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DIFF: An Opening Night Recap

by Stephen Becker 1 Apr 2011 11:53 AM

Night One of the Dallas International Film Festival was a mostly successful start to the 11-day event. First, let’s start with the positives:


Night One of the Dallas International Film Festival was a mostly successful start to the 11-day event.

First, let’s start with the positives:

  • The speechifying was kept to a minimum – Dallas Film Society CEO Michael Cain offered brief remarks before giving the festival’s Star Award to Ann-Margret.  Her acceptance was probably less than five minutes long and included her giving a shout-out to Chris Vognar and reminding us that she has another gospel album coming out. For those of us who sat through Mickey Rooney’s Star Award speech from a few years ago, her brevity was a blessing.
  • The tributes were top-notch – Both Ann-Margret and the night’s other honoree, festival founder Liener Temerlin, received video tributes, and each was expertly put together. Ann-Margret’s provided the crowd with a solid reminder of why she’s an icon with clips from Bye Bye Birdie, Viva Las Vegas, Tommy and other films. And Temerlin’s reminded us why he’s a beloved figure in Dallas business circles. A who’s who of local luminaries took part, including Presidents No. 41 and No. 43, plus Stan Richards, Roger Staubach and Ross Perot. Apparently when Temerlin has a business deal in mind for you, it’s an idea that will, “knock your hat in the creek.” But as Carl Sewell told us with a laugh, when he heard those words, “that meant that that was going to be a pretty expensive phone call.”
  • The party was perfect – After the opening night movie, Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey, the crowd headed over to the Crow Collection of Asian Art for the after party, which was held in the courtyard. On a perfect weather night, folks sipped Stella Artois (which has become synonymous with DIFF) and mingled. As you left, you were presented with a red velvet cupcake. What’s not to like about that?
  • There was talk of expansion – While Temerlin was at the podium thanking everyone for the warm tribute, he mentioned that the festival hopes to add a music component one day. Consider our ears perked.

There wasn’t really anything that I would consider a major problem with opening night, but there were a few things that may have been handled better. The Winspear Opera House proved to be a pretty cool venue to watch a movie in. And if I had to guess, I’d say it was about 60-70 percent full – no small accomplishment considering the place seats 2,200. The only problem was that there were wide stretches of seats on the floor with no one sitting in them, creating the illusion that there weren’t actually many people there. Meanwhile, others were stuck up in the upper balcony. Everyone had assigned seats on their tickets, which was unnecessary. This could have been fixed by just roping off the required rows for reserved seating and then just making everything else GA.

Admittedly, I have a tough time quibbling with the movie (clearly, I enjoyed it). But I wonder if something with a little more Hollywood glitz would have been a better match for the venue and the decked out crowd in attendance. As I noted last year, I was a big fan of the multi-film opening night at the Angelika. And Being Elmo is maybe a film that would have fit better in that setting. That being said, the movie was well-received by those in attendance – a crowd that may not have sought it out if it didn’t hold such an esteemed place in the festival lineup. So consider this the mildest of critiques.

On to Night Two.