Lights, Camera, DIFF: The 17th Annual Dallas International Film Festival Unveils Its Bold Lineup

DIFF 2023 showcases the power of film with over 100 films from more than 60 countries. Festival goers will find socially conscious dramas, thrilling documentaries, heartwarming comedies, pulse-pounding action films, and more. But movie enthusiasts may want to make plans now. Travel + Leisure magazine recently named Dallas among the "12 Best Places to Travel in April 2023," citing the festival as a must-see event.

The Dallas International Film Festival has revealed its full lineup of feature films for its 17th edition, showcasing over 100 films from more than 60 countries. The festival has something for just about everyone, from socially conscious dramas to thrilling documentaries and heartwarming comedies to pulse-pounding action films.

Running from April 28 to May 5, 2023, at the Violet Crown Cinema in West Village Uptown, DIFF 2023 also boasts a red-carpet lineup and special events, including world premieres and Q&As with filmmakers and actors. 

James Faust [Photo: DIFF]

DIFF 2023 promises to celebrate the art of filmmaking, featuring established and emerging artists alike—many with local ties. Under the leadership of James Faust, DIFF’s Artistic Director, the festival continues to be a beacon of creative excellence that amplifies important stories and unheard voices.

“Festivalgoers can start making their movie plans, including the opportunity to see several films that will be world premiering with us here in Dallas,” Faust said in a statement. “DIFF gives some of the earliest and rarest opportunities to see several films on the big screen that amplify important stories and unheard voices – films that, in many cases, will be personally introduced by and discussed with the filmmakers in attendance.”

Making plans now could be good advice for local movie enthusiasts: Travel + Leisure magazine recently named Dallas among the “12 Best Places to Travel in April 2023,” citing the festival as a must-see event. Moreover, MovieMaker magazine also recognized Dallas as one of the “Best Places to Live and Work as a MovieMaker 2023.”

Here’s a selective look at featured films in various genres.
Film descriptions provided by DIFF. Go here for to check the day-by-day schedule.


Films from left: Savage; Revival69; and A Disturbance in the Force. [Images: DIFF 2023]

The documentaries in DIFF’s 2023 lineup offer a wide range of fascinating stories with strong ties to Dallas-Fort Worth and Texas. One anticipated film, “Breaking the Code” reveals the incredible journey of Fort Worth artist Vernon Fisher, who established himself as one of the most significant artists of the 20th century.

For Star Wars fans, director Jeremy Coon’s latest film takes audiences on a journey through the “ill-fated” Star Wars Holiday Special, featuring never-before-seen behind-the-scenes footage. Coon, a graduate of Richardson’s Berkner High School, has a unique take on this infamous piece of Star Wars history.

Meanwhile, “Gibson Icons: Rex Brown of Pantera” delves into the heart of the Texas music scene with an intimate look into the life of the renowned Rex Brown and his influential Lone Star State band. And the world-premiere documentary “Into the Spotlight” follows a Dallas-based theatre troupe composed of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, showcasing their creativity and determination.

Rounding out our Texas ties, “Karen Carpenter: Starving for Perfection” is an unvarnished documentary produced by Dallas-based AMS Pictures, exploring the personal struggles of the iconic singer.

Here are some featured documentaries:


Members of an all-girl robotics team from Afghanistan struggle to succeed in international competitions while combating their male-dominated culture and the threat of Taliban rule. SCHEDULE


Angel Ellis, a citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, fights alongside her free press Myskoke Media reporters for government transparency and access to information. Highlighting Ellis’ advocacy for ethical coverage of Indigenous topics and communities, it highlights how her fight to expose government corruption has ramifications across her tribal boundaries in Oklahoma and beyond. SCHEDULE


World Premiere
Legendary Fort Worth artist Vernon Fisher was born to rural Texas farmers in 1943 with a childhood exposure to painting that was only “something you did to houses.” By the 1980s, he was exhibiting alongside Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat, establishing himself as one of the most significant artists of the 20th century. The film follows Fisher as he continues to create art that challenges social norms and asks important questions about reality. SCHEDULE


The fate of the planet’s last untouched wilderness, the deep ocean, is explored alongside a threat from a secretive organization that is about to allow massive extraction of seabed metals to address the world’s energy crisis. SCHEDULE


