DIFF 2023 has released the full schedule and list of films for the 17th Dallas International Film Festival, April 28 – May 5, 2023, at Violet Crown Cinema in West Village Uptown at dallasfilm.org. This year’s Festival includes powerful films from both established and emerging artists in a wide range of styles with screenings of more than 100 films submitted from more than 60 countries, as well as Q&A sessions with filmmakers and actors, nightly DIFF Red Carpets, a Festival Lounge, and special events.
“Festivalgoers can start making their movie plans, including the opportunity to see several films that will be world premiering with us here in Dallas,” said James Faust, DIFF Artistic Director. “DIFF gives some of the earliest and rarest opportunities to see several films on the big screen that amplify important stories and unheard voices – films that, in many cases, will be personally introduced by and discussed with the filmmakers in attendance.”
The line-up of feature films for DIFF 2023 includes:
AFGHAN DREAMERS (Documentary) Members of an all-girl robotics team from Afghanistan struggle to succeed in international competitions while combating their male-dominated culture and the threat of Taliban rule.
BAD CITY (Action) Kensuke Sonomura directs the legendary Hitoshi Ozawa in this ultimate V-Cinema actioner from Well Go USA Entertainment. Kaiko City is plagued with poverty and crime when a corrupt businessman decides to run for mayor and starts eliminating opponents from the rival mafia. A former police captain serving time for murder is secretly released and put in charge of a special task force to arrest him.
BAD PRESS (Documentary) Angel Ellis, a citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, fights alongside her free press Myskoke Media reporters for government transparency and access to information. Highlighting Ellis’ advocacy for ethical coverage of Indigenous topics and communities, it highlights how her fight to expose government corruption has ramifications across her tribal boundaries in Oklahoma and beyond.
BIRTH/REBIRTH (Horror/Drama) A single mother and a childless morgue technician are bound together by their relationship to a little girl they have reanimated from the dead.
BLACKBERRY (Drama) The story of the meteoric rise and catastrophic demise of the world’s first smartphone. Two mismatched entrepreneurs – egghead innovator Mike Lazaridis and cut-throat businessman Jim Balsillie – joined forces in an endeavor that was to become a worldwide hit in little more than a decade. The device that one of them invented and the other sold was the BlackBerry, an addictive mobile phone that changed the way the world worked, played and communicated. But just as BlackBerry was rising to new peaks, it also started losing its way through the fog of Smartphone wars, management indecision and outside distractions, eventually leading to the breakdown of one of the most successful ventures in the history of the tech and business worlds.
BLUE JEAN (Drama) In Newcastle, England, in 1988, a time when the conservative government is on the brink of passing legislation that stigmatizes the gay and lesbian population, Jean is a closeted gym teacher who faces a crisis after a new student threatens to reveal her double life. Written by Georgia Oakley, it is also her directorial debut.
BREAKING THE CODE (World Premiere) (Documentary) Legendary Fort Worth artist Vernon Fisher was born to rural Texas farmers in 1943 with a childhood exposure to painting that was only “something you did to houses.” By the 1980s, he was exhibiting alongside Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat, establishing himself as one of the most significant artists of the 20th century. The film follows Fisher as he continues to create art that challenges social norms and asks important questions about reality.
CHOCOLATE LIZARDS (World Premiere) (Comedy/Adventure) World premiering at DIFF 2023, this is the tale of Erwin Vandeveer, played by Rudy Pankow, who finds himself stranded in Buffalo Gap, Texas, with Merle Luskey, played by Thomas Haden Church. The ensuing adventure pits the pair against the bank, the sheriff, and a corrupt oil company, and also stars Carrie-Anne Moss and Bruce Dern. It is based on the 1999 novel of the same name by Cole Thompson.
DEEP RISING (Documentary) The fate of the planet’s last untouched wilderness, the deep ocean, is explored alongside a threat from a secretive organization that is about to allow massive extraction of seabed metals to address the world’s energy crisis.
A DISTURBANCE IN THE FORCE: HOW THE STAR WARS HOLIDAY SPECIAL HAPPENED (Documentary) Directed by Jeremy Coon and Steve Kozak, this film is the tale of the ill-fated The Star Wars Holiday Special that aired on CBS the week of Thanksgiving 1978, and was never re-aired, going on to become the franchise’s dark secret. Featuring behind-the-scenes archival footage from Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, and Anthony Daniels, it also incorporates the voices of “Weird Al” Yankovic, Kevin Smith, Seth Green, and the late Gilbert Gottfried. The screening is scheduled for May the Fourth and May the Fourth Eve (May 3). Director Jeremy Coon is a graduate of Berkner High School in Richardson.
