The final weekend of the Dallas IFF is here. Time to gear up for star appearances and special screenings. Plus, now's your chance to catch all the films that won in competition.

Your Guide to the Final Weekend of the 2013 Dallas International Film Festival

It’s the final weekend of the Dallas International Film Festival, and I hope you haven’t tired out yet. Still to come: Dallas Film Society honors, the big stars, special screenings, and repeat screenings of some of the best films at this year’s festival. Let’s break it down:

THURSDAY

Highlights

Gala Screening of 42 – 7:30 p.m. Cinemark West Plano

Sure, you’ll be able to see 42, a bio pic about baseball legend Jackie Robinson, when it is released in local theaters tomorrow. But at tonight’s screening, Jackie Robsinson’s daughter Sharon will be in attendance for a post-screening Q&A.

 

Reviews

Decoding Annie Parker (4:15 p.m. April 11, Angelika 4)

Rating: Worth a Shot

When Annie Parker was a little girl, her mother died of cancer. Her sister blamed it on the figure of death, a shadowy boogie man living in an upstairs room in her house. It was a metaphor that stuck, in part, because death did loom over Parker’s family. Her sister died of cancer, and Annie contracted the disease three times her self – surviving all three illnesses. That alone provides an inspiring story of survival  but what Steven Bernstein’s focuses on is Parker’s sustained inkling that cancer is somehow connected to her family in some other way.

Enter Mary-Claire King (Helen Hunt) a researcher who is convinced there is a link between breast cancer and genetics. Decoding Annie Parker unfolds both women’s stories concurrently, as two women fight against and odds and obstacles driven by their convictions. It is an approach, unfortunately, that doesn’t prove universally successful. King’s story feels like a sidetrack and it is hampered by some clichéd lab chatter and forced theatrics. Annie Parker (Samantha Morton) is the dynamic, appealing, human character here. Add some goofy antics via the script and direction, and the film manages to turn a film about science, death, disease, and suffering into a light, black comedy — endearing, if slight.

 

God Loves Uganda (4:30 p.m. April 11, Angelika 7)

Rating: Go See It

A troubling look at the way in which the missionary work in Uganda of the evangelical American Christian Right, and the cultural values they seek to spread there, has resulted not only in increased HIV/AIDS infection rates but also a push by some lawmakers for harsher anti-gay policies. Director Roger Ross Williams may too easily let Ugandans themselves off the hook for their own actions, portraying them almost entirely as victims of America’s cultural imperialism, but he makes a strong case that even the most well-meaning of the missionaries is causing harm to the African nation. — Jason Heid

 

Reality (7 p.m. April 11, Magnolia 5)

Rating: Go See It

A Neapolitan fishmonger gets a call back from the Italian version of the Reality TV show “Big Brother,” and it is enough to uproot his connection to, well, reality. Wordplay aside, Matteo Garrone’s film is an exasperating, astute, and befuddling contemporary parable that weaves the desperate story of a pitiful everyman into a rumination on life, dreams, media, aspiration, and even the nature of religious conviction.

Garrone is one of my favorite Italian directors working today, in part because he excels in a kind vernacular cinema, one that is thick with its regional sense of place. Reality is a particularly Italian film in the way it sets its critical sights on a national infatuation with status, wealth and prestige (some of the reasons why the successful playboy Silvio Berlusconi was reelected so many times). The film’s opening sequence is particularly strong, with Garrone’s camera gliding through a wedding scene. Perhaps the director is poking fun at The Godfather, the way cinema creates negative ideals (the Italian success story as criminal underworld), but it doesn’t take long for us to realize that this bourgeois wedding scene has been turned on its head, transforming it, through a subtle shift of perspective, from a vision of regal grandeur to crass contemporary kitsch. It’s part in parcel with the way Garrone sees the world, a place of deception, manipulated by forces both exterior and interior to ourselves. – Peter Simek

 

Chasing Shakespeare (7 p.m. April 11, Angelika 6)

Rating: Don’t Bother

Chasing Shakespeare won a 2013 SXSW Title Design audience award for its sharp and staggering opening sequence in which horses run in slow motion through flashing lightening and a rain-soaked landscape. The sequence appeals to lovers of commercial-style photography that is crisp and clear. It is also the best part of the film. After sequence, a story of a completely different tone and vitality begins. We meet William Ward (Danny Glover) as he crouches over the death bed of his dying wife Venus (Tantoo Cardinal). Over the next two hours (which feel like three), we flash in between the present day, as Ward struggles to come to terms with his wife’s passing — and their love story, whish shows how a young Ward pursued the sparking young Venus (Chelsea Ricketts). It’s a tired, cliché-ridden tale with the emotional depth of a Lifetime movie, replete with didactic posturing on race and sentimental reductions of love. The peppering of the script with bursts of Shakespearean quotes (Young Venus is an aspiring Shakespearean actress) only heightens the embarrassment, like drizzling truffle oil over a McDonald’s salad in the drive thru line. – Peter Simek

