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  • 2012 Dallas International Film Festival | Preview

    DIFF 2012

    By | April 10, 2012

    The Dallas International Film Festival presented by Boardwalk Auto Group Volkswagen Dealers will run April 12 – 22. DIFF celebrates its 6th year with 111 films representing 27 countries, 5 World Premieres, 1 North American Premieres, 1 U.S Premiere and 36 Texas Premieres. The ever diligent writing staff here at Smells Like Screen Spirit has already seen several of the films that will be screening at the 2012 Dallas International Film Festival. Here is what we have to report:

    Tickets are currently on sale at the Prekindle Box Office in the Festival Village at Mockingbird Station at 5321 E. Mockingbird Lane, Suite 105. DIFF 2012 passes are also for sale and range from $100 for a Faulkner Design Group Festival Lounge Pass to $750 for an all-access Star Pass. To purchase tickets and passes, telephone the Prekindle Box Office at 972-707-0838 or visit: www.DallasFilm.org.

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    5 BROKEN CAMERAS


    Directors: Emad Burnat, Guy Davidi
    Winner of the World Cinema Directing Award: Documentary at Sundance 2012, 5 Broken Cameras gives us an up-close and personal look at what life near the Palestinian-Israeli boarder is really like. We observe as the people of Bil’in risk their lives, again and again and again, in feeble attempts to reclaim their land. They put their lives at stake every single time they face off against the trigger-happy Israeli soldiers. Palestinians are gassed, beaten and shot on what seems like a daily basis; Israeli soldiers even arrest Palestinian children for peacefully protesting. (Check out our 7 out of 10 review of 5 Broken Cameras from Sundance 2012.)

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    AMERICA’S PARKING LOT


    Director: Jonny Mars
    Along with its brilliantly structured narrative arc, the strength of the film lies in its lack of condemnation. The obvious insanity of uber-fans like Tiger and Cy is simply presented to the viewer, never mocked or commented upon. And personally, my response went back and forth between minor loathing (when Tiger talks about how the Cowboys mean more to him than his wife and daughter, for example) and sympathy (when considering these poor schmucks in comparison to the Cowboys organization). The saddest thing to listen to is to hear them say things along the line of “I sure hate to have to spend this money, but it’s what you’ve got to do to be part of America’s Team.” I guess it’s “ask not what Jerry Jones can do for you but what you can do for Jerry Jones.” I’m hopeful that as time goes on more people will realize that there are other options, one of which is to completely stop investing time, money and energy in a perpetually irrelevant and mediocre organization that is getting filthy rich while living entirely on past glories. Heck, just across the parking lot from Cowboys Stadium lies the Rangers Ballpark, which houses a team that’s much more dynamic and competitive and where a family can still afford to go watch a game. (Check out our 8 out of 10 review of America’s Parking Lot from DIFF 2012 and our DIFF 2012 interview with Jonny Mars.)

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    CINEMA SIX


    Director: Mark Potts, Cole Selix
    Writer: Mark Potts, Cole Selix
    Starring: John Merriman, Mark Potts, Brand Rackley, Kevin Brennan, Byron Brown, Heather Wallis, Barry Corbin, Maggie Carey, Chris Doubek, Cole Selix, Reese Merritt, Kerri Lendo
    Very few comedies are consistently funny (throughout all three acts, no less) while also containing a strong, noteworthy narrative. Despite its sublime knack for obscenity and vulgarity, Cinema Six is a very deep film. At its very [big, bulging] heart, Cinema Six is about a hapless group of movie theater employees who are stuck in limbo between childhood and adulthood. Stanton Family Cinemas is just as much of an escape from reality for the employees as the films are for the audiences. The characters are incredibly real and therefore undeniably sympathetic. I am not just blowing smoke up your ass while whistling Dixie when I say that I cannot recall a recent comedy that is as emotionally complex as Cinema Six. (I also never knew that hearing Barry Corbin discuss his sex life could be so damn hilarious!) (Check out our 8 out of 10 review of Cinema Six from DIFF 2012.)