THE DOLDRUMS (World Premiere) (Comedy/Drama) A not-coming-of-age and anti-musical filmed in Dallas, the film centers around three characters and how their friendship shifts when the oldest goes off to college. It is a comedy/drama structured in six vignettes marking his biannual visits from college to his hometown and how their lives change, or don’t, despite all three friends growing older.
EISMAYER (Historical Drama) Based on real events, Vice Lieutenant Eismayer is the most feared trainer and model macho in the Austrian Military living as a gay man in secret. When he falls in love with a young, openly gay soldier, his world gets turned upside down.
THE ELDERLY (Horror) An octogenarian named Manuel falls into a state of dementia after the sudden suicide of his wife, sparking a series of paranormal events that will put his family’s lives at risk. Starting as a grounded drama exploring the indignities of old age, THE ELDERLY gradually snaps off one guardrail after another, building to a crescendo of sheer terror with imagery that can never be unseen.
THE ETERNAL MEMORY (Spanish Documentary) Directed by Maite Alberdi, this Chilean film follows the relationship of prominent Chilean journalist Augusto Góngora and actress Paulina “Pauli” Urrutia. It won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. A couple for 23 years, Augusto was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease eight years ago, and Paulina cares for him, helping maintain his identity despite the challenges of his illness.
THE FISHBOWL (Drama) As her cancer spreads, Noelia’s ultimate decision is to return to her native Vieques, Puerto Rico, and claim her freedom to decide her own fate. She reunites with her friends and family who are still dealing with contamination caused by the U.S. Navy after 60 years of military practices.
GIBSON ICONS: REX BROWN OF PANTERA (Documentary) Renowned worldwide, Rex Brown and his Texas brethren forged a blueprint with the DFW-based band Pantera that’s been studied by nearly every hard rock and heavy metal band that has followed. Throughout this intimate look into his musical journey, Rex shares personal stories surrounding his childhood, the bonds built between his band members, and the enduring legacy of Pantera.
GO ON, BE BRAVE (Documentary) The story of Andrea Lytle Peet’s race against time – a diagnosis of ALS and an attempt at the impossible. Peet aims to be the first person with ALS to complete a marathon in all 50 states, the film follows her journey as she inspires others to go on, be brave.
INTO THE SPOTLIGHT (World Premiere) (Documentary) A heartfelt story of how a script, a stage, and a theater program composed of adults with disabilities celebrate their creativity, explore life’s complexities, and empower a community, in their own words and their own way. INTO THE SPOTLIGHT is a documentary feature film that follows a Dallas-based theatre troupe, composed of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, who are determined to write, rehearse, and perform their 11th annual original musical during the 2021-22 season. Only disabled people are interviewed and the only people who answer the questions are the disabled people themselves.
ISRAELISM (Documentary) The role of Israel in American Jewish identity is challenged when two young American Jews join an awakening within the community after they witness Israel’s brutal treatment of the Palestinian people first-hand. Heartbroken and enraged at the older generation of American Jews who raised them to defend the State of Israel at all costs, they join a struggle not just for Palestinian rights but also within the Jewish community.
IT AIN’T OVER (Documentary) The film gives Yogi Berra his due in following the life of the bad-ball hitting catcher and D-Day veteran, loving husband and father, product endorser and originator (mostly) of his own brand of proverbs now ingrained into everyday life.
IT’S ONLY LIFE AFTER ALL (Documentary) Directed, produced, and edited by Alexandria Bombach, this is an intimate look into the lives of the Indigo Girls, one of the most iconic American folk-rock bands. Featuring never-before-seen archival and intimate Cinéma verité, the film dives into the songwriting and storytelling of bandmembers Amy Ray and Emily Saliers that helped transform a generation.
JUNE ZERO (Historical Drama) Following the infamous trial of Adolf Eichmann, the architect of the mass extermination of Jews during the Second World War, it depicts the events preceding Eichmann’s execution, and approaches the important and much publicized Nazi criminal through the eyes of three participants in the events. It was both written and directed by Jake Paltrow.
KAREN CARPENTER: STARVING FOR PERFECTION (Documentary) A captivating and unvarnished documentary about Karen Carpenter’s personal struggles as told through never-before-released recordings as well as legendary voices who knew her and were inspired by her music. Highly relevant to today’s audiences, Carpenter’s quest for perfection resulted in low self-esteem, a disheartening love life, and a public battle with anorexia nervosa. Dallas-based AMS Pictures produced the film.