 

Blood Brother (7:15 p.m. April 11, Angelika 4)

Rating: Go See It

Searching for “authenticity” in his life, a 20-something American named Rocky journeys to India to work in a home for HIV-infected orphans. It’s a life of far more suffering than joy, and it’s impossible not to walk away from this film impressed by his profound self-sacrifice. Blood Brother hits such strong emotional notes — both happy and sorrowful — that it’s easy to see why this documentary took home audience and grand jury prizes at the Sundance Film Festival. — Jason Heid

 

Shorts 3 (7:30 p.m. April 11 Angelika 7)

Rating: Go See It

Some of the highlights in this shorts program include Assaf Kafri’s Raizerman, a humorous take on a Israeli factory worker’s pending retirement; Cavalier, a nerve wracking story about a drunk father who kidnaps his child from his estranged wife; and Aaron Douglas Johnston’s Today and Tomorrow. Other film’s find their touching moments, such as The Silk, in which a heirloom piece of cloth is transformed into a metaphor for happiness and eternity, and Black Metal, a film about the aging singer of a death metal band whose music inspires a killing.

 

Azooma (7:30 p.m. April 11, Magnolia 4)

Rating: Don’t Bother

South Korean cinema has a somewhat undeserved reputation for being coldly violent and morbidlybrutal, and Ji-seung Lee’s Azooma plays straight into the stereotype. It’s a bumbling, nonsensical film that takes a rather straight forward narrative – a little girl is kidnapped and raped, and her desperate mother tries to track down the perpetrator – and jumbles it into a confusing tumble of flashbacks and flashfowards. The problem is Azooma, despite its sensationally horrific crime, never grabs us with its characters or direction. The whole thing seems to be an excuse to get to the meat and potatoes: a disgusting scene in which revenge is enacted upon the rapist with a dentist’s drill. You can use your imagination to figure out what that means, but the problem with the movie is Lee leaves no room for imagination, showing the entire ordeal in bloody close up. Violence and gore like this has its place (speaking of South Korean violence and child rape, how aboutOldboy?), but Azooma’s real flaw isn’t really its gratuitousness. It’s its pointlessness. – Peter Simek

Good Night (10 p.m. April 11, Angelika 6)

Rating: Don’t Bother

Imagine being dropped into a dinner party of strangers, forced to listen to their inane conversation, and you’ll have a sense of just how irritatingly dull this film is. I credit director Sean Gallagher with fostering a sense of realism, but I wish he’d kept in mind the second half of that old Hitchcock quote that drama is “life with the dull bits cut out.” A group of 20- and 30-something friends gather for the birthday of Leigh, who announces midway through the festivities that her leukemia has returned and that no treatment options remain. There are a few effective flashback segments that flesh out the story about how Leigh’s illness has affected her relationship with her husband Winston, but mostly the party guests just ramble on about nothing in particular for another 45 minutes or so. Gallagher puts a bow on this mess with an ending that isn’t nearly as bold as it likely intends to be, especially since it’s bound to remind many viewers of the conclusion of a certain Best Picture Oscar nominee from this past year. — Jason Heid

Kings of Summer (10:15 p.m. April 11, Magnolia 4)

Rating: Worth A Shot

Jordan Vogt-Roberts sporadically beautiful, hilarious, and fresh coming of age story is feeding off of the buzz it picked up at its debut at Sundance. It tells the story of two teenage friends, Joe and Patrick, who head out to the woods – along with a tag alone from a lost Napoleon Dynamite 2 script, Biaggio – to escape their overbearing, pampered middle class suburban families. For a while, life in the wilderness is sweet, but the sudden arrival of a female love interest sparks fraternal rivalry, and the adolescent dream comes crashing down.

On a level, Kings of Summer is a Stand By Me-style story of friendship and maturation, of hopes and dreams. It’s also a mumbling mash-up of tones, occasionally heartfelt and sincere, often times brash, irreverent and ridiculous. It is a fantasy, but also an attempt at emotional realism.  Its familiar central story arc, about the boys’ life spoiled by a female vixen, feels a bit like a retread. And the best thing about the movie, the stone-faced sarcastic father played by Nick Offerman, is out of step with a movie that otherwise jumps from saucy punch line to dreamy, flickering image. I enjoyed watching Kings of Summer, but felt pushed away by its comedic and visual pretensions. Vogt-Roberts has been compared to Wes Anderson, but even at Anderson’s most self-parodying, he knows how to create a film that is cohesive and dramatic focused, and his characters – however absurdly conceived – are nearly always rounded and dynamic, endowed with a palpable sense of humanity. Despite the pretty photography and the effective jokes, these kings are hollow. – Peter Simek

 

FRIDAY

Highlights

Dallas Film Society Honors – 6:30 p.m. Hotel Palomar

The festival ending gala dinner features appearances by some of the stars at the fest, awards to the films in the various competition categories, and all the usual hoopla that surrounds a gala event. It’s more buttoned-up than the festival kick-off night, but the fun bit is the chance to get sat at a table with some of the filmmakers in for the festival (last year I got to hold Peter Weller’s son, aka Robobaby). Also, keep your ears open for the after parties.

