DALLAS -- Despite threatening skies and word of bad weather elsewhere in the Metroplex, the eighth Dallas International Film Festival kicked off Thursday night at the City Performance Hall with the usual round of red-carpet arrivals, backslapping speeches, and the screening of a name-brand film: Words and Pictures, a romantic drama starring Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche.
There were no huge names on the red carpet but one of those making the walk was former Dallas resident Dominic Rains who is in two movies opening this weekend: the horror-thriller Jinn and one you might have heard of, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, neither of which is at the festival by the way. Also running the gauntlet was Words and Pictures director Fred Schepisi ( Six Degrees of Separation, Roxanne).
Once inside, there was much speechifying -- including a remembrance from Dallas mayor Mike Rawlings about a movie he made as a college student -- and then the showing of the film, a real crowd-pleaser with Owen and Binoche as two high-school teachers in need of inspiration to rekindle their creative flames. Opening in North Texas June 6, Words and Pictures should hit that mainstream art-house sweet spot that the likes of Philomena and Nebraska did last year. But it wasn’t just its accessbility that made Words and Pictures an obvious choice to be the opening film. It’s also produced by a Dallas-based company, Lascaux Films.
The Q&A following the screening -- with Schepisi, writer Gerald DiPego, and co-producer (and former St. Marks student) Curtis Burch -- was supposed to be hosted by KTVT/11 anchor Brendan Higgins but he got called into the station for weather duty so another of the movie’s co-producers, former WFAA/8 entertainment reporter Gary Cogill, did it instead. The big reveal from director Schepisi was that, since Englishman Owen is supposed to be American in the movie, the actor’s version of the script was written out phonetically in American English and that’s how he memorized it.
If Words and Pictures was a safe choice, things get more edgy starting today including screenings of Joe, starring Nicolas Cage in a strong comeback role (7 p.m.) and the Brazilian crime saga Brazilian Western (9:30 p.m.). Then it continues on Saturday with the doc about the Austin music scene Road to Austin (4:30 p.m.) as well as a doc about the gay rodeo circuit Queens & Cowboys: A Straight Year on the Gay Rodeo (2:30 p.m.).
On Saturday, the festival is sponsoring an outdoor screening of the 1984 family film The Neverending Story at Klyde Warren Park at 7:30 p.m. Weather permitting, of course.