L’IMMENSITÁ (Drama) Clara (Penélope Cruz) and her emotionally distant husband Felice (Vincenzo Amato) relocate to Rome to raise a family. Even though the paint is fresh, and the appliances are new, the crushing expectations around marriage, desire, and gender in the early 1970s remain as traditional as ever. Their children Andrew (played by newcomer Luana Giuliani), Gino, and Diana are likewise poised at a precipice, on the verge of adolescence, with nothing but their imaginations to defuse family tensions. The eldest child, Andrew (nicknamed Adri by his parents), yearns for another life – an outsized, vibrantly-realized vision of a world where he gets to live as the boy he knows himself to be. Without an accepted vocabulary for talking about his transgender identity, Andrew tells adults that he’s an alien from another galaxy and makes a habit of running away to pursue a local Roma girl who accepts his boyhood at face value. As an outsider ostracized for her own eccentricities, Clara instinctively strives to protect her son despite not fully understanding him. An effortlessly moving film about growing up, fitting in, and breaking the mold, L’IMMENSITÁ is as freewheeling and creative as its central characters, mixing genres and staging musical numbers out of thin air.
MATCH ME IF YOU CAN (World Premiere) (Comedy/Romance) When an online matchmaking service rejects her as “unmatchable,” a quick-witted programmer’s rant makes her an internet sensation…and puts her on a romantic collision course with the equally-nerdy man who runs the company that rejected her.
MAX ROACH: THE DRUM ALSO WALTZES (Documentary) The story of an American jazz musician whose far-reaching ambitions were inspired and challenged by the inequities of the society around him, this film follows Roach’s seven-decade career through deep personal struggle, showing the price he paid for his outspoken views.
MEDUSA DELUXE (Drama) In this film from A24, a murder mystery is set in a competitive hairdressing competition where extravagance and excess collide, as the death of one of their own sows seeds of division in a community whose passion for hair verges on obsession.
THE MENTAL STATE (World Premiere) (Drama) In the heart of rural Kentucky, a high school senior and his family struggle to cope with the true identity and intentions of a dangerous town shooter.
THE NEW AMERICANS: GAMING A REVOLUTION (Documentary) Directed by Ondi Timoner, the film is a meme-driven journey into the intersection of finance, media, and extremism with the founders of Reddit and WallStreetBets, crypto fanatics, bored housewives, and TikTok-ers turned millionaire traders. The latest film by Timoner (whose LAST FLIGHT HOME, won the DIFF 2022 Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary Feature) looks at the explosive and irreversible ramifications of our digital future.
ONE RANGER (Action) A Texas Ranger (played by Thomas Jane) is recruited by British Intelligence (led by John Malkovich) to track down a dangerous terrorist and stop him from attacking London.
THE ORIGIN OF EVIL (Thriller/Drama) This French and Canadian film directed by Sébastien Marnier focuses on a fish cannery worker on the verge of financial collapse who discovers she is the biological daughter of a wealthy businessman. Attempting to reconnect with his established family, she finds them unwilling to accept her.
PARACHUTE (Romance/Drama) Directed and written by Brittany Snow, the story looks at mental health issues through Ethan and Riley, who both got out of precarious situations on the exact same day – Ethan recently got out of jail for throwing a wine bottle off a balcony, and Riley just got out of rehab for an eating disorder, love addiction and suicide attempt. To Ethan, all of Riley’s flaws are beautiful, and he wants to help her see herself the way he does. Riley adores Ethan and is inspired by his talent and selflessness. The world makes sense when they only take it on together. Doesn’t it?
THE RATIONAL MIDDLE: NET ZERO (Documentary) Rational Middle and Shell partnered to explore the technologies, policies and partnerships required to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 to catalyze a conversation that leads to awareness and action and address the global challenge of climate change. The series is directed and produced by Gregory Kallenberg.
REVIVAL69: THE CONCERT THAT ROCKED THE WORLD (Documentary) Young, scrappy concert promoter John Brower puts his life on the line (literally) to turn his failing Toronto Rock n Roll Revival into a one-day event, later coined in rock mythology as “the second most important event in rock n’ roll history.” And it almost didn’t happen. The festival united rock legends and the almost famous, but it was the 11th hour arrival of John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band that ignited a truly seminal moment for the 20,000 fans, triggering Lennon’s final decision to leave the Beatles forever.
SAVAGE (World Premiere) (Documentary) World premiering at DIFF 2023 with an inspiring and intimate portal into the world’s most dangerous sport. This comeback story of bull rider Clayton Savage shares the journey of one man’s grit and rugged willpower to achieve the elusive dream of becoming a world champion in a game that is often life…or death.
SHANE (Western) A weary gunfighter in 1880s Wyoming begins to envision a quieter life after befriending a homestead family with a young son who idolizes him, but a smoldering range war forces him to act. This is a Stodghill Classic Movie Night special presentation of the 1953 George Stevens classic starring Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur and Van Heflin.
SIMÓN (Drama) (Latino Showcase) Barely escaping the clutches of the oppressive Venezuelan dictatorship, freedom fighter Simón must now combat his trauma and guilt as he builds his case for asylum in order to be able to stay in the USA.
