AFI Dallas International Film Festival
SO THAT BIG-BUDGET DALLAS movie may not actually be filmed anywhere near Dallas. But frankly, who cares? The city can now claim a new image booster: the inaugural AFI Dallas International Film Festival. With a goal to screen 150 features and shorts over eleven days at some of the city’s most beloved art houses—the Angelika Film Centre, the Landmark Magnolia Theatre—it’s tongue-waggingly ambitious for a rookie industry gathering. South by Southwest, move aside.
Now, if it’s good, a festival of this size and moxie can change the annual travel plans of cinephiles worldwide. And this one just may have the pedigree to pull it off. Founded by Michael Cain (he of the now-defunct Deep Ellum Film Festival) and advertising mogul Liener Temerlin (he with ties to AFI, that is, the American Film Institute), AFI Dallas certainly has unparalleled funds and friends in high places. Todd Wagner, Ray Nasher, Jack Valenti, and Ross Perot Jr. are honorary board members, and Target will be doling out $25,000 to those filmmakers who submit the best narrative film and documentary (Mark Cuban’s HDNet will also be awarding a cash prize to the director with the best high-definition entry).
As for the more glamorous kind of star power, there’ll be that too, with screen legend Lauren Bacall and director Sydney Pollack in attendance. Gregory Peck’s family will be on hand to accept a tribute to the late actor following a forty-fifth-anniversary screening of To Kill a Mockingbird, and a viewing of Cecil B. DeMille’s 1923 silent film The Ten Commandments will show with live accompaniment by the Dallas Symphony. With glitzy parties and red-carpet schmoozing, it’s all very classic Hollywood. But not in an exclusive way, mind you: In fact, organizers are pushing a deliberately non-elitist Leave No Viewer Behind agenda. From low-to-no-budget indies and starlet-driven pictures to avant-garde art flicks and Shrek-like family offerings, there’s something here for everybody.
So will Robert Redford be fueling up his private jet to come see what all the fuss is about? Well, not yet. Industry insiders sizing up the festival newcomer have been cautious in their opinions, if not downright cynical. AFI Dallas’s greatest strength—all-inclusive, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink programming—may also turn out to be its greatest weakness. Then there’s the respect factor: If it’s unfocused, poorly curated, and not picky enough, the silver-screen cognoscenti will never take it seriously. The most passionate criticism, however, is that it will cannibalize the city’s other fests, in particular the USA Film Festival, which follows in April. Insert “soulless” and “corporate” slurs here.
Still, it’ll be a debut to watch. When was the last time so many filmmakers descended upon Dallas, of all places? Given the Capitol’s recent push for film incentives and Texas’s obsession with being a moviemaking hotbed, we’ll certainly be paying attention: Will this become just another run-of-the-mill city festival? Or will we be mentioning Dallas right up there with Sundance and Cannes? The last time we were this curious we were puzzling over who shot J.R. Mar 22-Apr 1. Various locations, 214-720-0555, http://afidallas.com
Up, Up, and Away
A kite can be many things: a relaxing diversion, a scientific tool, or a work of art. But mostly it’s a sign that winter has finally given way to spring. Never mind that in most parts of Texas it’s warm enough to go kite-flying year-round; the wind’s the thing, and often it’s not sufficiently blustery (5- to 12-mile-an-hour breezes are ideal) until March. Besides, crafting your own delicate paper diamond—or perhaps an asymmetric sail of indestructible ripstop nylon—and learning to keep it aloft are essential endeavors on life’s to-do list. In Austin, enthusiasts will be out en masse for the annual Zilker Park Kite Festival. Ever since it started, in 1928, hundreds have been trekking to the grassy field to test out their fliers (you can make your own at the free workshop) and compete for prizes (accolades go to the most unusual, smallest, and largest homemade entries as well as the ones that fly the steadiest and at the highest angle). With professional kite teams performing acrobatic tricks in the air, an epidemic of neck cricks will surely break out, but keep your eyes peeled for kite-propelled buggies and skateboards as they zip along the ground. If you prefer a state fair-like atmosphere, you can sate your kite appetite at Portland’s four-day Windfest, which also boasts such non-wind-related activities as a carnival, a parade, and a fireworks display. But back to the kites: You can man your own or watch the pros compete in the Kite Surfing Wind Jam out in the Gulf, which awards prizes for the fastest run, coolest stunt, and best wipeout. The humble kite has certainly come a long way. Zilker Park Kite Festival: Mar 4 (rain day Mar 11). 2100 Barton Springs, Austin; 512-448-5483; zilkerkitefestival.com. Windfest: Mar 29-Apr 1. Portland Community Center, 2000 Billy G. Webb Dr, Portland; 877-643-2475; windfest.org
The Beat Is On
That which is forbidden often brings about great art. For the Amazones Women Master Drummers and Dance Company of Guinea, that which was once culturally taboo—the playing of the djembe, a goatskin-covered drum traditionally handled only by men—is now their triumph. Nearly a decade ago, Amazones director Mamoudou Conde boldly created a “sister” troupe for his djembefolas, or master drummers. His impetus? Merely to “change the world,” as he told an interviewer last year. Today the female percussionists, some of whom risked rejection by their families, tour the globe and are treated like superstars back home. They’ll be performing this month as part of the Black Academy of Arts and Letters’ Weekend Festival of Black Dance, which will also showcase the local Cure Ballet Theatre and the Stella Maris Jamaican Dance Company. Luckily for young girls in Guinea, and for audiences worldwide, these brave musicians have bucked tradition and dared to fill the air with the djembe’s ancestral rhythms. Mar 16 & 17. Naomi Bruton Main Stage, 650 S. Griffin; 214-743-2400; tbaal.org