The Dallas International Film Festival is back, and this year it’s bringing some new additions. The most important for moviegoers is the new e-ticketing, reserved seating policy. After a year of development and collaboration, DIFF and Atom Tickets built a platform from scratch. Brandon Jones of FilmFrog Marketing says the goal is to get away from long lines and to position DIFF as a leader in festival innovation. In fact, Jones says DIFF is the first and only film festival utilizing both e-ticketing and reserve seating.
Here’s what that means for you:
- No longer will you flash a badge and stroll into movies on a whim; you need to lock your choices down in advance through Atom Tickets. (And you’ll want to download the app. The website’s user experience isn’t great.)
- No more scooting in on post-bumper “festival time.” In an effort to release abandoned seats to those who want them, which hopefully helps put DIFF volunteers in chairs, you’re asked to be seated 15 minutes before each movie starts.
- There’s weirdly nothing stopping badge-holders from booking multiple movies in the same time slot. So, play nice, and take only the seats you need.
But is that true?
Some of my favorite festival memories hinge on spontaneous decisions to check out a movie with a filmmaker, programmer or all-around film lover that I’ve just met. Then, while we’re in line and seated, we discuss upcoming projects and opportunities as we wait for the curtain to raise. Or how about those times when a movie wasn’t even on my radar until just before its second screening? Reserved seating adds a layer of formality that does away with impromptu moments. But I also love chairs and hate lines, so let’s give it a shot.
Another new addition is good news for those who live north. Studio Movie Grill at Royal Lane will screen about 40% of this year’s films. Most of those movies also get a home base screening at the Magnolia.
Here are the films that most interest me (and work with a 9-to-5 schedule). Whatever you go with, lock your seats down now. Popular films are filling fast.
Thursday, April 11
Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile
DIFF’s opening-night film is the new Netflix offering Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, staring Zac Efron as Ted Bundy. Tickets went fast, so DIFF staff recently added a smaller, second screening. Secure your seat now (if any are still available) and scratch your true crime itch before Extremely Wicked hits the streaming channel on Friday, May 3.
Friday, April 12
Support local at 7:30 p.m. with the world premiere of Hurdle, the directorial debut of Dallasite Michael Rowley. Despite military occupation, a pair of Palestinians are finding their path through, around and over life’s obstacles via parkour and photography. Go behind the wall and see them take back control, one harrowing leap at a time.
Before You Know It
If you’re looking for an offbeat comedy, check out Hannah Pearl Utt’s first feature, Before You Know It (7 p.m.). Fresh off Sundance and stocked with a remarkable cast, this quirky flick shows a family struggling to run a small New York theater. The story grows more complex when the family matriarch (Hello, Judith Light!), previously thought to be dead, proves to be quite alive after all. Not only that, she’s simply thriving as a daytime soap opera star.
In the mood for a narrative feature with heart? Go see the Toronto Film Festival charmer Wild Rose at 7:45 p.m. Irish-born rising star Jessie Buckley plays a young Glaswegian musician who dreams of making it big in Nashville. But as a single mother, this tumbleweed is tied down. Go root for Rose as she struggles to bloom both onstage and off, chasing dreams and kids in white Stetson boots.
J.R. “Bob” Dobbs & The Church of the SubGenius
Back in the late 1970s, a freaky little fake cult was born in Dallas. The Church of the SubGenius became known largely for its deity, J.R. “Bob” Dobbs — a clip art 50s businessman with a pipe between his teeth. But it represented more than that. It was a DIY dogma. An experiment in satire. And its underlining principle of “Slack” resonated with and attracted oddballs from far and wide in a pre-internet, counterculture generation. Devo got into it. Cartoonist R. Crumb drew the SubGenius welcome kit into his own publication. And Pee-wee’s Playhouse would pay homage via the boob tube. Now, thanks to Austin-based filmmaker Sandy K. Boone’s directorial debut, we finally get a look behind the curtain of this long-running inside joke. Make sure to catch it during the festival, either at its Dallas premiere at 10:30 p.m. Friday at the Magnolia, or its victory lap at 6 p.m. Sunday, April 14 at Studio Movie Grill.
Up at Studio Movie Grill, catch International Falls, where Rachael Harris (The Groundlings, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Best in Show, A Mighty Wind and so many more) plays a small-town mom who dreams of being a comedian. When a traveling stand-up rolls through (Rob Huebel: Upright Citizens Brigade, Children’s Hospital, Human Giant), she gets a little taste of that spotlight life. This cast is insane, and while the film plays again during DIFF, it’s midday on Wednesday. So, for working stiffs, 9:45 p.m. could be your only chance.