TXU Energy Light Up the Red Carpet Student Film Contest – 4:30 p.m. Angelika 7

The annual sponsored competition challenged high school students to make films in response to the question, “What does energy mean to you.” The six winners include two Booker T. Washington High School students, and one student from the Art Institute of Dallas. Also, the winners will receive $35,000 in cash. You can watch the winning films here, or you can support the young filmmakers in person at this screening.

REVIEWS

Champion (2:30 p.m. April 13, Angelika 4)

Rating: Don’t Bother

Champion is such an anodyne family film — the sort entertaining only to 10- or 11-year-old girls, and then only mildly so — that it seems pointless to criticize how its characters undergo huge mood swings and changes of heart seemingly at random, to suit the screenplay’s needs. Madison (Dora Madison Burge) has to spend the summer living with her grandfather (Lance Henriksen) on his Texas ranch after her soldier mother is deployed overseas. She’s none too happy about having no cell phone service or Wi-Fi, but soon gets into the spirit of country life after meeting the cute farm boy down the road. She decides to train her grandpa’s depressed (don’t ask) dog for a prestigious canine-obstacle-course competition. Bonus: first prize is $5,000, which just happens to be the amount grandpa needs to fend off foreclosure. Do you think she stands a chance of winning? (Rhetorical question.) — Jason Heid

 

Man From the Future (4 p.m. April 12, Magnolia 5)

Rating: Go See It

This Brazilian time-travel comedy is a fun little diversion. A physicist, trying to invent a new energy source, accidentally goes back 20 years, to the very day he believes his life was ruined by a girlfriend who publicly humiliated him. As in Robert Zemeckis’ Back to the Future series, the changes he enacts to the timeline don’t work out quite the way he hoped, and so he must fine a way to pay another visit to the same school dance. — Jason Heid

 

Clandestine Childhood (7 p.m. April 12, Magnolia 5

 Rating: Go See It

Argentina’s reputation as the safest, most European-like country in South America belies the fact that it wasn’t so long ago ruled by a military junta that resorted to “disappearing” anyone suspected of working in opposition to the government. Clandestine Childhood offers a glimpse into that period of internal conflict, through the eyes of young Juan, whose parents are leftist guerilla fighters living under assumed names in a suburban neighborhood. Director Benjamin Ávila’s film marvelously blends the two sides of Juan’s life: afraid every time his parents or his beloved uncle go out that they might not come back alive and learning about love with his first girlfriend at school, á la The Wonder Years. In its more violent, emotionally charged moments the live-action images give way to gorgeously drawn comic-book-style animation that further helps capture a child’s perspective. — Jason Heid

 

Chasing Shakespeare (7:15 p.m. April 12, Angelika 4)

Rating: Don’t Bother

Chasing Shakespeare won a 2013 SXSW Title Design audience award for its sharp and staggering opening sequence in which horses run in slow motion through flashing lightening and a rain-soaked landscape. The sequence appeals to lovers of commercial-style photography that is crisp and clear. It is also the best part of the film. After sequence, a story of a completely different tone and vitality begins. We meet William Ward (Danny Glover) as he crouches over the death bed of his dying wife Venus (Tantoo Cardinal). Over the next two hours (which feel like three), we flash in between the present day, as Ward struggles to come to terms with his wife’s passing — and their love story, whish shows how a young Ward pursued the sparking young Venus (Chelsea Ricketts). It’s a tired, cliché-ridden tale with the emotional depth of a Lifetime movie, replete with didactic posturing on race and sentimental reductions of love. The peppering of the script with bursts of Shakespearean quotes (Young Venus is an aspiring Shakespearean actress) only heightens the embarrassment, like drizzling truffle oil over a McDonald’s salad in the drive thru line. – Peter Simek

 

In The House (7:30 p.m. April 12, Magnolia 4)

