2019 North Texas Film Festival Recap

By David Ferguson

The inaugural North Teas Film Festival (NTXFF) ran September 26-29, and was put on by Dallas Film, the non-profit organization that also curates the annual Dallas International Film Festival (DIFF). Capital One was the title sponsor and most screenings were held at Cinemark West Plano, the theatre located next to Cinemark’s corporate headquarters.

Kicking off a new film festival is never easy, especially when it’s in a new market like north Dallas and Plano. Dallas Film wisely kept things pretty simple for the first year. The first round of announced films weren’t able to generate much excitement, and included a heavy dose of repeats from this year’s DIFF; however, closer to the festival, new titles were added and the lineup was much stronger and more enticing.

Even with a short 4 day run with limited slots, the festival screenings were divided into a few categories: sports, family, date night, horror (a partnership with Fangoria), best of DIFF 2019, veteran films (benefitting Veterans Institute for Film and Media), early access sneak peeks, and Oscar-contenders. For the sports-minded folks, there were two retro screenings held Saturday at The Star in Frisco: THE BLIND SIDE and FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, providing a unique movie-viewing experience.

Since I had already seen and reviewed most of the DIFF 2019 films, and with Sunday being a must-attend Texas Rangers game for the final game at Globe Life Park in Arlington, I concentrated on catching as many early releases as possible – especially those that played Toronto Film Festival. Below is a brief reaction of the movies I saw, with full reviews coming soon:

Oscar winning filmmaker Steven Soderbergh (TRAFFIC, 2000) attempts to provide a cinematic explanation of the 2015 Panama Papers. The fraud and tax evasion that was occurring through the Mossack Fonseca offshore shell companies is presented in a confusing blend of facts and characters, including Oscar winner Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas in a cartoonish and fashion-coordinated manner. Three time Oscar winner Meryl Streep heads up an incredibly deep and talented cast, many of whom only appear in one or two scenes. This one pales in comparison to Adam McKay’s THE BIG SHORT, though some of the same tactics are used to bash the one-percenters.

Talented filmmaker Noah Baumbach (THE SQUID AND THE WHALE, 2005) explores the cause and effect of a marriage break-up. Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson are extraordinary in this incisive and profound look at what happens to a family when a married couple chooses a break-up over adult communication. It’s so real and grounded that the emotional pain feels like a gut punch (or many of them).

The filmmaking team behind GOODNIGHT MOMMY (2014), Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz, looked to have an exciting new suspense thriller featuring kids, an unwelcome stepmom-to-be, and a remote lake house where they all get snowed in together. Jaeden Martell (IT, MIDNIGHT SPECIAL) and Lia McHugh are the kids, and Riley Keough (Elvis’ granddaughter) plays the unwelcome adult with a creepy past.

Easily the most fun movie of the festival finds Eddie Murphy starring as Blaxploitation icon Rudy Ray Moore. As if that’s not enough, Wesley Snipes kills it as D’Urville Martin. There’s plenty of comedy, kung-fu, action, and you-know-what-else as the 1970’s are revisited in a way that only Dolemite can … ‘effing up MF’ers’.

I regret missing CLEMENCY, NOW OR NEVER: A TONY ROMO STORY, and THE TWO POPES; however, part of the fun (and frustration) of attending a film festival is trying to fit the screening schedule to your own. Thanks to Dallas Film and the North Texas Film Festival, now those folks who rarely venture to Uptown or Downtown have an opportunity to experience festival life close to home.

To keep up with next year’s NTXFF, visit https://ntxff.com/

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