Pass the Popcorn

Cinemaniacs and casual moviegoers can share the love during this month%26rsquo;s Dallas International Film Festival. In addition to a gala honoring legendary producer Sherry Lansing (Forrest Gump, Titanic) and director William Friedkin (The French Connection, The Exorcist), the seventh annual DIFF features a something-for-everyone lineup, including a tribute to iconic Italian films, %26agrave; la Fellini%26rsquo;s 8 %26frac12;.

Riding a wave of positive buzz from its recent Sundance and South by Southwest showings is Pit Stop, a meditative exploration of love and loss directed by Yen Tan, who arrived in Dallas after emigrating from Malaysia at age 19. Telling the parallel stories of two gay men in small-town Texas, the film was inspired by Tan%26rsquo;s time spent road tripping during the making of his first feature Happy Birthday.%26nbsp; %26nbsp;

%26ldquo;I had to make a lot of stops in gas stations between Dallas and Houston, and I thought about the people who lived in those little towns, the life they had,%26rdquo; he says. %26ldquo;Thinking about if there were gay people there sparked my curiosity %26mdash; why were they there and what life did they lead?%26rdquo;%26nbsp; %26nbsp;

Pit Stop gives an intimate look at the lives of Gabe, a contractor who is getting over an ill-fated affair with a married man, and Ernesto, a Hispanic lumberyard worker in the midst of splitting up with his live-in boyfriend. Although the characters%26rsquo; connection doesn%26rsquo;t drive the plot, the possibility of a happy ending is only one of the reasons the film has resonated with audiences. %26ldquo;It%26rsquo;s my way of having a Hollywood happy ending without resorting to clich%26eacute;s,%26rdquo; says Tan. %26ldquo;We%26rsquo;re approaching it in an understated manner, and the audience is rooting for the characters to find some form of happiness.%26ldquo;

Tan assembled a Texas dream team to bring Pit Stop to life, including co-writer David Lowery (Ain%26rsquo;t Them Bodies Saints), production designer Scott Colquitt (Tree of Life) and co-producers Kelly Williams (Lone Star International Film Festival), Eric Steele (the Texas Theatre), James M. Johnston (Pioneer) and Jonathan Duffy (Austin Film Festival). Although it may seem that local filmmakers are having a moment, the Texans%26rsquo; presence on the scene is largely due to a support system based on collaboration rather than competition.

%26ldquo;They%26rsquo;re people I%26rsquo;ve known for more than 10 years already, and we were making films then and we never stopped,%26rdquo; Tan says. %26ldquo;We were never hindered by the fact we lacked connections and funding sources, and, as a result, we had a body of work that people started noticing. At Sundance, Robert Redford gave a speech and said, %26lsquo;Perseverance is everything.%26rsquo; And that%26rsquo;s a big lesson to us.%26rdquo;

Dallas Film Society director James Faust has gathered other Lone Star State talent, with planned screenings of everything from Tyler Glodt%26rsquo;s campy zombie film Buck Wild to Luke Korem%26rsquo;s colorful documentary Lord Montagu. And this year%26rsquo;s event is expanding from local art houses to include venues all over the metroplex, from Klyde Warren Park to the new Look Cinemas in Addison.

The 2013 Dallas International Film Festival runs April 4 through 14. For information, tickets and a full list of films, visit




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