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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

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