Saturday, April 13
Tip: If you don’t plan to see the new Alex Ross Perry film Her Smell at 12:15, catch the animated shorts block at 11:30 a.m. If you miss animated shorts Saturday morning, catch them Sunday night at Studio Movie Grill.
Her Smell seems like a bold choice for 12:15 on a Saturday afternoon; it feels like doing shots of well whisky for breakfast. Or maybe DIFF programmers designed the time slot as a challenge, gauging who can endure Perry’s brutally unpleasant riot grrrl Becky Something (Elizabeth Moss) while the sun outside is at its peak. Told in five parts, each set in real-time, Her Smell soaks you in a 10-year stretch of a wildly unbearable — and considerably hazardous — punk icon’s life. You’ll watch as her actions rip everyone else’s worlds down to the studs. But for Perry (The Color Wheel, Golden Exits) fans, this tale of potential rock-bottom redemption is long-awaited — even during the brunch hour. (Magnolia, 12:15 p.m.)
If your fondest summer memories are from Schlitterbahn, you, my friend, are missing out, according to Guillaume Brac’s French documentary Treasure Island. This charmingly shot doc lets you spend the summer at Cergy-Pontoise, a suburban water park just outside Paris. It’s a place and time for adventure, mischief, reflection and, of course, complete relaxation. This one looks positively delicious. Soak it in at 1:45 p.m. at the Magnolia.
The latest narrative feature by writer/director Oliver Assayas (Personal Shopper, Irma Vep) plays with art’s value in the digital age. Teased out in a snort-worthy comedy of overlapping French lovers, Assayas' film uses his writer (Vincent Macaigne), publisher (Guillaume Canet), actor (Juliette Binoche) and social media fixer (Christa Théret) to reflect on quality, relevance and longevity in a time of fleeting electronic ephemera. Let it slip into your DMs Saturday at 5:30 p.m. at the Magnolia.
For your midnight movies, either check out Chad Werner’s feature debut, the horror comedy Adonis Complex at Studio Movie Grill at 9 p.m. or take in the late-night shorts block at the Magnolia at 10:15. Whichever you choose, you’ll want to make the 11:30 p.m. screening of Peter Strickland’s supernatural horror comedy In Fabric at 11:30 p.m. (Magnolia).
A playful poke at the Giallo genre, In Fabric shows the deadly side of high fashion. You’ll delight as a blood red frock wreaks havoc on all who take it home. And like the auteurs and industries he nods to, Strickland provides a freaky fantasy tale that revers style over substance.
Sunday, April 14
Rich in options, you can see A Fortunate Man, the latest sweeping drama by Oscar and Palme d'Or winning filmmaker Billie August at the Magnolia at noon. Or you can try to keep up with Texas’ newest skateboarding, What-a-Burger-eating, political celebrity in the SXSW celebrated doc Running with Beto at 3:30. If you’re a fan of Miami’s filmmaking oddball collective, Borscht Corp., you’ll want to catch Borscht co-founder Andrew Hevia’s documentary about alienation in the high-end world of a Hong Kong art fair, when Leave the Bus Through the Broken Window screens at 5 p.m. at the Magnolia.
In an interview with Filmmaker Magazine, Premature’s director and co-writer Rashaad Ernesto Green was asked about his goals in making a feature version on his 2008 short film. He said that he and co-writer Zora Howard felt that “In the current cinematic climate, (they) viewed simply telling a young black love story as a radical act.” So, they gave it the full romantic treatment. They shot on film. Wove it together with poetry. And they set it in New York. Get your dose of romance at 5:30 p.m. at Studio Movie Grill, you rebel.
If you were roped in by Gabriel Mascaro’s 2015 Neon Bull, you’ll be excited to know he, and his cinematographer Diego Garcia, are back to share another intoxicatingly off-the-grid world with Divine Love. Set a quick decade in the future, evangelical values have taken over Brazil, along with a lust-for-god rave erotica culture. The film’s protagonist, notary Joana, is all about that life, refusing to grant divorce to those seeking a fresh start. Dystopian. Absurdist. And drenched in neon. Divine Love wants to take you on a glittery romp through another fantastic world — one we pray that come 2028, you won’t have to live through. Catch it at 9:30 p.m. at the Magnolia.
Animated shorts block
Whenever DIFF organizers program an animated shorts block, they do it right. That magic mix of styles, voices and backgrounds elevates it to a must-see collection. While checking out this year’s picks, give a high-five to mostly-from-Austin-but-sometimes-from-other-places filmmaker Geoff Marslett, whose short film about a long-haul trucker, The Phantom 52, just played Sundance. This second chance for the animated shorts block is at Studio Movie Grill at 9 p.m.