Rating: Go See It

Francois Ozon’s In The House offers a post-modern narrative critique, an interlacing of stories that unfold through various prisms of voyeuristic perspective. Germain is a high school literature teacher and failed writer who begins to mentor young Claude, a promising writer who has infiltrated another student’s house, tutoring the boy at math while observing – and writing about – his friend’s parents’ travails. Claude’s stories engage his own sexual fantasies about his friend’s mother, and then take a more sinister tone. As the film progresses, there is an increasingly blurriness between what in this movie is the fantasy of Claude and what is happening outside the boy’s construed stories. The resonance of interpersonal desire only underscores a consideration of what we understand as reality and how our sense of self is rooted in the way we craft the stories that, true or false, construct our identity and perspective. – Peter Simek

 

SATURDAY

Highlights

Special screenings of competition winning films:

-          Silver Heart Award Winner (12:15 p.m. Angelika 4)

-          Documentary Winner (12 p.m Angelika 6)

-          Short film winners (5 p.m. Angelika 4)

-          Narrative feature winner (7:30 p.m. Angelika 6)

-          Texas Competition winner (7:30 p.m. Texas Theater)

A conversation with Sherry Lansing (12:30 p.m. Crow Collection of Asian Art)

The Exorcist (w/ William Fredikin) 3:30 p.m. Texas Theater

Smashed with Mary Elizabeth Winstead in attendance. 12:30 p.m. Angelika 7

REVIEWS

7 Boxes (2:45 p.m. April 13, Magnolia 4)

Rating: Go See It

In Paraguay, teenage delivery boy Vincent is desperate for some cash to buy a cell phone with the novelty of a built-in camera (the year is 2005). So he agrees to temporarily hold onto some contraband for a couple of hapless criminals. After Vincent discovers the horrifying truth about what’s in the boxes he’s carrying, he spends one long night being chased by the police, the criminals, and a rival delivery man out to take the merchandise for himself. The intensity of the film’s violent confrontations is tempered by many lighter, humorous moments throughout. — Jason Heid

 

A Company Man (5:30 p.m. April 13, Magnolia 5)

Our Rating: Don’t Bother

There’s too much melodrama and not enough action in this Korean picture (making its North American big-screen debut at DIFF) about a professional assassin who’s tired of the business and just wants out. Suffering through the hitman’s ennui would be far more tolerable had it been accompanied by at least one great action scene.— Jason Heid

 

Il Futuro (7:15 p.m. April 13 Magnolia 4)

Our Rating: Go See It

Chilean director Alicia Scherson adapts the novel by Roberto Bolano which tells the tale of two orphans in Rome, 19-year-old Bianca (Manuela Martelli) and her younger teenage brother Tomas (Luigi Ciardo). With his sister as his guardian, Tomas begins to skip school, rig the TV to watch pornography channels, and befriends two goon bodybuilders at a local gym. The two men hatch a plan to infiltrate the Roman villa of Maciste (Rutger Hauer), a former Mr. Universe and B-movie American actor whose claim to fame are camp, strongman movies he made in Italy in the 1960s. Bianca poses as a prostitute to get into the house and look for the safe that hides his riches. But once she discovers the hulking, loner ex-star is blind, a strange and charged relationship unfolds. Partly a new take on the Beauty and the Beast tale, partly a story about sexual maturation and paternal longing and tenderness, Il Futuro is a wonderfully acted, tense, and beguiling film, sticky and haunting.

 

SUNDAY

Highlights

Screening of Farenheit 451, 4 p.m. Texas Theater

The screening is in conjunction with The Big Read: Dallas. Following the showing of Francois Truffaut’s film on 35 mm, I will be joined by Dallas Morning News film critic Chris Vognar for a conversation about the movie and censorship. There’s a suggested donation of $4.51.

 

REVIEWS

Post Tenebras Lux (Noon April 14, Magnolia 5)

Rating: Go See It

Winner of the best director prize at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, Mexican director Carlos Reygadas’ work is utterly captivating in its individual moments. I’m just not sure what to make of the sum total of its story, in which literal and figurative demons alter the lives of one well-off family and a man who works on their gorgeous hilltop estate. With a haunting kaleidoscopic effect used on much of the photography and with scenes presented out of chronological order, Post Tenebras Lux effectively represents the notion that our past, present, and future all exist together at once in the folds of our memories. — Jason Heid

 

Renoir (3:30 p.m. April 14, Angelika 7)

Rating: Worth a Shot

The Renoir that Gilles Bourdos lush and sultry historical drama revolves around is the painter, Auguste (Michel Bouquet), whom we meet at the end of a career, as he struggles with physical ailments. The Renoir who holds our attention is Jean (Vincent Rottiers), the future filmmaker who is a young man released from military service. Back at his father’s villa he meets the fetching nude model Andree (Christa Theret), a satyr of sorts, whose precocious sexual sense is an agent of maturity. Bourdos’ film is best as a visual feast, so rich with color and exquisite light, but its romance and familial subplots meander a bit before they diffuse into loose ambiguity.