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13th Annual Dallas International Film Festival LineUp Announced

Spanning April 11 to April 18 and presenting over 130 films from over 35 countries, DIFF is never likely to disappoint. 

Johnathan Brownlee is excited this year. Perhaps he should be. Considering the success of last year’s mini concerts in relation to musically themed films including Bone Thugs and Harmony, he’s expanded the idea to include seven music stages covering seven days of this flagship Dallas festival.

This year’s film lineup, powered by Capital One, includes five World Premieres, one U.S. Premiere, 37 Texas Premieres, and 15 Dallas Premieres.

The largest film festival in North Texas, will screen at Magnolia Theater, West Village in Uptown Dallas; Studio Movie Grill, Royal Lane; and Dallas Museum of Art.

For the first time at DIFF, all seats are reserved and tickets are available only through the Atom Tickets app or http://www.AtomTickets.com. Tickets will be available to pass holders beginning March 25 and to the public on March 27. For more information or to purchase passes, please visit go to http://www.dallasfilm.org,

But that’s not the only buzzworthy information about DIFF recently released from directors.

“At DIFF, we understand that film is the most relatable art form and connects individuals through shared experiences,” said James Faust, artistic director of Dallas Film. “Hundreds of hours went into hand selecting the films that will be screened at DIFF, and our goal is to offer a variety of fascinating, heartwarming, educational and insightful films that will be thought-provoking and relatable to DIFF festivalgoers. We have many engaging and entertaining events planned throughout the festival and are eager to provide a memorable festival experience for all who attend.”

This year’s lineup is extraordinary and is poised to bring Dallas screenings of performances by Elisabeth Moss, Lily Collins, and Zac Efron.

Time for Ilhan: A Well-Made Biopic that Chronicles the rise to fame of a Boundary Breaking Somali Congresswoman.

I as a voter, as an “American,” as someone who favors Western Values, am utterly and totally confused by Ilhan Omar as a politician.

I’m not confused by how she wins a constituency. She resonates with her district’s values, a Somali refugee diaspora, women of color, and those tired of politics with a male-preferent rationale. I get this, and I understand why this group is strongly-interested in changing the scale and conversation in American politics.

I’m not confused as to how she wins the hearts of people. As her adorable daughter pontificates that she is “President” of the house, because she takes care of her children, it’s not hard to agree. Good mothers make good community leaders. It’s a good value to instill in a politician–or a human being, taking care of others.

Ilhan is very human, which is something her detractors don’t generally grant her enough credit for and it’s absolutely time they stopped.

She’s quite the opposite of some kind of hijabed monster, out to kill family values, and there’s really not much reason to think she is one, despite her detractors.

She’s got a wonderful family and she takes good care of it despite having lived through a lot of turmoil.

She’s got a strong community, even though it comes together after being fractured. She’s the picture of inspiration. That’s why — in some respects the rest of her platform is so confusing.

The thing I don’t understand about Ilhan, is that she is vehement support of anything meant to bring down Israel’s economy without explicitly fighting for an economy in Gaza that isn’t run by the more militant members of Hamas, because of Israel’s actions to defend itself.

If Hamas would run Gaza and all it could claim as Al Shabaab would run Somalia, wouldn’t you at least be fighting for a more liberal PNA and a less militarized Israel — and perhaps a Gaza that gets stronger and more liberated on accepting pacifist, feminist values and free trade on a world scale?

Palestinians, and Muslims in general have got an international and national stage like they’ve never had before, and I’m glad of it. I often wish it wasn’t as easily dismissible by the Right as, “All they want is Israel’s death, instead of its cooperation in increasing autonomy and peaceable action.”

Everyone’s eerily silent about the recent ruling in Detroit to make FGM possible in U.S. jurisdictions. Not just the Muslim politicians you’d expect to take offense, because they’ve experienced the brunt of the problem.

Why be a U.S. refugee if it’s not going to be markedly different for the little girl’s hair you’re braiding at all?

I want you here. I like that you have organized power. I just wish it spoke more to the issues you don’t want your daughter to face in raising her here than enabling cultures of militancy that even Egypt wants to subdue.

The doc is emotional and riveting, and it’s obvious to see why it’s an award winner. I just can’t get over the politics, the politics that want to destroy a singular country instead of terror factions — instead of governments destroying democracy all over the Middle East and world.