Directed by Jeremy Coon and Steve Kozak, this film is the tale of the ill-fated The Star Wars Holiday Special that aired on CBS the week of Thanksgiving 1978, and was never re-aired, going on to become the franchise’s dark secret. Featuring behind-the-scenes archival footage from Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, and Anthony Daniels, it also incorporates the voices of “Weird Al” Yankovic, Kevin Smith, Seth Green, and the late Gilbert Gottfried. The screening is scheduled for May 3 and 4 and May. Director Jeremy Coon is a graduate of Berkner High School in Richardson. SCHEDULE


Spanish Documentary
Directed by Maite Alberdi, this Chilean film follows the relationship of prominent Chilean journalist Augusto Góngora and actress Paulina “Pauli” Urrutia. It won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. A couple for 23 years, Augusto was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease eight years ago, and Paulina cares for him, helping maintain his identity despite the challenges of his illness. SCHEDULE

Gibson Icons still [Image via DIFF 2023]


Renowned worldwide, Rex Brown and his Texas brethren forged a blueprint with the DFW-based band Pantera that’s been studied by nearly every hard rock and heavy metal band that has followed. Throughout this intimate look into his musical journey, Rex shares personal stories surrounding his childhood, the bonds built between his band members, and the enduring legacy of Pantera. SCHEDULE


The story of Andrea Lytle Peet’s race against time – a diagnosis of ALS and an attempt at the impossible. Peet aims to be the first person with ALS to complete a marathon in all 50 states, the film follows her journey as she inspires others to go on, be brave. SCHEDULE

Into the Spotlight still [Image via DIFF 2023]


World Premiere
A heartfelt story of how a script, a stage, and a theater program composed of adults with disabilities celebrate their creativity, explore life’s complexities, and empower a community, in their own words and their own way. INTO THE SPOTLIGHT is a documentary feature film that follows a Dallas-based theatre troupe, composed of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, who are determined to write, rehearse, and perform their 11th annual original musical during the 2021-22 season. Only disabled people are interviewed and the only people who answer the questions are the disabled people themselves. SCHEDULE


The role of Israel in American Jewish identity is challenged when two young American Jews join an awakening within the community after they witness Israel’s brutal treatment of the Palestinian people first-hand. Heartbroken and enraged at the older generation of American Jews who raised them to defend the State of Israel at all costs, they join a struggle not just for Palestinian rights but also within the Jewish community. SCHEDULE


The film gives Yogi Berra his due in following the life of the bad-ball hitting catcher and D-Day veteran, loving husband and father, product endorser and originator (mostly) of his own brand of proverbs now ingrained into everyday life. SCHEDULE


Directed, produced, and edited by Alexandria Bombach, this is an intimate look into the lives of the Indigo Girls, one of the most iconic American folk-rock bands. Featuring never-before-seen archival and intimate Cinéma verité, the film dives into the songwriting and storytelling of bandmembers Amy Ray and Emily Saliers that helped transform a generation. SCHEDULE


A captivating and unvarnished documentary about Karen Carpenter’s personal struggles as told through never-before-released recordings as well as legendary voices who knew her and were inspired by her music. Highly relevant to today’s audiences, Carpenter’s quest for perfection resulted in low self-esteem, a disheartening love life, and a public battle with anorexia nervosa. Dallas-based AMS Pictures produced the film. SCHEDULE

Matt Roach still [Image via DIFF 2023]


The story of an American jazz musician whose far-reaching ambitions were inspired and challenged by the inequities of the society around him, this film follows Roach’s seven-decade career through deep personal struggle, showing the price he paid for his outspoken views. SCHEDULE


Directed by Ondi Timoner, the film is a meme-driven journey into the intersection of finance, media, and extremism with the founders of Reddit and WallStreetBets, crypto fanatics, bored housewives, and TikTok-ers turned millionaire traders. The latest film by Timoner (whose LAST FLIGHT HOME, won the DIFF 2022 Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary Feature) looks at the explosive and irreversible ramifications of our digital future. SCHEDULE


