Preston Barta // Film Critic[dropcap]F[/dropcap]or a generation of Texas film students eager to write and direct their own works, the annual answer to the age-old question has long been the same: head to Austin, the promised land where such filmmakers as Richard Linklater, Robert Rodriguez and Wes Anderson originated. With its high profile of residents, festivals and the film program at the University of Texas, the city is well-known for its film scene.
A newcomer may be shaking up the formula though—Dallas has recently been edging into the spotlight as a home for new filmmakers reaching great heights in the indie movie circuit. Creative artists such as David Lowery (“Ain’t Them Bodies Saints”) and Shane Carruth (“Upstream Color”), whom many consider to be the two most important filmmakers out of Dallas, made their mark and have gone on to do bigger things.
Taking place Thursday through next Sunday (April 13), the Dallas International Film Festival promises to be one of the best spots to see these great North Texas filmmakers. It will also bring some high-quality independent features, documentaries and shorts to the area.
The North Texas Daily has put together a list of films that you should seek out while venturing out to Big D to take in the festival setting.
“Words and Pictures”
Set to kick off the festival on Thursday night is “Words and Pictures,” a lighthearted romantic comedy produced by several Dallas filmmakers, including former WFAA movie critic Gary Cogill.
The story tells of two dueling prep school teachers, played by Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche, who form a rivalry and enter a competition at their school in which students decide whether words or pictures are more significant.
From the trailer that was released more than a week ago, “Words and Pictures” seems a little predictable, but fun and enjoyable, nonetheless, which may be exactly what DIFF needs to start its festival on the right foot.
If you have kept up with our South by Southwest coverage, you may be familiar with “Joe,” writer-director David Gordon Green’s latest that spins a fantastic story of friendship, violence and salvation.
Starring Nicolas Cage in a career-defining performance, “Joe” shares the story of an ex-con (Cage) attempting to steer clear of worry and trouble until he meets a tough-luck kid (an excellent Tye Sheridan) who awakens his fierce but protective side.
If there is one film you should journey to Dallas for this weekend, make it “Joe,” which screens Friday night at the Angelika Dallas as part of the festival’s Premiere Series. It’s a striking character meditation flick with superior performances and serves as one of the year’s strongest and boldest films.
“Evolution of a Criminal”
DIFF does not come without appealing documentaries. Filmmaker Darius Clark Monroe asks the question: how and why does one become a bank robber?
In “Evolution of a Criminal,” Monroe asks this question about himself and interviews his family members, friends and mentors. He recounts the stages of his transformation, moving from a joyous childhood to the moment he understood the harsh reality of his family’s financial problems and how their struggles changed his outlook on life.
“Evolution of a Criminal” is destined to be an incredibly intimate and personal journey of reflection, displaying forgiveness while examining lower class struggles.
Who would have imagined a romantic-comedy that takes on such a controversial issue as abortion would make for an excellent date-night movie?
“Obvious Child” stars Jenny Slate, who you may recognize from TV’s “Parks and Recreation,” as Donna Stern, who gets dumped, fired and pregnant just in time for the best and worst Valentine’s Day of her life.
Carrying over from SXSW, “Obvious Child” is another feature you must see at the festival, simply for its original comedy and Slate’s breakthrough performance. It’s wickedly entertaining from start to finish.
“We From Dallas”
When you think about the origins of hip-hop, Dallas is probably far from being one of the places that come to mind. Local filmmaker Teddy Cool’s imaginative documentary, “We From Dallas,” shows how and why Dallas deserves to have its place in the records of hip-hop, street dancing and finding fresh beats.
“We From Dallas” covers the rise of hip-hop culture in Deep Ellum, KNON radio and the ascent of the southern rap culture. It shows compelling insights from local heroes and legends, DJ’s, graffiti and street artists.
This is an exhilarating documentary for students to learn about Dallas, its music and fans who proudly state: “we from Dallas.”
College shorts: “La Dama” and “Parked”
If you are an RTVF student, it’s advised to hang onto your assignments after class, because they may be worth more than just a grade. UNT alums Aimeé Saldivar and Juan Flores found that out when they brought their student films to the festival.
“La Dama,” written and directed by Saldivar, was a short film made as part of Professor Eugene Martin’s Advanced Film Class. The story focuses on a couple who seemingly lives the ideal relationship, until it is disrupted and changed forever by an adventurer named Mundo.
“Parked,” written by UNT alum Rogan Naples and directed by Flores, was also a short film made for Martin’s class. This short centers on two mobsters at a public park who try to talk each other up before commencing their next job.
“La Dama” and “Parked” will screen as part of the North Texas College Shorts Showcase at the festival at 9:45 p.m. next Tuesday at Angelika Dallas.
In “Dom Hemingway,” Jude Law gives his best performance as one of the most foul-mouthed and hilariously destructive characters ever put on screen.
After a 12-year prison sentence for keeping his mouth shut, notorious safecracker Dom Hemingway (Law) is back on the London streets, attempting to gather up what he’s owed. Along the way, Hemingway tries to make up for lost time by engaging in a flood of violence, sex, drugs and drunken debauchery.
“Dom Hemingway” showcases a sharp and witty script with terrific performances and a brutally entertaining tale. It’s undoubtedly going to be one of the most talked about features of the festival and may even be one of your favorite films of the year.
Like “Buried” (2010) with Ryan Reynolds, this feature keeps things deadly simple: one man and one location. “Locke” does not include car chases or crashes. It’s merely a movie in which Tom Hardy (“The Dark Knight Rises”) drives around in a car for the film’s 90-minute duration and induces intense phone conversations. Those looking for flashy visuals and big action scenes should turn elsewhere, for “Locke” looks to be a triumph in minimalist filmmaking.
Others to consider: “Believe Me,” “Child of God,” “The Congress,” “Hellion,” “No No: A Dockumentary” (yes, that’s how it is spelled), “The One I Love,” “Trust Me” and “WHITEY: United States of America v. James J. Bulger”
For more information on screenings, show times and tickets for the festival, visit diff2014.dallasfilm.org.
Also, be sure to visit NTDaily.com throughout the following two weeks for our DIFF coverage.
Feature photo: Laura Cruz, Isis Avalos, Andrea Michelle Mosher, Sharí Hernandez, Keely Brooke Thomas and LaLa Castillo on the set of “La Dama,” a short written and directed by UNT alum Aimeé Saldivar. Photo courtesy of Máximo Contreras.
Center Photo: UNT alums Clay Pacatte (director of photography), Juan Flores (director) and Neil Anderson (editor) on the set of “Parked.” Photo courtesy of Cooper Carr.