By Eugene Hernandez | Indiewire March 5, 2007 at 3:53AM
Nearly 200 films are on tap for the first AFI Dallas International Film Festival, kicking off later this month in Texas. The event will open on March 22nd with Steven Sawalich's "Music Within" and close on April 1st with Sarah Polley's "Away From Her." Organizers noted that the roster of 99 features and 92 short films tops initial expectations of a 150 film lineup for the inaugural Dallas event, to be anchored in the Victory Park area in Dallas. Planners indicated that for the first year, the Victory Plaza site will feature film screenings from the AFI 100 Greatest Films list running nearly 24 hours a day throughout the event.
"Music Within," which has already screened at the Palm Springs and Santa Barbara film festivals in California, stars Ron Livingston, Melissa George, Michael Sheen, Hector Elizondo, Rebecca DeMornay, and Yul Vasquez, in the story of a public speaker with a troubled past. In the words of a description, he "returns from Vietnam severely hearing-impaired and finds a new purpose in his landmark efforts on behalf of Americans with disabilities." Polley's directorial debut, "Away from Her," is described as an "acclaimed character study of a man coping with the institutionalization of his wife because of Alzheimer's disease who faces an epiphany when she transfers her affections to another man." . The film stars Julie Christie, Olympia Dukakis, Michael Murphy, and Gordon Pinsent.
Honorees for the inaugural edition of the festival include a host of notables who will receive the AFI Dallas Star, among them Lauren Bacall, Jack Valenti, David Lynch, Laura Dern, Marvin Hamlisch, Alan & Marilyn Bergman, Sarah Polley, and Veronique Peck on behalf of Gregory Peck, posthumously celebrating of the 45th anniversary of "To Kill a Mockingbird" and the 40th Anniversary of AFI where he served as its first chairman of the board.
A total of twenty-four titles are on tap for the Signature and Centerpiece Screenings sections of the festival, showcased as red carpet events in Dallas. The balance of the lineup for the first AFI Dallas fest includes titles in the narrative feature and international documentary competition, along with films in the documentary special presentation, Deep Ellum Sounds, Special Presentation, Dallas Premiere Series, Texas cCompetition, World Cinema, American Visions, Mavericks, Family Friendly, Animation Competition, Midnight Specials, and Tribute Screenings sections. Additionally, films from emerging directors will be screened in the Student Competition, SMU Presents and Shorts Competition sections.
Films set for the narrative competition include Lanre Olabisi's "August The First," Alejandro Gomez Monteverde's "Bella," Brad Gann's "Black Irish," Thomas Stiller's "The Boy Without Qualities" (Der Junge ohne Eigenschaften), Joseph Greco's "Canvas," Eva Aridjis' "The Favor," Martin Hynes' "The Go-Getter," Steve Burns' "The Good Life," Michael Schroeder's "Man In The Chair," Steen Agro's "Shut Up and Shoot Me," and Derek Sieg's "Swedish Auto."
In the international documentary competition are Darryl Roberts' "America The Beautiful," Robert Kelly's "Borderlands," Logan Smalley's "Darius Goes West: The Roll of His Life," Ashley Sabin and David Redmon's "Kamp Katrina," Joel P. Engardio and Tom Shepard's "Knocking," Socheata Poeuv's "New Year Baby," Richard Robbins' "Operation Homecoming," Bonni Cohen, Richard Berge, and Nicole Newnham's "Rape of Europa," Robert Stewart's "Sharkwater," and Grace Phan's "Where the Sun Rises."
"From the outset, we decided we wanted the AFI Dallas International Film Festival to be a festival that puts films and filmmakers on a pedestal - not unlike the art world does with great art or a symphony does with great music," said fest founder Liener Temerlin, in a statement. "Throughout the festival we're sure we'll encounter some glitches. However, we aspire to become a significant and very special festival by helping to make Dallas a city of film festivals, by supporting those festivals who came before and by recognizing the heritage of film, film education through panels, guest speakers and by celebrating the art of films past and present via gala evenings, parties and receptions throughout the festival where filmmakers and fans alike have the chance to meet and explore their love of film together."
[For more information, visit the AFI Dallas festival website.]