Best of DIFF

An insider's guide to must-see movies at Dallas International Film Festival 2014

An insider's guide to best of Dallas International Film Festival 2014

Jude Law and Richard E. Grant in Dom Hemingway
Jude Law curses up a storm in Dom Hemingway, playing for one night only on April 10. Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures
Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in Joe
Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in Joe, showing on April 4. Photo by Linda Kallerus
Produce film
Produce shows on April 6 and 7 at Angelika Film Center Dallas. Produce/Facebook
In the Heat of the Night
DIFF screens the classic In the Heat of the Night for one night only on April 7. Photo courtesy of Dallas International Film Festival
The Case Against 8
Same-sex marriage documentary The Case Against 8 plays on April 9 and 10. Photo by Diana Walker/AFER
For No Good Reason
Hunter S. Thompson collaborator Ralph Steadman is showcased in For No Good Reason, showing on April 13. Photo courtesy of Dallas International Film Festival
Jude Law and Richard E. Grant in Dom Hemingway
Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in Joe
Produce film
In the Heat of the Night
The Case Against 8
For No Good Reason

April is prime time for movies in Dallas, and the annual Dallas International Film Festival, taking place April 3-13, kicks things off with more than 170 feature length and short films over 11 days, starting with the stand-alone screening of Words and Pictures at Dallas City Performance Hall.

With so much to choose from, you may need help picking out the best of the best, which is why we're here to help. Most of the films have two screenings on different days, so if your favorites overlap for some reason, you have another chance to catch what you want.

Here's a day-by-day guide to the best DIFF has to offer:

Friday, April 4

The latest from director David Gordon Green, who was here last festival season when Prince Avalanche played at the USA Film Festival, stars Nicolas Cage as the titular Joe, an ex-con who might find redemption in the form of a 15-year-old boy (Tye Sheridan). Sheridan was also at the center of last year's festival favorite, Mud, and it's highly likely he has another winner on his hands here.

Little Accidents
Using a mining disaster as a jumping off point, this film piles secret upon secret in a small Appalachian town. Featuring a star-studded lineup that includes Elizabeth Banks, Chloe Sevigny and Josh Lucas, Little Accidents is a haunting story you won't soon forget. (Also showing on April 5.)

Saturday, April 5

Road to Austin
Austin has long laid claim to being the music capital of Texas, but how exactly did it come to be that way? This documentary gives a history lesson on Austin's musical evolution, and it includes interviews with such iconic musicians as Kris Kristofferson, Bonnie Raitt and Bob Schneider. (Also showing on April 7.)

The Ladies of the House
You don't want to cross the women in this film, who don't take kindly to having their home life disturbed. A horror film made right here in Dallas by director John Wildman, The Ladies of the House is one of several Midnight Specials the festival is rolling out. (Also showing on April 4.)

Sunday, April 6

Films that aim for your heartstrings need to have just the right tone in order to succeed, but this one looks like it has the goods. It follows a former minor league baseball player who can't seem to get a handle on life until he meets Produce, a boy with Down syndrome who works at a local grocery store. (Also showing on April 7.)

No No: A Dockumentary
No, that's not a misspelling — this documentary is about the life and career of former baseball player Dock Ellis, who famously claimed that he was on LSD when he threw a no-hitter. With baseball season just getting cranked up, there's no better time to watch a film about one of the sport's most colorful characters. (Also showing on April 7.)

Monday, April 7

In the Heat of the Night
Although we usually recommend going for new films at a festival, it's hard to resist a chance to see this classic on the big screen. The winner of five Oscars, including Best Picture, it features Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger going head-to-head during a murder investigation.

Obvious Child
As at the Oscars, comedies are usually not featured as prominently as dramas at film festivals. You won't want to miss this one, though, as it stars former SNL cast member Jenny Slate as a stand-up comedian who makes some poor choices after a bad break-up and winds up pregnant. (Also showing on April 9.)

Tuesday, April 8

We From Dallas
Rap/hip hop has a strong history on both the east and west coasts of the U.S., so the legacy of the genre in Dallas tends to get overshadowed. This documentary looks to correct that oversight, using interviews with the rappers, DJs and graffiti artists to show that Dallas has a great hip hop history of its own. (Also showing on April 12.)

The feature directorial debut of Tommy Oliver, 1982 portrays a Philadelphia family slowly but surely being torn apart by drug addiction. Featuring strong performances from Sharon Leal and Wayne Brady, who plays against type as an evil drug dealer, it's a film that leaves you gasping for air after it's over. (Also showing on April 9.)

Wednesday, April 9

The Case Against 8
Support for same-sex marriage is spreading across the United States, thanks in part to the Supreme Court's decision to overturn California's Proposition 8. This documentary details the long court battle leading up to that decision, including the partnership of two lawyers who had previously opposed each other in a major case. (Also showing on April 10.)

Brothers of the Black List
Another documentary about the judicial process, this one has a completely different tone, as it looks into a rape case that turns into a civil rights fight after 125 African-American college students are interrogated for no good reason. The film is a stark reminder that racism is more difficult to eradicate than many would care to admit. (Also showing on April 10.)

Thursday, April 10

Believe Me
Also showing as a Centerpiece screening on April 5, make a smart choice and wait for this lower-profile showing. When a fake Christian charity started by college students starts to gain momentum, the boys at the center of it face a crisis of conscience. The film co-stars Nick Offerman, of Parks and Recreation, and Christopher McDonald.

Dom Hemingway
You won't believe the things that come out of Jude Law's mouth in this crime film that's like a mix of Guy Ritchie and Quentin Tarantino. Law plays Hemingway, a safe cracker recently released from prison who's looking to get his just rewards for his time in the joint and to reunite with his daughter.

Friday, April 11

Trust Me
Written, directed and starring Clark Gregg (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), this film follows a low-level Hollywood agent looking to find that one big star to represent. Co-starring a long list of big names like Amanda Peet, Allison Janney, William H. Macy, Sam Rockwell and Felicity Huffman, this one looks to have the right blend of independent film and Hollywood. (Also showing on April 12.)

Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter
The Coen Brothers' Fargo is about to get new life courtesy of a new series on FX, and this film plays homage to the classic in another way. Kumiko (Rinko Kikuchi) becomes convinced that the briefcase of money Steve Buscemi buries in the movie is real, and he sets out on a quest to find it. (Also playing on April 12.)

Saturday, April 12

The Face of Love
Romance, at least at the movies, tends to be a young person's game, so it's always nice when filmmakers give older people a chance to experience the feeling. This one may or may not have a supernatural element, as Nikki (Annette Bening), while still in mourning for her dead husband (Ed Harris), finds another man who looks exactly like him.

The Starck Club
This documentary details the history of one of Dallas' most famous nightclubs, which was known for both high fashion and for helping start the popularity of the drug ecstasy. Co-directed by Michael Cain, the founding artistic director of DIFF, you know that the film will be an exhaustive look into '80s nightclub culture in Dallas.

Sunday, April 13

Young and Beautiful
A new film from French director Francois Ozon, the story follows Isabelle, a teenager who has a bad first sexual experience and looks to rectify that by becoming an expensive call girl. Exploring sexuality as only the French can do, it'll have you questioning everything about sex, power and their consequences. (Also playing on April 10.)

For No Good Reason
Many people know the name of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, but fewer people know about artist Ralph Steadman, who helped burnish Thompson's legend with a collaboration at the 1969 Kentucky Derby. This documentary honors Steadman through interviews with Johnny Depp, Terry Gilliam and more.