Among Wolves: A Film that Builds Tension In Slow but Structured Pacing

AMONG WOLVES is a film depicting the struggle to heal after conflict and post traumatic stress disorder.

The Wolves are a multi-ethnic motorcycle club led by Bosnian War veterans. In the mountains where they once fought, they now defend the threatened herd of wild horses with whom they once shared the front line.

In helping others, they discover a sense of liberty that heals themselves as they make amends to their society. In cooperative humanitarian mission, they and emerge from the pain of war.

Jennie Kermode at Eye For Film has called this work visual poetry, Alex Salivev has called it “a statement on achieving redemption in a seemingly doomed place.”  John DeFore in his Hollywood Reporter review called scenes from Among Wolves “psychic soothing.”  All three positions represent significant descriptions detailing what it is to engage with PTSD or traumatic moments and come out on the other side a little stronger.

I would additionally describe the film as “a visually pleasing work that lends itself to immense emotional release.” The colorist and DP rendered images that are full of saturated coloration in a pleasing way despite its gritty stylings and seemingly ugly moments.

In this sense, Shawn Covey has created a film that builds an excellent amount of tension in slow, but structured pacing.

After sold out screenings (all of them) and winning the prestigious Chicago Award at its Chicago International world premiere, AMONG WOLVES has spent two years screening to great audience approval at festivals spanning 4 continents and has been awarded Best Director, Best of Fest, and Triumph of the Human Spirit.

Chicagoans still have time to see it at Music Box Theater on Wednesday Feb 13 and 14 as part of a special “and Friends” event featuring related films on themes that portray the complicated emotional nature of masculinity.

The First Man American Flag Controversy

Much has been made about the controversy surrounding the lack of Ryan Gosling’s Neil
Armstrong placing the American flag on the moon in Damien Chazelle’s just unleashed
First Man.

The outrage has led to massive 1-star ratings and user reviews on IMDB from people
who have yet to see the film. If the lack of the flag being placed on the moon are the
worst thing to happen in a film, it’s massively telling for the point America has reached
as a nation. Yet these people seem to have no problems with the awful problems that our
nation faces today.

The problem is that people are more than willing to pre-judge a film before it hits
theaters. I understand judging those films with abusers in them because I’ve done the
same and won’t stop that anytime soon. But what do these protesters have to say about
First Man when Armstrong’s own family is defending the film?

One excerpt of a statement from Armstrong’s sons, Rick and Matt, and author James
Hansen says everything we need to know about their feelings:

“Although Neil didn’t see himself that way, he was an American hero. He was also an
engineer and a pilot, a father and a friend, a man who suffered privately through great
tragedies with incredible grace. This is why, though there are numerous shots of the
American flag on the moon, the filmmakers chose to focus on Neil looking back at the
earth, his walk to Little West Crater, his unique, personal experience of completing this
journey, a journey that has seen so many incredible highs and devastating lows.”

This film, they say, should not be seen as anti-American. Give First Man a chance. I
know that I will.

29134970_10102083915109720_1906448420_nDanielle Solzman is a film critic and a member of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle, Galeca: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics, Alliance of Women Film Journalists, and the Online Film & Television Association. She also writes for Solzy at the Movies.

 

Pharrell Williams and Forest Whittaker’s Roxanne Roxanne has its upcoming Netflix premiere. Hip Hop Legend Spyder D is conisdering bio/historical pic of his own.

The legendary Spyder D is headed to New York to see two of his tracks as they appear in the Netflix Premeire of Pharrell Williams and Forrest Whittaker’s Roxanne, Roxanne today. This film looks like a can’t miss watch, but considering a crowd at Sundance and a Limited Release has already declared that, my opinion is only adding to the obvious fanfare about the ambitious (and well-recieved) project. Chanté Adams’s performance is clearly that compelling.

Word also has it that Spyder D is strongly considering a bio/historical pic chronicling the life and times of the legendary Power Play Studios and is talking to the right team to get it done.

We are definitely excited about the prospects of this project, for all the right reasons. There’s something about the art of the mix and the oral history that is just . . . appealing.

 

The Feetles play DVF30 AltFiction along with many other astounding acts.

It seems like in the age of Trump, it’s hard to tell which sock is right and which sock is left.  It’s as if the 1960’s reached out to tinge our present decade, but none of it is the good part where civil rights happen or women get liberated. It’s the same blather over and over again.

Who care’s if they’re legitimized? These sad men who can’t handle legitimate protest are all just trolls on Twitter in the end.

