‘Dallas International Film Festival’ downsizes but maintains quality programming


Joe Cross

“Overall, the 2018 lineup is the strongest it’s been in the years I’ve attended, thanks to programming of thematically similar films, more diversity in filmmakers, and a brilliant mix of crowd-pleasers and more experimental fare.”

Joe Cross, Staff Writer

In the four years I’ve attended the Dallas International Film Festival, the 2018 festival was the most crowded it’s ever been. It seemed hard to believe given that the lineup was considerably smaller (in number, not necessarily in quality of the programming) than it has been in previous years, and that may have been due to the change in venue. The festival is typically hosted at the Angelika across town, but this year the location changed to the considerably smaller Magnolia, a decision that received a fair share of criticism and resulted in incredibly long lines. But no matter, because a diverse lineup of up-and-coming talent in filmmakers and some of the year’s most anticipated films (“Eighth Grade”) solidified a large and passionate turnout.

I initially planned to attend every day of the festival, but as always, life got in the way, and pesky AP Exams, exhaustion, and the long commute to Dallas resulted in me missing a few of the films I wish I could have seen. Here are some of the films I loved from the festival–the ones that stuck with me long after they ended.


The Miseducation of Cameron Post

Breezily hilarious but about as comfortable as the “Dinner Party” episode of “The Office,” “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” is probably the funniest movie ever set mostly at an LGBT conversion therapy camp. That’s not to say it treats its serious subject irreverently; rather, it uses humor to show that there’s light at the end of the tunnel and that its titular character won’t give into the archaic and cruel methods just yet. Its 90s-setting shows how far we’ve come on LGBT rights since then but also shows us how far we still need to go.

Rating: B


Dead Pigs

Ever get the sense that a film was made just for you? That’s how I feel about future DCEU director Cathy Yan’s ambitious, eccentric debut “Dead Pigs,” an outrageous comedy about the sacrifices we must make to survive in the world today, whether they be small, like cutting down on your spending, or something as ridiculous as intentionally getting run over by cars for money. For a directorial debut, it’s an astonishingly confident achievement, one that manages to balance slapstick comedy and poignant family drama in a way that never feels forced or clumsy. This film truly has it all: corporate conspiracies, stylish montages, sing-alongs, and a third act that becomes completely unpredictable in the best way possible. I hope it gets a decent release in the US. This film deserves it.

Rating: B+


First Reformed

Remember that awkward scene in “Manchester by The Sea” where, after a tragic event, emergency responders have trouble lifting a gurney into an ambulance because it keeps collapsing? It’s a bizarre comedic moment in an otherwise bleak film that shows that life and all its chaos doesn’t stop just because of your own personal troubles or pains. Likewise, Paul Schrader’s stunningly eerie “First Reformed,” one of many great films about the different ways faith impacts us featured at this year’s festival, is composed of such scenes. The material is often weighty, but there are truly absurd bits of humor throughout. Ethan Hawke gives an unrecognizable, career-best performance as the struggling priest of a small, historically significant church that’s being increasingly overshadowed by its larger, corporate-backed parent church, and the film’s nagging tone and desperation to find some sort of solace in faith got under my skin like no film in recent memory. It doesn’t have all the easy answers to the questions it poses, which is part of what makes it so disquieting.

Rating: A


Eighth Grade

It seems almost improbable that Bo Burnham, a man arguably most famous for a Vine where he spins around in a bathtub with goggles on, could make such a moving coming-of-age film that understands the current generation and their problems so well, but “Eighth Grade” is just that. More than just “Lady Bird: The Middle School Years,” Burnham’s directorial debut is a film about an age group that is typically made out to be comprised of delinquents and problem children in movies and TV: middle schoolers. But while “Eighth Grade” doesn’t shy away from the crude behavior and embarrassing moments of middle school, it also genuinely cares about its protagonist (Elsie Fisher, in what is far and away the best performance by anyone I’ve seen this year) and is rooting for her to succeed no matter what. You will be too.

Rating: A


Madeline’s Madeline

Although it ended up being one of my favorite films of the festival, I was fully ready to walk out of “Madeline’s Madeline” within the first few minutes after being put off by its jarring beginning, and again about 30 minutes in after a particularly uncomfortable scene, but both times it drew me back in somehow. There’s something fascinating about the film’s compelling atmosphere that keeps you watching, and its explosive, chaotically charming performance from newcomer Helena Howard announces the arrival of a major talent. The film lies somewhere in between a coming-of-age classic and a purely experimental film, resulting in a complex, sometimes baffling work that is truly unique, something you don’t see much anymore.

Rating: A-


Overall, the 2018 lineup was the strongest it’s been in the years I’ve attended, thanks to programming of thematically similar films, more diversity in filmmakers, and a brilliant mix of crowd-pleasers and more experimental fare. The Dallas International Film Festival may have shrunk in size, but there’s no denying that the films themselves were better than ever.