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    COMPLIANCE

    Director: Craig Zobel
    Writer: Craig Zobel
    Starring: Ann Dowd, Dreama Walker, Pat Healy, Bill Camp, Phil Ettinger, Ashlie Atkinson, James McCaffrey, Stephen Payne
    Other than the increased stress, it’s business as usual. At least until the phone rings. It seems there’s a police officer (Pat Healy) on the line and he needs to talk to Sandra (Ann Dowd) about a very important and sensitive matter. A customer has gone to the police and accused cute 19-year old cashier Becky (Dreama Walker) of stealing some cash from her purse. While it’s a bit out of the ordinary, he insists that he’ll need Sandra to assist with the investigation until officers can arrive. Apparently they’re in the middle of a larger investigation involving Becky and her brother but need Becky to be held until they can arrive. Sandra is hesitant at first but in no time at all is under the spell of the authoritative and manipulative voice on the line and is enjoying the thrill of playing police officer by proxy. (Check out our 7.5 out of 10 review of Compliance from SXSW 2012.)

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    EXTRATERRESTRIAL

    Director: Nacho Vigalondo
    Writer: Nacho Vigalondo
    Starring: Michelle Jenner, Julián Villagrán, Carlos Areces, Raúl Cimas
    With Extraterrestrial, Nacho Vigalondo utilizes what could very well be a lost Twilight Zone episode to cleverly examine human relationships and the extreme lengths that men will go to in order to “win” a woman. Extraterrestrial also works as a well-crafted metaphor for the way that the fear of the “other” is often used to manipulate people’s emotional responses to situations. Check out our 7 out of 10 review of Extraterrestrial from Fantastic Fest 2011.)

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    FAMILY NIGHTMARE

    Director: Dustin Guy Defa
    I have watched Family Nightmare and lived to tell the tale; and though the screening was two days ago and I am still rendered absolutely speechless. You know what? The last time I remember feeling this shocked and awed by a film was after my first viewing of Harmony Korine’s Trash Humpers. The two films do share a certain kinship in their portrayals of absurdly dysfunctional family units, but the fact that Dustin Guy Defa’s film is real (the footage is of his own family) really amps up the effectiveness of Family Nightmare. (Check out our 8 out of 10 review of Family Nightmare from True/False 2012.)

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    GAYBY

    Director: Jonathan Lisecki
    Writer: Jonathan Lisecki
    Starring: Jenn Harris, Matthew Wilkas, Charlie Barnett, Samantha Buck, Louis Cancelmi, Christian Coulson, Alycia Delmore, Dulé Hill, Anna Margaret Hollyman, Jonathan Lisecki, Joanne Tucker
    Jonathan Lisecki’s Gayby is a film with many admirable qualities; it intelligently discusses sexuality (including issues of gay identity), aging, friendship, loneliness, and the definition of family. Gayby is not a “gay film”; it is a film about people and relationships, whether they be L-G-B-T-Q or A…and everything in between. (I also love the way race is handled.) Sure, Lisecki includes a lot of gay-oriented humor but his goal is not to segregate his audience, instead he hopes to create a better understanding of sexuality and gender. As offensive as some audiences may find a narrative about an unmarried straight woman and gay man having intercourse to make a baby, the purpose of Gayby is not to shock or offend people. For all of you naysayers out there (I am looking at you Rick Santorum!), Gayby might actually open your mind if you just give it a chance. When it comes down to it, Gayby is a well-written (and acted) and undeniably silly romantic comedy; I would love to watch any staunch religious conservative try to watch it with a straight (mind the pun) face! (Check out our 8 out of 10 review of Gayby from SXSW 2012 and our SXSW 2012 interview with Jonathan Lisecki, Jenn Harris and Matthew Wilkas.)

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    GIRL MODEL

    Directors: David Redmon, Ashley Sabin
    Shot in an uncompromising cinéma vérité style, Girl Model does not rely upon any of the falsifying flourishes that so many modern documentaries utilize. With no on-camera presence, voiceover narration, graphics or reenactments to increase the “entertainment value,” Redmon and Sabin’s directorial influence barely registers on our radar… That said — we are always aware that we are experiencing Girl Model from the perspective of Redmon and Sabin’s kino eyes. Redmon and Sabin spent countless months documenting their subjects with keen observational insight and they sculpted Girl Model from that footage. This is where their true genius comes into play — the way they shape and structure the narrative during the editing process. (Check out our 8 out of 10 review of Girl Model from SXSW 2012 and our SXSW interview with David Redmon and Ashley Sabin.)