Rational Middle and Shell partnered to explore the technologies, policies and partnerships required to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 to catalyze a conversation that leads to awareness and action and address the global challenge of climate change. The series is directed and produced by Gregory Kallenberg. SCHEDULE

Revival69 still [Image via DIFF 2023]


Young, scrappy concert promoter John Brower puts his life on the line (literally) to turn his failing Toronto Rock n Roll Revival into a one-day event, later coined in rock mythology as “the second most important event in rock n’ roll history.” And it almost didn’t happen. The festival united rock legends and the almost famous, but it was the 11th hour arrival of John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band that ignited a truly seminal moment for the 20,000 fans, triggering Lennon’s final decision to leave the Beatles forever. SCHEDULE


World Premiere
World premiering at DIFF 2023 with an inspiring and intimate portal into the world’s most dangerous sport. This comeback story of bull rider Clayton Savage shares the journey of one man’s grit and rugged willpower to achieve the elusive dream of becoming a world champion in a game that is often life…or death. SCHEDULE


World Premiere
World premiering at DIFF 2023 with an underdog story, this film documents the rise of an all-female skateboarding team based out of Orange County as they tear down the barriers created by a male-centric sport. It is the second feature film from Sarah Ivy and the second film about women and skateboarding to screen at DIFF. SCHEDULE


This coming-of-age story documents Stephen Curry, one of the most influential, dynamic, and unexpected players in basketball history, and his rise from an undersized college player to a four-time NBA champion. SCHEDULE


The film chronicles the personal and professional triumphs and travails of actor Michael J. Fox, exploring what happens when an incurable optimist confronts an incurable disease. With a mix of adventure and romance, comedy and drama, watching the film feels like … well, like a Michael J. Fox movie. SCHEDULE


On the night of a family wedding in Jharkand, India, Ranjit fears the worst after waking up to find his daughter is not home. Dragged into the woods, she was gang-raped by three men, and the village solution is to marry her to one of them, which Ranjit refuses. Instead, he challenges the status quo, determined to get justice for his daughter. SCHEDULE


The Cherokee language is deeply tied to Cherokee identity, yet generations of assimilation efforts by the U.S. government and anti-Indigenous stigmas have forced the Tri-Council of Cherokee tribes to declare a State of Emergency for the language in 2019. This feature-length documentary was shot on-location in Oklahoma and North Carolina throughout 2019-2022; and through intimate interviews, vérité footage of community gatherings, and extensive archival materials, explores the nuanced ways the Cherokee language is vital to maintaining a unique cultural identity and relationship with the world. SCHEDULE


Among DIFF’s collection of edge-of-your-seat dramas this year, audiences will be treated stories spanning an emotional and thematic spectrum—from delving into the world of technology with “BlackBerry” to exploring the societal pressures of 1980s England in “Blue Jean” to witnessing a heartrending return to Puerto Rico in “The Fishbowl.” Festivalgoers can also traverse the landscape of early 1970s Rome in “L’Immensità,” encounter the thrilling world of competitive hairdressing with “Medusa Deluxe,” and see a high-stakes hostage situation unfold in “The Stranger.”

Films with more local ties include “The Wild Man,” a gripping narrative filmed on location in Dallas-Fort Worth, as a young journalist uncovers the dark secrets of a Florida swamp town. “Story Ave” takes viewers on a journey through the South Bronx, guided by the talents of Texas-born producer Jamie Foxx, as the film explores the powerful connection between art, graffiti, and self-discovery.

Tech innovators are likely to be drawn to the aptly titled “Blackberry,” a captivating examination of BlackBerry’s swift ascent and eventual collapse. The story of the ubiquitous communication device in the 90s and early 2000s offers lessons on the intersection of technology and business while illuminating the obstacles encountered by groundbreaking entrepreneurs.

