Sunday, May 28, 2023 May 28, 2023
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Five Films Not To Miss At Dallas International Film Festival

Some staff picks for DIFF's run at the Magnolia, now through May 10th.
By FrontRow Staff |

See the whole DIFF schedule and guide here.  And don’t forget 1985, another must, screens a second time on Saturday at noon.

First Reformed (Saturday, 8 p.m.)
Paul Schrader unpacks a lot of emotional baggage in his latest character study about isolation and rebellion, which feels like a throwback to his roots as the screenwriter of Taxi Driver. It chronicles a pastor (Ethan Hawke) at a rural New York church dealing with a dwindling congregation and financial crunch as it approaches its 250th anniversary. But when a parishioner (Amanda Seyfried) requests a favor, it sends him into a downward spiral. His resulting crisis of faith is meant to challenge our own beliefs in an ambitious and sharply written drama that’s deliberately paced yet never tedious, bolstered by Hawke’s powerfully understated performance. — Todd Jorgenson

Eighth Grade (Wednesday 5/9, 7:30 p.m.; Thursday 5/10, 10 p.m.)
You thought middle school was bad? Apparently today’s eighth graders have it much worse, according to this perceptive and frequently hilarious directorial debut from comedian Bo Burnham. Kayla (Elsie Fisher) is an introverted and socially awkward suburban teenager struggling to keep up during an age when popularity is defined by social-media profiles. That sounds like familiar coming-of-age territory, except Burnham’s screenplay is loaded with sharp dialogue and insightful subtext that captures the awkwardness of contemporary childhood without feeling watered down. Although contrivances creep into the final act, impressive newcomer Fisher offers an endearing and authentic portrayal that often leaves you laughing and cringing simultaneously. — T.J.

Generation Wealth (Tuesday 5/8, 7:30 p.m.)
On a comb through her archives, Lauren Greenfield came across an image of a slack-jawed, glossy-haired tween from 1992, standing in a circle of understatedly fashionable peers with bewildered judgement in their eyes. She looked familiar. It was Kim Kardashian, the photographer realized, then 12 years old. Greenfield recently showed this and other images that testify to excess— and the cultural trickle-down of standards from the rich to middle class and on— at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles. The exhibition was called Generation Wealth. Greenfield turned her storehouse of golf course and mall scenes over 25 years into a documentary film of the same name. — Lyndsay Knecht

People’s Republic of Desire (Tuesday 5/8, 10:15 p.m.; Wednesday 5/9, 4:30 p.m.)
Perhaps “Black Mirror” is more realistic than we realize, judging from this provocative documentary about the proliferation in China of live-streaming celebrities whose viral channels provide a source of income, a chance to pursue their dreams of fame and fortune, and a method of connection with fans and followers. In following a singer and a comedian from different walks of life, and the travails in their personal lives, director Hao Wu incorporates some broader context to illustrate how this trend transcends cultural and geographic boundaries. The film also examines the socioeconomic consequences of such pursuits, which make it a cautionary tale both intriguing and unsettling. — T.J.

Frame of Mind: Remixing the News (Tuesday 5/8, 6 p.m.)
From 1960 to 1977, WFAA shot its news footage on 16 mm film. Unlike much of the video the TV news affiliate has subsequently used to record Dallas news, that 16 mm film was never deleted, corrupted, or recorded over. Instead, it sat in storage for years until it was recently donated to SMU’s G. William Jones Film and Video Collection. The university library has since undergone the painstaking effort of identifying, cataloging, and digitizing 17 years of images of Dallas’ history. As part of the show’s 25th anniversary season, Frame of Mind producer and VideoFest director Bart Weiss handed over access of the WFAA footage — all 1.3 terabytes of it — to 10 area filmmakers, who have each taken the fragments of history and reconstructed it into 10 new short films. The results aren’t so much historical documents as they are interpretations and conversations with the past, as well as considerations of the way that film captures, preserves, and distorts the historical record. A full review is here.  — Peter Simek

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