Monday, April 15
One Child Nation
When Nanfu Wang points her camera at a topic, we know to pay attention. Her first documentary about Chinese women’s rights activist Ye Haiyan (aka, the titular Hooligan Sparrow) cracked open a powerful story of sexual assault, child abuse and AIDS in China. It was a Sundance Grand Prize Jury nominee, a Film Independent Spirit Award winner, and back here in Dallas it snagged the Silver Heart Award. Wang is back with her third feature film, One Child Nation, which she co-directed with Jialing Zhang. The pair explore the painful ramifications of the country’s former One Child Policy through the lives of those still living with the trauma of loss it spurred. Catch it at 7:15 p.m. Monday at the Magnolia.
If you can be sleepy at work tomorrow, chug a little coffee and check out the Narrative Shorts 2 block. It starts at 10:30 p.m. at the Magnolia and offers a great collection of shorts, including By The Dark of Night, new work from one of Dallas’ favorite all-around film talents, Farah White.
Tuesday, April 16
It’s interesting to think back to a time when the jump shot wasn’t a basketball basic. It would be like removing the cartwheel from gymnastics. Or the spike from volleyball. And yet, until Kenny Sailors lifted off that court back in the '40s, it was a stand-and-shoot world. So, what happened to Sailors, and why isn’t he a household name? You’ll have to check out Jump Shot at 7:15 p.m. to find out. (Psst, Dirk is in it.)
I’ve watched this film’s trailer at least five times and now I can’t feel my face. This psychedelic, tripped-out Cannes hit looks a little like if Zoolander was a cosmic joke, spiked with Molly. In Diamantino a famous soccer player’s mojo is lost when he’s exposed to less-than-perfect realities of life. The bubble broken, shamed and out of work, he sets out to right the world’s wrongs — one selfie at a time. Also, there are lots of dancing long-haired dogs. A banging soundtrack. And sisters who might be demons. Whatever. We’re going. Tuesday and Wednesday at 10:15 p.m. at the Magnolia.
Alice Cooper, Live from the Astroturf
Remember that time the Alice Cooper Band reunited and played Good Records in 2015, man? Well, if you couldn’t press inside the (now-shuttered) doors of that lowest Greenville record shop to witness the magic then, you can see how it all came to be in Alice Cooper, Live from the Astroturf. (It’s a sort of “Behind the Music” style rock doc.) Robert Wilonsky’s in it, obviously. And so is Good’s own Alice Cooper superfan, show organizer Chris Penn. And most important, Alice Cooper is there, being all rad and spooky. Catch it at 10 p.m. at Studio Movie Grill.
Wednesday, April 17 (Give yourself a Texas film double-feature)
Oh boy. It looks like Austin-based filmmaker Robert Byington has put you in another awkward situation. And while past productions like Infinity Baby placed 3-month-old forever babies into the care of terrible (and c’mon, pretty funny) custodians, Frances Furguson places a blasé millennial (co-creator Kaley Wheless) as the initiator of a small town, student sex scandal. It’s a fun cast with Martin Starr (Freaks and Geeks, Silicon Valley), Keith Poulson (Her Smell, Lace Crater) and narration by Nick Offerman.
Shoot the Moon Right Between the Eyes
You’ve heard this story before: A pair of con men are about to pull off one last big score, until a woman comes between them. But have you heard it done as a musical comedy, based on James Joyce’s short story of unrepentant men, “Two Gallants”? And have you heard all of that set to the music of cosmic cowboy John Prine? Well good, because you’re about to, thanks to filmmaker Graham L. Carter. Bonus: When you watch it at the Magnolia at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, you’ll also catch former Dallasite Frank Mosley up on the big screen.
Thursday, April 18
Them That Follow
This slow burn co-directorial debut stars all of your favorite things: Oscar winner Olivia Colman, snake handling and Appalachian romantic horror. Set in a Pentecostal church with a snake pit illuminated by a neon cross, its faith and fangs are interwoven. And should your faith be tested, you'd best pray fast — there’s a 48-hour window until the lights shut off. But Mara (Alice Engler) is a true believer with a secret. Take a dip, make no sharp movements, when Them That Follow plays one screening only, Thursday at 9:30 p.m. at the Magnolia.
The Death of Dick Long
When you’re in a band, shit happens. And in the case of comedy/mystery feature The Death of Dick Long, the title spells out the stakes. Dick died last night, and if his buddies have their way, nobody’s going to find out how. Directed by Daniel Scheinert, half of the duo behind indie hit Swiss Army Man, and set in Alabama, this film warms that space in your heart where fireworks, gunplay and dick jokes live. It closes out the fest at 10 p.m. at the Magnolia.
See the full lineup at dallasiff.org/schedule. Download the Atom Tickets app to secure your seats. Individual tickets are $12, with the exception of the opening night gala film, which is $25.