So what’s a person to do when every day civil liberty is eroding? Seek comfort, support and distraction. Live as though you’re forgetting that Nuclear Winter is just around the corner. Isn’t that what we did then?

Maybe we should all be after a better sense of nostalgia.

Like those invoked by parodies of sock puppets who are quite glad their lady love has washed them.

Just ask Bart Weiss, artistic director of VideoFest for his inspiration.

“There’s lots of talk today about alternative facts and political narratives. The line between fact and fiction in life and in cinema is blurring.

Filmmakers are making TV; TV shows become feature films. Who can even define what the idea of television is anymore with networks along with the gamut of streaming services? DVF30’s AltFiction Fest devotes the weekend to ways of telling stories on large screens and small – film and TV and web – mixing media and mediums,” said Bart Weiss, founder and artistic director of Dallas VideoFest.

The narratives that make up the majority of AltFiction Fest explore this moment in time at the intersection between media and how cinema artists can create original work in this new world.

“Over the 4 days at the Angelika, a great palace of traditional cinema exhibition, AltFiction Fest features new works from local and international filmmaker telling unique stories, working the edges and sometimes the centers of this world,” said Weiss.

See THE FEETLES, a short produced in the Dallas area by the ever-growing in popularity “Sock Puppet Parody” YouTube collective, and many other offerings ready to lift your spirits at Dallas VideoFest #DVF30AltFiction. 

Video Association of Dallas to Receive $10,000 Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts

[Dallas]—National Endowment for the Arts Acting Chairman Mary Anne Carter has approved more than $27 million in grants as part of the Arts Endowment’s first major funding announcement for the fiscal year 2019.  Included in this announcement is an Art Works grant of $10,000 to Video Association of Dallas for Dallas VideoFest’s 32nd season. Art Works is the Arts Endowment’s principal grantmaking program. The agency received 1,605 Art Works applications for this round of grantmaking and will award 972 grants in this category.

“The arts enhance our communities and our lives, and we look forward to seeing these projects take place throughout the country, giving Americans opportunities to learn, to create, to heal, and to celebrate,” said Mary Anne Carter, acting chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. 

“The opportunities, which the receipt of the NEA grant will provide in expanding the outreach of VideoFest 32 to the community and serve our mission, are much valued and appreciated,” said Jeff Leuschel, board president of the Video Association of Dallas and Dallas VideoFest.

DALLAS VIDEOFEST
VideoFest (VideoFest.org) is now the oldest and largest video festival in the United States and continues to garner critical and popular acclaim. VideoFest prides itself on bringing films to the theater that are rarely available to be seen anywhere else. VideoFest has included screenings varying from cat videos to Expanded Cinema on the walls of the Downtown Dallas Omni Hotel. Films like Experimental/Art Films through its Dallas Medianale, Animation, Narrative and Documentary Shorts, as well as Documentary and Narrative Features and some hard-to-find Classic TV episodes and Classic Film including Silent Films are often in the mix.

MISSION OF DALLAS VIDEOFEST
The mission of the Dallas VideoFest is to promote an understanding of video as a creative medium and cultural force in our society and to support and advance the work of Texas artists working in video and the electronic arts.  Dallas VideoFest is a 501(c)(3) organization incorporated on April 25, 1989, under Video Association of Dallas.  It began in 1986 as a weekend event, “Video As A Creative Medium,” presented at the Dallas Museum of Art by independent curators, Barton Weiss and John Held.

That first event, which included two nights of video by selected local and national video artists, was a great popular success, which led to the founding of the Dallas Video Festival in 1987. Dallas VideoFest also presents the 24-Hour Video Race, North Texas Universities Film Festival, Dallas Medianale, Three Star Cinema, and other programs throughout the year.

Born Just Now chronicles the life and times of Marta Jovanović, as she makes dangerous art her society does not quite know how to value.

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A figure stands on stilts, or a raised platform, in a long white gown. Silent. Waiting. Buckets of hearts from slaughtered pigs are handed to a crowd. One by one, hurled in a seemingly unending fury they pelt the concept artist until she is handed a single rose still very much in the bud stage. The work is called “Ljubav.” It is the Serbian word for Love.

This is one in a series of concepts presented that critique, in some fashion, the role of women in Serbian society presented by the artist and her students, who all struggle to fund their art and find footing in communities that only value limited roles and functioning for women.

