The American Film Institute -- working in concert with, among other heavy hitters, Todd Wagner (co-owner of HDNet, 2929 Entertainment and Landmark Theatres) -- has announced plans for a new film festival in the Lone Star State. The AFI Dallas International Film Festival, slated to kick off March 22, 2007, will present an estimated 150 features and shorts over 10 days in various Big D venues. AFI grad Michael Cain, founder of Dallas' Deep Ellum Festival, is on board as artistic director. In a prepared statement, he says he views his new posting as "an opportunity to work with the Dallas film and film festival community to bring the international cinema spotlight on Dallas."
It should be noted, however, that some members of that community -- including folks associated with the 36-year-old USA Film Festival in Dallas, and the 19-year-old Dallas Video Festival -- are not exactly embracing the AFI event. Chris Vognar of the Dallas Morning News writes:
"Bart Weiss, director of the more avant-garde Dallas Video Festival, worries that the city's film reputation will be hurt if AFI Dallas can't cut it. And he wonders about the new festival's curatorial vision.
"'I would be fully supportive if there was a top-notch programmer in there who could draw some really wonderful things,' he said. 'I don't think the artistic director in place has the skill set, the reputation and the chops to pull off a big international event like this.'"
In any event, it remains to be seen just how the AFI Dallas Festival may or may not affect programming at the long-established SXSW Festival in not-so-faraway Austin. The 2007 edition of SXSW is set for March 9-17, meaning it will wrap just a few days before the inaugural AFI Dallas Festival. It's hard to believe there won't be some extremely intense power-playing and backroom-dealing when the two festivals start competing for world premieres of major indie and mainstream movies.