SK8 GIRLZ (World Premiere) (Documentary) World premiering at DIFF 2023 with an underdog story, this film documents the rise of an all-female skateboarding team based out of Orange County as they tear down the barriers created by a male-centric sport. It is the second feature film from Sarah Ivy and the second film about women and skateboarding to screen at DIFF.
STEPHEN CURRY: UNDERRATED (Documentary) This coming-of-age story documents Stephen Curry, one of the most influential, dynamic, and unexpected players in basketball history, and his rise from an undersized college player to a four-time NBA champion.
STILL: A MICHAEL J. FOX MOVIE (Documentary) The film chronicles the personal and professional triumphs and travails of actor Michael J. Fox, exploring what happens when an incurable optimist confronts an incurable disease. With a mix of adventure and romance, comedy and drama, watching the film feels like … well, like a Michael J. Fox movie.
STORY AVE (Drama) South Bronx native Kadir Grayson is a teen artistic talent on the brink of finding and losing himself at once. Blinded by the grief of losing his younger brother, Kadir runs away from home and escapes via the beautifully dark and dangerous world of graffiti. His graf gang “Outside The Lines” consists of street kids with minds as criminal as they are artistic. Desperate to join, Kadir attempts to rob Luis, an older Puerto Rican MTA conductor, on the Story Ave subway platform. Luis offers him the cash he needs if Kadir agrees to have a meal with him, and for the first time in his life, Kadir entertains the possibility of his artistic talent being a conduit to a better life. The film was produced by Texas’ Jamie Foxx.
THE STRANGER (Thriller/Drama) (Panel) When a stranger takes a family hostage in their small-town feed store, the father’s only hope of saving them is to answer the stranger’s solitary demand: “Tell me who I am.” A special presentation of DIFF’s education series, INSIDE FILM, the screening of the short film will be followed by a panel with Om Films founder Niraj Bhatia and co-founder Dan Burks, “The Art of Film Financing: Insights from an Executive Producer”.
TO KILL A TIGER (Documentary) On the night of a family wedding in Jharkand, India, Ranjit fears the worst after waking up to find his daughter is not home. Dragged into the woods, she was gang-raped by three men, and the village solution is to marry her to one of them, which Ranjit refuses. Instead, he challenges the status quo, determined to get justice for his daughter.
WE WILL SPEAK (Documentary) The Cherokee language is deeply tied to Cherokee identity, yet generations of assimilation efforts by the U.S. government and anti-Indigenous stigmas have forced the Tri-Council of Cherokee tribes to declare a State of Emergency for the language in 2019. This feature-length documentary was shot on-location in Oklahoma and North Carolina throughout 2019-2022; and through intimate interviews, vérité footage of community gatherings, and extensive archival materials, explores the nuanced ways the Cherokee language is vital to maintaining a unique cultural identity and relationship with the world.
THE WILD MAN (Drama) Shot on locations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, this film has Ryan Justice following a young journalist who travels to Ochopee, Florida, with friends to investigate young women that have been going missing. Their search follows the town’s notorious conspiracy theorist into the swamps on his quest to show them “The Wild Man” as their discoveries take a dark and sinister turn.
Films featured in the DIFF 2023 Shorts Competition include:
CAN’T LET YOU GO
DEATH AND RAMEN
FOREST OF HOPE
FUCK ME, RICHARD
HOW DO WE LEAVE
HOW TO MAKE A GHOST
HOW TO MEAL PREP DURING A FAMINE
I HAVE NO TEARS, AND I MUST CRY
LǍO LAO LǍO LE
MEN OF SALT
THE OLD YOUNG CROW
OUR MALES AND FEMALES
PLANTA DE LOS DIOSES
REALLY GOOD FRIENDS
SHARE FOR ME
THAT’S OUR TIME
TODAY, I WILL BE THE BREAD
X TO X
Films featured in the DIFF 2023 High School Shorts Competition include:
ANIMATING AUTISM – THE DANE PARSONS STORY
THE BALLAND OF JIMP BIBBLER
BREAKING THE MIRROR
CHARMING LITTLE WOODEN CHAIR
IF NOT ME, THEN WHO?
THE LIFE OF A CHILD STAR
THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE
DIFF 2023 will be held April 28-May 5, 2023. The 2023 Dallas International Film Festival was cited by Travel + Leisure magazine in naming Dallas among the “12 Best Places to Travel in April 2023”. The festival was also cited by MovieMaker magazine in naming Dallas among the “Best Places to Live and Work as a MovieMaker 2023”.
Host theater for DIFF 2023 is Violet Crown Cinema in West Village at 3699 McKinney Avenue. Located in the center of the dynamic Dallas neighborhood known as Uptown, West Village is a walkable shopping, dining, residential and entertainment district with direct access to the DART Rail, the Historic McKinney Avenue Trolley and the Katy Trail.