This year’s featured dramas include:


The story of the meteoric rise and catastrophic demise of the world’s first smartphone. Two mismatched entrepreneurs—egghead innovator Mike Lazaridis and cut-throat businessman Jim Balsillie – joined forces in an endeavor that was to become a worldwide hit in little more than a decade. The device that one of them invented and the other sold was the BlackBerry, an addictive mobile phone that changed the way the world worked, played, and communicated. But just as BlackBerry was rising to new peaks, it also started losing its way through the fog of Smartphone wars, management indecision, and outside distractions, eventually leading to the breakdown of one of the most successful ventures in the history of the tech and business worlds. SCHEDULE


In Newcastle, England, in 1988, a time when the conservative government is on the brink of passing legislation that stigmatizes the gay and lesbian population, Jean is a closeted gym teacher who faces a crisis after a new student threatens to reveal her double life. Written by Georgia Oakley, it is also her directorial debut. SCHEDULE


As her cancer spreads, Noelia’s ultimate decision is to return to her native Vieques, Puerto Rico, and claim her freedom to decide her own fate. She reunites with her friends and family who are still dealing with contamination caused by the U.S. Navy after 60 years of military practices. SCHEDULE


Clara (Penélope Cruz) and her emotionally distant husband Felice (Vincenzo Amato) relocate to Rome to raise a family. Even though the paint is fresh, and the appliances are new, the crushing expectations around marriage, desire, and gender in the early 1970s remain as traditional as ever. Their children Andrew (played by newcomer Luana Giuliani), Gino, and Diana are likewise poised at a precipice, on the verge of adolescence, with nothing but their imaginations to defuse family tensions. The eldest child, Andrew (nicknamed Adri by his parents), yearns for another life – an outsized, vibrantly-realized vision of a world where he gets to live as the boy he knows himself to be. Without an accepted vocabulary for talking about his transgender identity, Andrew tells adults that he’s an alien from another galaxy and makes a habit of running away to pursue a local Roma girl who accepts his boyhood at face value. As an outsider ostracized for her own eccentricities, Clara instinctively strives to protect her son despite not fully understanding him. An effortlessly moving film about growing up, fitting in, and breaking the mold, L’IMMENSITÁ is as freewheeling and creative as its central characters, mixing genres and staging musical numbers out of thin air. SCHEDULE


In this film from A24, a murder mystery is set in a competitive hairdressing competition where extravagance and excess collide, as the death of one of their own sows seeds of division in a community whose passion for hair verges on obsession. SCHEDULE


World Premiere
In the heart of rural Kentucky, a high school senior and his family struggle to cope with the true identity and intentions of a dangerous town shooter. SCHEDULE


Latino Showcase
Barely escaping the clutches of the oppressive Venezuelan dictatorship, freedom fighter Simón must now combat his trauma and guilt as he builds his case for asylum in order to be able to stay in the USA. SCHEDULE


South Bronx native Kadir Grayson is a teen artistic talent on the brink of finding and losing himself at once. Blinded by the grief of losing his younger brother, Kadir runs away from home and escapes via the beautifully dark and dangerous world of graffiti. His graf gang “Outside The Lines” consists of street kids with minds as criminal as they are artistic. Desperate to join, Kadir attempts to rob Luis, an older Puerto Rican MTA conductor, on the Story Ave subway platform. Luis offers him the cash he needs if Kadir agrees to have a meal with him, and for the first time in his life, Kadir entertains the possibility of his artistic talent being a conduit to a better life. The film was produced by Texas’ Jamie Foxx. SCHEDULE


Shot on locations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, this film has Ryan Justice following a young journalist who travels to Ochopee, Florida, with friends to investigate young women that have been going missing. Their search follows the town’s notorious conspiracy theorist into the swamps on his quest to show them “The Wild Man” as their discoveries take a dark and sinister turn. SCHEDULE


Directed and written by Brittany Snow, the story looks at mental health issues through Ethan and Riley, who both got out of precarious situations on the exact same day – Ethan recently got out of jail for throwing a wine bottle off a balcony, and Riley just got out of rehab for an eating disorder, love addiction, and suicide attempt. To Ethan, all of Riley’s flaws are beautiful, and he wants to help her see herself the way he does. Riley adores Ethan and is inspired by his talent and selflessness. The world makes sense when they only take it on together. Doesn’t it? SCHEDULE


Historica Drama
Based on real events, Vice Lieutenant Eismayer is the most feared trainer and model macho in the Austrian Military living as a gay man in secret. When he falls in love with a young, openly gay soldier, his world gets turned upside down. SCHEDULE


