As, talk shows, panels and of course plenty of star spotting and people watching (it is Dallas after all).
Here are 11 films playing the fest that should be on your cinematic radar:

Liberal Arts The second feature from Josh Radnor -- How I Met Your Mother star turned writer/director/actor -- happens to be the film that's kicking off the fest, so you know it's gotta be good! Radnor's HappyThankYouMorePlease was a personal and poignant look at life's lulls and the unexpected things that can shake us out of them. Liberal Arts looks to be a continuation of this theme which, if you've seen HTYMP, you know is Radnor's strength as a triple threat. And if you haven't seen it, you still have a chance to check it out on Netflix Instant to prepare yourself!

Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope

Morgan Spurlock has documentary filmmaking down to a science, becoming a sort of rock star of docs with

Super Size Me

,

Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?

,

30 Days

and last year's DIFF entry

The Greatest Movie Ever Sold

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. Now he's taking on science fiction, fanboys and everything else related to the nerd mecca known as Comic-Con. If you've never been, Spurlock's doc is the closest you'll get to the fun and mayhem in San Diego without the scent of B.O.

Save the Date Yet another follow-up feature, this one from writer/director Michael Mohan, whose small, black-and-white One Too Many Mornings was a big hit at Sundance a few years ago. Mohan knows how to balance intricately woven characters and their entangled relationships and he showed us that with his first feature, not to mention his hilarious 2011 short Ex-Sex. Now he just gets to show us with a few actors and actresses that we all know and love, including Lizzy Caplan (Party Down), Alison Brie (Community), Martin Starr (Party Down) and Mark Webber (Scott Pilgrim)!

My Way

It's Korea's most expensive film to date (a reported $28 million). It's a WWII film from Je-kyu Kang, the Steven Spielberg of South Korea (or as I have affectionately named him, Koreberg). It's making its Texas premiere. That's all you need to know.

The Imposter This doc was a huge sleeper hit at SXSW this year. Apparently it's best to go in not knowing anything about the plot, which is said to include some pretty shocking twists. So I won't spoil it for you other than saying it's about a kidnapping and that you're not going to want to miss it. When DIFF is done, it's all anyone is going to be talking about.

Somebody Up There Likes Me You may start to see a trend with the list and this year's DIFF in general. It's the year of sophomore efforts and returning filmmakers. The case is the same with writer/director Bob Byington, who had an indie hit and festival favorite on his hands in 2008 with RSO [Registered Sex Offender] and again in 2009 with Harmony and Me. Now Byington returns to DIFF with his third feature, starring Nick Offerman (whom many people simply refer to as Ron Swanson, Duke Silver, or more simply "The 'Stache") in a 35-year-long love triangle.

5 Broken Cameras

It's also all about the international this year (it is after all the Dallas INTERNATIONAL Film Festival), and

5 Broken Cameras

looks to be one of the fest's most exotic, compelling and dramatic. Hailing from Palestine, the documentary chronicles the struggles of a father and farmer turned nonviolent activist against the Israeli army who chronicles his own life with five separate cameras, each as you may have guessed are destroyed over the course of the film -- creating a beautiful yet tragic documentary within a documentary about the power of the camera used as a weapon more powerful than any gun.

Juan of the Dead We know that the Yanks and the Brits have perfected the zombie genre, so now it's our chance to check out what Spain has to offer us with the walking dead! Writer/director Alejandro Brugués puts a nice spin on it, with his horromedy centered around an undead undertaker of sorts -- a man who kills the zombified loved ones of families in return for money. The aptly titled Juan of the Dead is part of the festival's genre-centric midnight series, which always promises plenty of guts, gore and laughs.

Extraterrestrial

The Spaniards are all over the genre stuff this year! Pair your

Juan of the Dead

screening with

Extraterrestrial

for a disgustingly delectable double feature of fright. The indie sci-fi romcom (maybe a first?) comes from writer/director Nacho Vigalondo, a guy who is practically a national treasure when it comes to the Alamo Drafthouse's Fantastic Fest. If you want to walk away from this festival seeing something odd yet unforgettable, I would say this is your ticket.

The Other Dream Team For those of you that love film and sports equally, this is your doc! Chronicling the epic 1992 Olympic battle between the basketball teams of the newly independent nation of Lithuania and its former oppressor Russia, this promises to be one of those sports movies that brings a tear to your eye and a clench to your fist. Oh, and did I mention Lithuania's team was coached by current Mavs GM Donnie Nelson? So, this is one screening that you're sure to spot some of your on-court heroes at! Just try not to sit behind Dirk.

RoboCop: 25th Anniversary Screening Dead or alive, you're coming with me ... to see this! It's your one and only chance to see a 25th anniversary retrospective screening of the classic 1987 cyborg sci-fi flick, shot right here in our own backyard (because apparently Dallas looked futuristic in the '80s) with most of the major cast in attendance (Alex J. Murphy himself, aka Peter Weller, is a UNT alum!).

Of course we know that you won't want to miss ANY of the films, as this year's DIFF boasts an impressive lineup of indies, retrospective screenings, shorts and more that you may not otherwise have a chance to see. So, check out the full schedule here, plan your attack, get out there and get festing!

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