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Dallas International Film Fest gears up

Written by , published March 25, 2013

The Dallas Film Society is busy preparing for this year’s Dallas International Film Festival, which kicks off next week.

The event runs April 4-14 and features 175 films at venues across the city. I had a chance to interview Lee Papert, festival executive director, by email recently, and here’s what he had to say about the event.

How many film submissions did the festival receive?

This year, overall, we received just over 1,300 film entries.

What distinguishes DIFF from other film festivals?

The Dallas International Film Festival (DIFF) is an "encyclopedic" festival. We offer a little bit of everything—which isn't unusual. But, most importantly (and why we are different) is the atmosphere. We strive mightily to create an ambiance that celebrates film—and all the creativity that goes into it. No matter whether you're the director of a blockbuster or you've just screened your first short film; whether you're a costume designer, cinematographer, producer, or grip—we celebrate the artist. The passion we have for the process and the people involved, well, it makes for a truly welcoming atmosphere—one that also embraces the people attending the movies, participating in the panel discussions, or having their faces painted at Family Day! (Family Day features a free screening of The Sandlot at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 6, at Klyde Warren Park.)

Has the festival grown from last year, by how much?

While we certainly won't know attendance figures till after the 2013 DIFF is completed, we have grown in respect to our "footprint." We're bigger in scope and facilities. This year, we're adding new facilities, including the Klyde Warren Park, and we're returning to Plano for a special Centerpiece Screening at the "absolutely incredible place to watch a movie" Cinemark West Plano theater.

What are some exciting or interesting aspects of this year’s event?

As mentioned, we're expanding our "footprint" geographically—and are partnering with a couple of brand new venues. One of those, the new LOOK Cinemas offers a wonderful new multi-theater complex and an incredible new take on the "in-theater dining" theme. LOOK is our Opening Night venue and we'll happily show at least five different movies that night—and then treat our guests to fine dining from Nick & Sam's Grill. Finally, we continue to embrace the word "International" that is part of our name by striving to show wonderful films from all over the world. Last year we featured films from 27 different countries. We expect even more this year.

What is the festival doing to honor Italy (this year’s featured nation)?

Each year, we like to shine a spotlight on the films and filmmakers of a different country. Last year it was Korea—this year, Italy—a country rich with film in her blood. Home to Fellini, the spaghetti western, Franco Zeffirelli's classic Romeo & Juliet, and so much more. We will show at most seven films—showcasing everything from a classic Fellini film to one or two new movies. Throw in some classic Italian food and drink—and you have our Italian Spotlight!

What are some of the films being screened this year?

We are thrilled to be screening Java Heat with Mickey Rourke and Kellen Lutz; Midnight’s Children—Deepa Mehta's film written by Salman Rushdie from his book of the same name; Mud with Matthew McConaughey; and many, many others.

How many people attended the festival last year?

The 2012 Dallas International Film Festival saw more than 35,000 people attend more than 180 different movies, multiple parties, our panel discussions, Family Day, our High School Day and all of the Festival's offerings.

Who were some of the movie stars/celebrities that attended last year?

Last year, we were thrilled to bring to Dallas Laura Linney, Gabourey Sidibe, Peter Weller, Michael Weston, Famke Jannssen, Don & Donnie Nelson, Julie White, Glen Keane, and many others.

Who are some of the movie stars/celebrities expected to attend this year?

This year, we fully expect to welcome award-winning director William Friedkin, Indian director Deepa Mehta, Twilight heartthrob Kellen Lutz, the first woman to ever run a major movie studio Sherry Lansing, and a host of other stars and fan favorites.

What’s a special tip you would give to someone visiting Dallas for the festival?

Dallas is an incredible city for film. But, it's also a great city for art and dining. Come to Dallas for the Film Festival, but each day, before the movies start, why not check out our incredible museums like the Crow Collection of Asian Art, the Nasher Sculpture Center, and the Dallas Museum of Art in the downtown Dallas Arts District. Or, if you're here for the second weekend of the Festival, explore the many galleries attending the Dallas Art Fair. All that art appreciation is sure to make you hungry—so don't miss our many, many FANTASTIC restaurants. There's definitely something for everyone!

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