I've had great experiences at some of the most visible festivals in the world — Sundance and Cannes, natch — but there's something very particularly gratifying about covering regional festivals, where the needs of a specific community matter as much as the quality of the movies in the program. AFI Dallas, which I recently attended for my second consecutive year, offers such gratification. Dallas isn't the prettiest town on the map, and you have to look hard to find its fairly minuscule film culture -- but the people are friendly, curious and open to new cinematic experiences. In fact, the crowd was even more excited about the festival this year than its programmers expected: Festival director Michael Cain tells me they exceeded box office expectations by a whopping seventy percent. Now, I'm sure the festival had relatively low expectations, given the current economic hardship that they and everyone else in the business has gone through. Nevertheless, the turnout provides a much-needed reminder that, as Robert Redford said earlier this year, "art will always find a way."
Read my AFI Dallas wrap up here. Thanks to Michael Cain, James Faust, Sarah Harris, John Wildman, and everyone else at the festival who helped me enjoy my time there.