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    HELLION

    Director: Kat Candler
    Writer: Kat Candler
    Starring: Jonny Mars, Deke Garner, Tommy Hohl, Arthur Dale, Karinne Berstis, Ashley Serrao
    Kat Candler’s six-minute short film Hellion promises to grow — funding-permitted — into a mayhem-filled feature-length film; but, for now, the short serves as a medias in res introduction to three young brothers (Deke Garner, Arthur Dale and Tommy Hohl) and their incredibly rambunctious ways. On the day that we meet the three hellions, we find that they have been left alone with an obviously unqualified babysitter (Karinne Bersti) who has already been — how should I put this? — removed from the equation. Left to their own devices, anarchy ensues (in tandem with a heavy metal soundtrack); but the Lord of the Flies atmosphere instantly evaporates into thin air as soon as their father (Jonny Mars) gets home. (Check out our 8 out of 10 review of Hellion from Sundance 2012 and our SXSW 2012 interview with Kat Candler.)

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    THE IMPOSTER

    Director: Bart Layton
    Bart Layton’s documentary borrows heavily from Errol Morris’ truth-is-stranger-than-fiction filmmaking style and this true crime documentary has more unsuspecting twists and turns than most Hollywood thrillers. If The Imposter was categorized as a fiction film, no one would believe that it was based on facts. Other than its heavy-handed presentation, The Imposter‘s other main “fault” is that it poses exponentially more questions than it is ever able to answer, which might be frustrating for some audiences. Nonetheless, there is no denying that the story is extremely entertaining and incredibly weird. (Check out our 6 out of 10 review of The Imposter from True/False 2012.)

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    KID-THING

    Director: David Zellner
    Writer: David Zellner
    Starring: Sydney Aguirre, Susan Tyrrell, Nathan Zellner, David Zellner, David Wingo, Heather Kafka, Sam Douglas, Peter Vasquez
    Kid-Thing is a dream-like fable about Annie (Sydney Aguirre), a young tom-boy growing up devoid of parental guidance or societal integration, allowed to run wild and uninhibited in the woods on the outskirts of Austin, her activity only limited by her stamina and imagination. Told through Annie’s eyes, the story fittingly veers between the realistic and the fantastical, told primarily visually… The Zellner’s combination of oddball moments with quirky humor and visually striking aesthetics struck a chord with me but it is Annie’s character and Aguirre’s striking performance that truly carry the film. Her mix of uninhibited childish enthusiasm, youthful angst and occasional slight menace are a joy to behold. (Check out our 8 out of 10 review of Kid-Thing from SXSW 2012 and our SXSW 2012 video interview with David Zellner, Nathan Zellner and Syndey Aguirre.)

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    THE SALT OF LIFE

    Director: Gianni Di Gregorie
    Writers: Gianni Di Gregorio, Valerio Attanasio
    Starring: Gianni Di Gregorio, Valeria De Franciscis Bendoni, Alfonso Santagata, Elisabetta Piccolomini, Valeria Cavalli, Aylin Prandi, Kristina Cepraga, Michelangelo Ciminale, Teresa Di Gregorio, Lilia Silvi, Gabriella Sborgi
    Like Mid-August Lunch, The Salt of Life is set in writer/director/star Gianni Di Gregorio’s native Trastevere, a working-class district in Rome; and once again he plays Gianni, a dutiful middle-aged son to an aged mother, Valeria (Valeria De Franciscis Bendoni). The Salt of Life is a studious commentary on unemployment, social class, and aging, all the while adding a frank discussion on the sexual pursuits of middle-aged men. For whatever reason, older Italian men seem to be known — via the cinema at least — for their preference of much younger women, and Di Gregorio cleverly plays with that belief. With Di Gregorio in the leading role, The Salt of Life also functions as a commentary on predatory filmmakers — you know, the ones who cast themselves (seemingly out of wish fulfillment) in romantic roles alongside beautiful, young women. (Check out our 8 out of 10 review of The Salt of Life.)