Robert Adanto’s Born Just Now chronicles the life and art of Marta Jovanović as she surveys the pain of a nation in turmoil and her own experienced body trauma from relationship abuse through the contemporary Serbian Avant Garde scene. Her acquaintances critique her motives over restaurant conversation. What she is doing is decidedly “out of the norm.”

“The art that you do, that is performance art, does not mesh with what most people consider performance in this environment,” she is told over drinks by Vladislav Scepanović, a noted artist and curator. He represented Serbia at the last Venice Biennale.  He elaborates that it’s not private enough — and far too publicized. It’s almost as if he is speaking about the public and private divide themselves.

The film opens with the artist smashing hundreds of eggs suspended from the ceiling in gauze tubes with a hammer, yolk dripping down on her in a harshly lit enclosed performance space. It signifies wasted years of reproduction, in the pursuit of art and is performed “quite publicly.” Marta hangs one for each time she has ovulated and not conceived.

In explaining that her body and her devotion to art kept her from reproduction, in what might be a beneficial confluence of events, considering her husband’s malice for failure to fulfill her “role,” and a society that seems rather indifferent to her pain, Jovanović takes on the situation of many female artists, or even women doing anything else but having children, situated in patriarchies. Unacceptance. Frivolity. Wasted funds and space.

Jovanović examines her family’s place as a blended Muslim and Jewish postwar formation under Tito’s regime and her relationship to her grandfather who worshiped the dictator. She explains like she felt his ghost — and chooses a burial location close to Tito’s grave for his remains as she explains the art of others in the contemporary scene and students she coaches. Sewn mouths, bodies and sugar mattresses as endurance works complement torched white wedding dresses.

Adanto’s brilliant take on pacing, storytelling, and the emotional composition of a scene makes this documentary beyond riveting — as it exists as a tale of endurance and strength in expression in an age of increasingly curtailed liberties for women.

Drawing out emotional moments and allowing the pace of situational art to grab his camera are his gifts. In capturing moments of pain transformed into strange beauty he meaningfully shares the story of one woman, of many women, fighting for acceptance in their rebellion.

Born Just Now can be seen at the upcoming Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival on the following dates:


WHEN: Sunday, November 4th at 8:00 PM

WHERE: The Savor Cinema, 503 SE 6th Street, Fort Lauderdale, FL

WHEN: Saturday, November 10th at 9:00 PM

WHERE: Cinema Paradiso Hollywood, 2008 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood, FL

Robert Adanto’s new art documentary BORN JUST NOW offers an intimate look at Marta Jovanović, a Belgrade-based performance artist struggling to cope with the violence that has ended an eight-year marriage. Daring to live on her own terms, Jovanović has chosen art and art-making over marriage and abuse. Through provocative acts of endurance exploring intimacy, motherhood, and the trauma of the Balkan wars, Jovanović seeks to confront, release, and liberate her own pain in the name of art. This personal portrait is a moving meditation on what it means to be a fearless female artist living in the 21st century. Through Jovanović’s words and performances, the story of contemporary women’s ongoing struggle for equality emerges.

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The film participated in the Sundance Institute Documentary Program’s Rough-Cut Lab in Miami.

Featuring: Marta Jovanović, Ivana Ranisavljević, Kathy Battista, Ph.D., Director of Contemporary Art, Sotheby’s Institute of Art, NY; Anja Foerschner, Senior Researcher, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles; Milica Pekić, Art Historian and Curator, Belgrade; Jovo Bakić, Ph.D., University of Belgrade; Vladislav Scepanović, artist; and Jean-Daniel Ruch, Swiss Ambassador to Serbia and to Montenegro.

 

Sarah Mondale; Director of Backpack Full of Cash — holds out on elaborating on some education concerns in her film.

Sarah Mondale, the director of Backpack Full of Cash, has created a film that’s meant to spark some impressive conversations. She and I had one recently, despite some malfunctioning equipment. 

So to attempt to elucidate some deep elements of our conversation that she stated “weren’t in the film” and “weren’t what she usually spoke about” . . . she as a filmmaker, and I in my strange combinant dedication in filmmaking, Texas politics and publishing talked about our experiences with publicly-funded charters and our concerns both financial and ideological/structural with these institutions.

Sarah’s greatest concern eclipsed my usual attention paid to line-items paid out to nebulous administrators contributing questionable items of technology and curricula. She denoted that some charters, specifically requested by parents who wanted a more “reformatory” or “punitive” style of education to reach their children they were worried were on the wrong track.

