Film and TV

Keven McAlester Rolls the Dice With AFI Dallas Festival Offering The Dungeon Masters

Our AFI Dallas International Film Festival sneak peek runs in the paper version of Unfair Park tomorrow, and, admittedly, it's woefully incomplete: so little space, so many movies worth recommending from an impressively strong roster of offerings this third go-round. So over the course of the fest's run, we'll post advance reviews, recommendations, filmmaker interviews and round-ups (with photos, natch) from the fest's doings over the course of its week-long run that gets to commencin' with Thursday night's NorthPark opening gala.

But, as mentioned earlier, my old friend and Dallas native Keven McAlester -- the ex Met music editor turned Spirit Award-nominated doc-maker --will screen his second film The Dungeon Masters during the fest, and as friends and family are likely to snap up ducats well in advance, you may want to consider buying your tickets sooner than later. (Though, truthfully, the festival pass is the way to go -- of the 30-odd features I've seen out of the 70-plus on display, only one's a thumbs-downer.)

A cursory synopsis of The Dungeon Masters -- director follows three hardcore role-playing gamers living in desolate Nowherelands for whom the lifestyle long ago become The Life -- doesn't do justice to the depth on display.

We're inside the homes and heads of Scott, the would-be novelist who's a burden to his put-upon wife and an occasional stranger to his young son; Richard, the D&D dungeonmaster who relishes a bit too much in the kill; and youngling Elizabeth, only comfortable in her own skin when it's painted a dark shade of murk. You may snicker at them early on -- or shout at them to grow up and get out, to put aside their childish diversions. But Keven, still a top-notch journalist now using his camera instead of a keyboard, has passion and patience for his subjects, and by film's end you can't help but root for all of them to somehow connect with a Real World that seems to want nothing to do with them.

Shot by Dallas native Lee Daniel, responsible for many of Richard Linklater's films (including Dazed and Confused), and featuring an evocative score by Blonde Redhead, The Dungeon Masters transcends the inevitable geeks-among-us expectations; it's the cinematic equivalent of a 12-sided die. Speaking of, the poster -- featured on the invite above -- won the best-of award at South by Southwest. Keven will attend both screenings, after which he'll participate in an audience Q&A.