I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.
Preston Barta // Editor
Year after year, the Dallas International Film Festival proves itself to be one of the more quality film festivals in the area, offering a staggering assortment of programming that appeals to every taste you could possibly crave.
Taking place Thursday through April 24 in Dallas, the festival promises to be one of the top spots to uncover some of the year’s best hidden gems, and we have a few recommended selections to help ease the hunt.
COLLECTIVE:UNCONSCIOUS. Trust me when I say this film is a unique experience. It opened to a warm reception at South by Southwest last month and it’s sure to carry over to its Dallas premiere. Shot in different formats and aspect ratios, COLLECTIVE:UNCONSCIOUS is an intoxicating anthology that brings together the dreams of five rising independent filmmakers into one narrative. AND it has Frank Mosley (UPSTREAM COLOR) in it, and that’s always a plus.
COMPLETE UNKNOWN. I was sold at “A film starring Michael Shannon and Rachel Weisz.” COMPLETE UNKNOWN is a fitting title for a film centered on starting over, which is something that many of us have fantasized about at one time or another. This film, however, goes beyond that idea and spins a fine web of mystery with its twisted story about a woman (Weisz) who resurfaces in the life of her former lover (Shannon) with a new identity.
DAYLIGHT’S END. Perhaps there is too much zombie material out there. But what makes DAYLIGHT’S END a little tastier is the fact that it’s set in Dallas. Director William Kaufman (THE HIT LIST) transforms Big D’s streets into a post-apocalyptic wasteland, while throwing in some signature ingredients (infected biters and gun ammo) into the bloody cocktail. So if you’re going to sink your teeth into this, it might as well be with a Dallas crowd on the big screen.
HONKY TONK HEAVEN. While a doc about a world famous boot-scootin’ dancehall (The Broken Spoke) may not sound like the most appealing subject to hang your hat on, HONKY TONK HEAVEN begs to differ. Opposed to simply shining the spotlight on how the venue came to be and the famous faces that have stepped in it, the film dives into the universal theme of family and what it takes to maintain a business. It includes fun-filled interviews from country legends such as Willie Nelson and Jerry Jeff Walker.
THE LAND. In the past few years, the biggest smiles and laughs came from the festival’s opening night feature. Last year, it was the bittersweet I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS that set the tone. This year, the festival plans to kick things off in a new, thrilling way with THE LAND. The indie drama follows four inner city kids (Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Moises Arias, Rafi Gavron and Ezri Walker) who develop a passion for skateboarding, but get involved with the wrong racket to support their sport.
MIDNIGHT MOTEL. Sometimes the most memorable stories can be told in 30 minutes or less. MIDNIGHT MOTEL, starring country star Jack Ingram and Heather Kafka (SOME BEASTS), is an 11-minute short that warrants your attention. It tells of a Texas musician who struggles to find the right balance between the relationship with his significant other and music he creates.
OCCUPY, TEXAS. Like DAYLIGHT’S END, this film also frames Dallas in its lens. Local Booker T. Washington High School grad Gene Gallerano (THE TALK MAN) penned the script and stars as Beau Baker, an Occupier who leaves his tent in Zuccotti Park in New York to return to Texas when he learns of his parents’ death.
SING STREET. Written and directed by John Carney (ONCE, BEGIN AGAIN), SING STREET is sure to fill you with butterflies and plant a goofy smile on your face. It winds the clock back to the glamorous ’80s rock scene in Dublin. With its spirited soundtrack — including tunes from The Cure, Hall & Oates and The Clash — and energetic cast, SING STREET will have you dancing like Molly Ringwald in THE BREAKFAST CLUB.
All screenings will take place at the Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar and Angelika Dallas. Tickets and film badges can be purchased at diff2016.dallasfilm.org, where you can also find the full lineup and schedule.