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    SIRONIA

    Director: Brandon Dickerson
    Writers: Wes Cunningham, Brandon Dickerson, Thomas Ward
    Starring: Wes Cunningham, Amy Acker, Tony Hale, Robyn Lively, Jeremy Sisto, Courtney Ford
    Thomas Fisher (Wes Cunningham) is a talented singer/songwriter on the verge of making it big. His major label debut album is awaiting release, him and his beautiful wife Molly (Amy Acker) are expecting their first child and about to move into a beautiful high-rise condo in the heart of LA; in short, his dreams are about to become reality. Then the rug is suddenly pulled out from under his feet as record label executives decide Thomas and his music are no longer “relevant,” choosing to shelve his album. His agent, Tucker (Jeremy Sisto), sensing that his client’s stock has declined, leaves him high and dry, shifting his focus to younger more marketable pop stars. No longer able to afford his new LA home, baby on the way, and disgusted by the LA music machine that has chewed him up and spit him out, Thomas is at a crossroads. He impulsively decides it’s time to pack up and move to Sironia, TX (Waco in disguise), where Molly’s brother lives, to raise a family among “real people” living real lives. Of course things are never that simple. (Check out our 7 out of 10 review of Sironia from AFF 2011.)

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    TCHOUPITOULAS

    Directors: Bill Ross, Turner Ross
    Bill and Turner Ross‘ Tchoupitoulas does a tremendous job of defying classification. It functions as both a surreal documentary that borrows from narrative storytelling techniques and a narrative film that paints a realistic portrait of its protagonists by utilizing documentary devices. The narrative unfolds like an improvised jazz album with various tangents that flow seamlessly away from and towards the forward-moving primary thread. The tempo continuously alternates as well; as the sublime, impressionistic cinematography alternates between running, walking and pausing. We are fully immersed into the surrounding environment from the perspective of three young brothers as they embark upon an adventure deep into the heart of New Orleans. (Check out our 9 out of 10 review of Tchoupitoulas from SXSW 2012 and our SXSW 2012 interview with Bill and Turner Ross.)

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    TONIGHT YOU’RE MINE

    Director: David Mackenzie
    Writer: Thomas Leveritt
    Starring: Luke Treadaway, Natalia Tena, Mathew Baynton, Alastair Mackenzie, Ruta Gedmintas
    Shot on location at Balado Park (located near Kinross, Scotland) during the 2010 T in the Park music festival (named after its main sponsor, Tennents), Mackenzie’s guerrilla-style production flawlessly captures the sense of lunacy and ecstasy of his characters’ surroundings. Tonight You’re Mine is just as much about capturing the E’s and Whizz fueled atmosphere as it is about hobbling together a somewhat realistic rom-com flick amongst the mud, music and mayhem. The narrative is a bit flimsy but if you take into consideration the much abbreviated shooting schedule, Tonight You’re Mine is at the very least an impressive technical feat. Thomas Leveritt is credited as screenwriter, but the naturalistic performances lend a certain air of spontaneity and improvisation. (Check out our 7 out of 10 review of Tonight You’re Mine from SXSW 2011.)

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    WOLF

    Director: Ya’Ke Smith
    Writer: Ya’Ke Smith
    Starring: Jordan Cooper, Shelton Jolivette, Mikala Gibson, Irma P. Hall, Eugene Lee, Gabi Walker, Monique Straw, Amelia Jeffries, Nikki Young, Xavier Ramirez
    Wolf works incredibly well because Smith grounds the film firmly in reality, fully fleshing out his characters and never over-dramatizing their actions. (Smith certainly could not have done this without Jordan Cooper, Shelton Jolivette, Mikala Gibson, Irma P. Hall and Eugene Lee’s awe-inspiring performances.) The unbridled realism is what gives Wolf its gut-wrenching power. Wolf is definitely not an easy (or enjoyable) film to watch, but it is a film that truly deserves to be watched by everyone. Wolf is an emotionally challenging film that is sure to prompt deep philosophical discussions about power, corruption, religion and society. Is that not the purpose of art? To challenge us. To make us think. To make us react. (Check out our 8 out of 10 review of Wolf from SXSW 2012 and our SXSW 2012 interview with Ya’Ke Smith.)

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