If it’s spring in North Texas, that means it’s time for two things: bluebonnets and the Dallas International Film Festival. The latter starts sprouting on Thursday and it is its usual sprawling self, with more than 172 long-form features and shorts.
It can be a bit overwhelming so here are some that should be worth your time:
Belle: One of the most anticipated dramas of 2014 is this English period drama that deals with the issue of race. Belle, played by newcomer Gugu Mbatha Raw, is the daughter of a white British admiral and a black Caribbean slave who must navigate two worlds. Matthew Goode and Emily Watson co-star. 5:45 p.m. Sunday. Angelika Dallas.
Brazilian Western: Brazilian director’s Rene Sampaio’s debut -- based on a ballad from the band Legiao Urbana -- sounds like it could be an introduction to a compelling new voice. Fabricio Boliveira, who starred in the Brazilian action smash Elite Squad 2, is an outlaw who moves to the city, gets involved in drug dealing and with a senator’s daughter. Good times! 9:30 p.m. Friday and 8:15 p.m. Saturday. Angelika Dallas.
Child of God: Directed by and starring James Franco, and based on a Cormac McCarthy novel, this story of a man who sinks to deeper levels of depravity probably will be one of the more controversial films at the festival. We can only hope it’s better than the last McCarthy effort to make it to the screen, The Counselor. 10:30 p.m. April 9, 7:15 p.m. April 12. Angelika Dallas.
Dom Hemingway: Jude Law is a criminal who’s back on the streets ready to collect what’s owed him. There’s been quite a bit of buzz about this one on the festival circuit. Not for the easily offended. 7:30 p.m. April 10. Angelika Dallas.
Doomsday Party: What’s a film fest without some Hong Kong action? This bank heist thriller, set in a near-future of economic collapse, looks promising. 7 p.m. April 8; 10:15 April 10. Angelika Dallas.
Firestorm: Speaking of Hong Kong, this was one of the biggest movies there in 2013. Andy Lau stars as a cop on the trail of a gang robbing armored cars. The action scenes supposedly are spectacular. 10 p.m. April 8; 7:30 p.m. April 11. Angelika Dallas.
For No Good Reason: This documentary chronicles the life of famed artist Ralph Steadman. Longtime Steadman fan/friend Johnny Depp is also featured. 7:15 p.m. April 13. Angelika Dallas.
Heaven Is for Real: In a year when religiously themed films are raking it in at the box-office -- Noah, Son of God, God’s Not Dead -- this drama about a boy who claims to have experienced life after death may prove to be one of the festival’s more popular movies. Greg Kinnear stars. 7:30 p.m. April 10. Cinemark West Plano.
Hellion: Aaron Paul and Juliette Lewis star in this set-in-Texas tale about a young boy taken away from his family and their efforts to get him back. 7:30 p.m. April 9, 4 p.m. April 10. Angelika Dallas.
Joe: Nicolas Cage channels Matthew McConaughey in Mud in this Texas-set drama about a man who befriends and defends a young boy (Tye Sheridan who was in Mud). This film restores your faith in Cage’s acting abilities. 7 p.m. Friday. Angelika Dallas.
The Militant: Uruguay is proving itself to be a cinematic up-and-comer and this drama, about a student activist who leaves Montevideo to return to his small hometown after his dad dies, is one of the reasons why. 7:30 p.m. Sunday; 1:30 p.m. Monday. Angelika Dallas.
Road to Austin: This documentary shows just how and why Austin became such a big music capital. Kris Kristofferson, Bonnie Raitt, and Delbert McClinton appear. 4:30 p.m. Saturday, 4:30 p.m. Monday. Angelika Dallas.
The Starck Club: The long-awaited doc about Dallas’ legendary dance club/hangout Starck Club -- which put the city on the cognoscenti map back in the ‘80s -- finally gets its screening. 7:30 p.m. April 12. Texas Theatre, Dallas.
We from Dallas: Yet another documentary about Texas music, this one focuses on the North Texas hip-hop scene. 7:30 p.m. april 8, 10:15 p.m. April 12. Angelika Dallas.
Words and Pictures: The opening-night film stars Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche as competitive teachers at a prep school. Fred Schepisi has a resume of thoughtful films ( Six Degrees of Separation, The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith) so this should be at least intriguing. 7:30 p.m. Thursday. Dallas City Performance Hall.