Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Dallas International Film Festival

And then Lou Diamond Philips walked in.

Okay, rewind ten seconds.
I'm sitting in a room that looks like a convention center meeting room, but in reality it’s a theater at the Studio Movie Grill in North Dallas; it just looks odd because the lights are all the way up. Theaters in movie houses feel strange when all the lights are on; maybe it’s because we spend so much time there in the dark.
Anyway five seconds later, I'm commenting to my girlfriend that the movie we are about to see is a low budget film and could serve as inspirational food for thought on our future projects. She agrees and she tells me "I love cinema."
I turn around in my seat to look behind me and Lou Diamond Philips walks in.

Its in this moment that I realize that my girlfriend is right; we love cinema and in turn we love film festivals. Why? Because film festivals, much more than a casual outing to the movies, nourishes our need to be around other people that also love cinema. Everyone in that theater was there to see a small independent film that could in no way compete monetarily with the Micheal Douglas piece that was playing across the hall and was also a part of the festival. That theater, I heard, was completely full. The theater we shared with Lou Diamond was about 75% full. But it was completely full with interesting people interested in the story telling power of cinema.

The festival was the Dallas International Film Festival. For the past three years it was known as the AFI Film Festival and although it was spearheaded by the Dallas Film Society, the AFI foundation no doubted called the shots back then. I attended a few screenings the first year the AFI Film Festival was in Dallas and I have to say; I thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere of the DIFF much more. Maybe it's just that I like the new name (it paints Dallas as a stronger beacon for quality cinematic events) but it actually felt like the air around the screenings was less stuffier. Which is saying something in Dallas. So kudos to the Dallas Film Society.

I caught a few screenings at the DIFF this year. One of them I can recommend the other...well, lets just say I've seen better films on youtube. That particular film was a low budget, psychology gore fest called “Walking Distance” directed by Mel House. The story centers around a small community where everything is within walking distance and deep, dark secrets are buried in the earth, not to mention within the psyche of some of the town's inhabitants. The films begins somewhat promising, if not cheesy, but quickly spirals downward from there. Questionable casting, a confusing script and spastic editing make “Walking Distance” barely enjoyable. I'm a big horror fan myself and when the director stood up at the beginning of the film and said that “Walking Distance” was similar to “Nightmare on Elm Street”, I was excited. Sadly, it was nothing like Nightmare. I can only recommend this film to hard core gore-fest fanatics who won't care that the film could have been salvaged with a little creativity.

The other film, the one I can recommend to just about anyone, was called “Transparency” by director Raul Inglis, starring Lou Diamond Philips as an ATF security guard who uncovers a deadly prostitution ring that victimizes young Russian woman. When Lou attempts to help one of the victims, he then becomes the target of the powers that be, forcing him to fight for his life and the safety of the woman he befriends. Lou Diamond said it best in the Q&A that followed the screening: “Transparency” is basically an updated “Deathwish”. Remember that Charles Bronson flick? Lou Diamond even grew a moustache as an homage to the cult Bronson franchise. It looked good on him.

Tansperancy” will not be winning any Oscars; it’s entertaining but simple. Hell, I doubt it will be given a limited release in theaters. More than likely it will go straight to DVD, which may be a good thing; renting it for a few bucks and watching it at home won't make you feel cheated by paying an expensive movie ticket. But I’ll tell you, it will make you believe in Lou Diamond Philips again. Stay with me on this: for years now I've been saying to myself "Where the hell is Lou Diamond Phillips?" Where's the guy that I grew up with as Ritchie in “La Bamba” or Angel in “Stand and Deliver” or Jose in “Young Gunz”? I hadn’t seen him since the “The Big Hit” back in '98 and even then I just saw him in the trailers, I never actually saw the damn thing. I don’t know why, but I felt like I knew Lou Diamond and respected him but hadn't seen him in a while . Apparently he's big on the Stargate television show but I've never seen that program. So imagine my joy when I saw a great acting performance in “Transparency” by none other than Lou himself. AND he kicks some serious ass in the flick, Jason Bourne style. I half expected him to knock some thug out and as he stood over the body, mutter "Ritchie's Back, Bitch."

So thank you, Lou Diamond, for reinvigorating this Cinema fan. Thank you Dallas Film Society for giving Dallas a cool film festival name. And thank you Tracey Dowling for giving me the opportunity to experience the festival in the first place. Last but not least thank you, yes you reading these words right now, because this one’s for you.

“I love cinema.”


1 comment:

  1. Loved the post, it gets me excited about true artistic cinema! Thank you for awakening my cinematic eye!