The 2011 Dallas International Film Festival continues through this weekend, however my time at the fest is already over… and I had a blast! Some words about my last two days at the festival…

On Saturday, I caught the World Premiere of the documentary The Greater Good. The film centers around the debate/conversation regarding vaccines and the links that may or may not exist between them and developmental disorders in children. While the film is definitely one-sided in the direction that there are links, some things seem absolutely ludicrous regardless of what side of the debate you fall on. For one, the idea that vaccines include mercury or aluminum, or both, blows my mind. I mean, I’ve never heard one good thing involving mercury ingested or absorbed in a human, and doctors are injecting babies with that mess. Wha!?!

The Greater Good is the kind of film that makes me think the only good way to protect a child of my own is just to not have one. Between wars, natural disasters and then procedural medicine that could harm the kid, you just can’t win… and none of that nonsense includes the mental damage I’ll probably do just by being myself. Anywho, yet another film that makes you think, but sure as Hell doesn’t make you happy at the same time. Worth seeing, and then worth doing even more research for yourself and coming to your own conclusions. Question everything.

Thankfully, I managed to catch a hilarious film at the festival too, to offset the brilliant, though upsetting, Zero Percent and The Greater Good. The comedy in question was a film from Mexico entitled Goodbye Cruel World. It’s essentially an absurdist comedy about a guy named Angel who loses his job and joins a crime syndicate to make ends meet, except said crime syndicate is a bunch of small-time losers who are just as useless as Angel is. As I mentioned, the film is hilarious, and manages to throw nonsense on top of absurdity as the film rolls along. Unlike the docs I saw, I didn’t walk out of Goodbye Cruel World planning to kill myself (which is ironic, actually… or is it; like Alanis Morissette, my grasp of irony is weak).

Sunday afternoon, I, James Wallace of GordonandtheWhale.com, Chris Vognar of the Dallas Morning News, Robert Wilonsky of the Dallas Observer and moderator John “Films Gone Wild”man sat in the chairs at the front of the class to talk all things film journalism… which wound up being one Hell of a conversation, primarily because Wildman didn’t pull any punches, and asked numerous question about ethics, making friends with filmmakers and film festivals and other film journalism considerations. I jabbered quite a bit, sticking to my rap that the last thing I am is a “journalist,” since I hold such high respect for the title (more about that in this week’s podcast), among other things. I recorded the entire panel and uploaded it immediately to TinyVox, so I’m not sure how great the quality is BUT you can listen to it here.

John Wildman, me, James Wallace, Chris Vognar and Robert Wilonsky, Photo by Michael Cain

As much as fest coverage is about the films and the events associated with the film festival, I also like to expand my experience to encompass the surrounding city and/or region. For the Oxford Film Festival, it meant a late-night trip to the middle of nowhere to be molested by an elderly Elvis memorabilia hoarder. Sunday night at Dallas, it meant tagging along with producer Adam Donaghey and Houston Film Commission Deputy Director Alfred Cervantes when they beat feet to the Texas Theatre to watch reruns of Dallas projected on the big screen. When reflecting on the decision, I made a joke about how “watching Dallas in Dallas is the most authentic Dallas experience you can have next to being shot while riding in a motorcade.” When Alfred and Adam pulled up in a convertible, twin turbo Porsche 911, it dawned on me that my joke, while being in poor taste, could actually become a reality as we drove along the downtown streets with the top down. And, you know, would’ve served me right.

The Texas Theatre is an amazing building, built in 1931, and one in which Adam Donaghey owns part of the lease. Beyond seeing Dallas, Adam gave me a tour of the theater, showing me the old facade that was covered up after Lee Harvey Oswald was apprehended in the theater, as well as walking me through the old balcony and other random nooks and crannies. I even got to see the secret screening room hidden in the building’s “Dungeon.” Surreal, but awesome, time.

Vittorio Vere, Douchebag Director

Fests have to thank and list their sponsors, and the best way to do so is to have a short, entertaining bumper play before the film, to get the audience in the mood for what’s to come while also showing the sponsors love. That said, pre-film screening festival bumpers are a precarious thing. If you have a boring, or obnoxious, bumper, you run the risk of pissing the audience off instead of entertaining. If you do a great bumper, folks talk about it for years after the fact (see SXSW’s “Burger Hut” series, so successful they did it twice). At the Dallas fest, they went with a mockumentary-style short film about a film director named Vittorio Vere. Actually, his name was something quite different, but he was going for pretentious, so he re-named himself. Which is funny at first, but then, the more you see the bumper, the more you hate Vittorio’s guts.

He’s rude, he’s a pretentious dick, he wants you to notice his socks because he paid a lot for them… essentially, the character is every horrible stereotype that could ever exist about an independent film director. Which is fine, but how does that make you want to see indie films at a fest. If anything, the bumper turned me off… and I love indie films. People like Vittorio Vere are why folks DON’T want to go to festivals. I kept trying to figure out, exactly, what the message the festival was trying to send by having this bumper play and… no idea. I was unimpressed, even incensed around the third viewing, and I was not alone. Hatred for Vittorio Vere flowed freely on the internet.

That said, as I pointed out on Twitter, if the only thing I can bitch about when it comes to a film festival is the bumper, the film festival kicked pretty solid a*s. In the end, who cares about the bumper. It’s about the films, and the ones I saw were aces all-around.


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