I will admit that this element within all forms of education concerns me too, especially when it is aimed at minority populations. It’s troubling when other areas are primed for the to-prison pipeline, ideologically, and students of all backgrounds aren’t given what they need to thrive intellectually and physically, in trade and post-secondary training.

I regret I cannot bring you her direct words because of an equipment glitch — but I can say this — she is worth hearing speak more than once at your state convention, a private screening, or a phone call if she has time to grant it.

Host a screening of hers yourself (and potentially hear her speak) by contacting her at http://www.backpackfullofcash.com/host/

Danielle Solzman Weighs In: The Proposed Oscar Changes Are Nonsense

The proposed changes by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences may be one of
the single-worst decisions in the organization’s history.

In 2009, the Academy decided to expand from five to ten Best Picture nominees in the
hopes of nominating popular films. This came following a backlash to The Dark Knight
not being nominated. While director Christopher Nolan is a critical darling, the film was
passed over by the Academy for Best Picture considerations. The film would win two
Oscars and receive a number of technical nominations.

The five films that did get Oscar nominations in 2008 were Frost/Nixon, The Reader,
Slumdog Millionaire, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and Milk. These films
combined for $353,486,991 at the box office to The Dark Knight’s $533,345,348.
Despite an Oscar nomination, Frost/Nixon couldn’t even finish in the top 100 films at the
box office.

Once the changes were made for the next year, it’s hard to say which films benefited.
Avatar got a lot of nominations purely for its technical achievements alone. But come the
summer of 2011, the experiment was over. The Academy decided to award no less than
five but no more than ten films as a result.

The Best Popular Film idea seems to be nothing more than a ratings ploy at best. But
how do you decide the criteria for what constitutes the most popular film? IMDB
ratings? Most fresh reviews on Rotten Tomatoes? The number of people tweeting a
film’s hashtag? Twitter followers? Facebook likes? The Academy is going to have a lot
of questions to answer about this.

All of this nonsense notwithstanding, the Academy made even more moves. They are
aiming for a three-hour broadcast so they’re going to cut a few awards and air edited
speeches in broadcast. If it were me, I’d be the person talking after the music stopped
playing and would go on until after the commercial break! I hate that the Critics’ Choice
and SAG Awards release some of their winners during the red carpet. It’s not fair to
those films and people nominated.

The Oscars can and should do better. Most importantly, they need to reverse this
nonsense. It didn’t take well on social media. To quote the great Groucho, I’m against
it!

29134970_10102083915109720_1906448420_nDanielle Solzman is a film critic and a member of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle, Galeca: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics, Alliance of Women Film Journalists, and the Online Film & Television Association. She also writes for Solzy at the Movies.

Will Braden speaks about the philosophical differences between Cats and Dogs, a new DVF31 PawFest Reel — and his enduring YouTube video, Henri.

Will Braden of CatVideoFest spoke with us about the different feel a dog video has in anticipation of DVF31’s PawFest this week.



Playing Texas Theatre on Aug 23, CatFest has expanded to include dogs. Take a refreshing break from the dog days of summer to watch some funny, heart-melting, videos of adorable felines and canines. Dogs and cats – those age-old rivals for humans’ love, have been spotted pitter-pattering up and down across the country and around the world.

#PAWFest features a new selection of videos curated by Will Braden, the creator of the HENRI, LE CHAT NOIR videos and curator of the original CatVideoFest.com selections featured two years ago in Dallas VideoFest’s first foray into CatFest, and Bart Weiss for the local component.

The evening’s screening will feature approximately 100 cat and/or dog videos culled from videos in the categories of Comedy, Drama, Animated, Musical, Action, Vintage, and Documentary.

Motherhood — Its Blips and Ripples: An Interview with Rondell Merrill on film and Sociology

Today at Film Will Never Be Dead we are pleased to bring you our very first installment of Intern Krysta Rogers’s series of interviews.

She is our inaugural recipient of the newly-formed Sheree Morgan Memorial Internship.

Rondell Merrill is a filmmaker and champion of the indie festival. Sociologist, Founder and Director of Phancie Pants productions and Assistant Director of CIMMFest, Rondell has studied the concerns of post-partum depression and other issues that can arise in women’s lives after strongly desiring motherhood.

 

In this interview Rondell elaborates on what it’s like to be a mother and a wife — and on the problems many women share in this first of three parts.

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