Historica Drama
Following the infamous trial of Adolf Eichmann, the architect of the mass extermination of Jews during the Second World War, it depicts the events preceding Eichmann’s execution and approaches the important and much publicized Nazi criminal through the eyes of three participants in the events. It was both written and directed by Jake Paltrow. SCHEDULE


This French and Canadian film directed by Sébastien Marnier focuses on a fish cannery worker on the verge of financial collapse who discovers she is the biological daughter of a wealthy businessman. Attempting to reconnect with his established family, she finds them unwilling to accept her.  SCHEDULE


When a stranger takes a family hostage in their small-town feed store, the father’s only hope of saving them is to answer the stranger’s solitary demand: “Tell me who I am.” A special presentation of DIFF’s education series, INSIDE FILM, the screening of the short film will be followed by a panel with Om Films founder Niraj Bhatia and co-founder Dan Burks, “The Art of Film Financing: Insights from an Executive Producer.” (Panel)  SCHEDULE

Other Genres

This year’s DIFF lineup promises a thrilling assortment of films across various genres, ensuring there’s something for everyone. Action fans can look forward to “Bad City” and “One Ranger,” with high-stakes plots and riveting performances. Comedy enthusiasts will be delighted by “Chocolate Lizards,” “The Doldrums,” and “Match Me If You Can,” each offering their own unique blend of humor and heart. Horror aficionados can brace themselves for the chilling tales of “Birth/Rebirth” and “The Elderly,” while Western lovers can revisit a timeless classic with the special presentation of the 1953 film “Shane.” 

Films offering an homage to the Lone Star State include “One Ranger,” an action-packed adventure featuring a Texas Ranger collaborating with British Intelligence. In the comedy genre, “Chocolate Lizards” takes viewers on a hilarious journey through Buffalo Gap, Texas, while “The Doldrums,” a comedy/drama set in Dallas, follows the evolving friendships of three characters.

Here are more featured films:



Kensuke Sonomura directs the legendary Hitoshi Ozawa in this ultimate V-Cinema actioner from Well Go USA Entertainment. Kaiko City is plagued with poverty and crime when a corrupt businessman decides to run for mayor and starts eliminating opponents from the rival mafia. A former police captain serving time for murder is secretly released and put in charge of a special task force to arrest him. SCHEDULE


A Texas Ranger (played by Thomas Jane) is recruited by British Intelligence (led by John Malkovich) to track down a dangerous terrorist and stop him from attacking London. SCHEDULE


Chocolate Lizards still [Image via DIFF 2023]


World Premiere | Comedy/Adventure
World premiering at DIFF 2023, this is the tale of Erwin Vandeveer, played by Rudy Pankow, who finds himself stranded in Buffalo Gap, Texas, with Merle Luskey, played by Thomas Haden Church. The ensuing adventure pits the pair against the bank, the sheriff, and a corrupt oil company, and also stars Carrie-Anne Moss and Bruce Dern. It is based on the 1999 novel of the same name by Cole Thompson. SCHEDULE


World Premiere | Comedy/Drama
A not-coming-of-age and anti-musical filmed in Dallas, the film centers around three characters and how their friendship shifts when the oldest goes off to college. It is a comedy/drama structured in six vignettes marking his biannual visits from college to his hometown and how their lives change, or don’t, despite all three friends growing older. SCHEDULE


World Premiere | Comedy/Romance
When an online matchmaking service rejects her as “unmatchable,” a quick-witted programmer’s rant makes her an internet sensation…and puts her on a romantic collision course with the equally-nerdy man who runs the company that rejected her. SCHEDULE



A single mother and a childless morgue technician are bound together by their relationship to a little girl they have reanimated from the dead. SCHEDULE


An octogenarian named Manuel falls into a state of dementia after the sudden suicide of his wife, sparking a series of paranormal events that will put his family’s lives at risk. Starting as a grounded drama exploring the indignities of old age, THE ELDERLY gradually snaps off one guardrail after another, building to a crescendo of sheer terror with imagery that can never be unseen. SCHEDULE



A weary gunfighter in 1880s Wyoming begins to envision a quieter life after befriending a homestead family with a young son who idolizes him, but a smoldering range war forces him to act. This is a Stodghill Classic Movie Night special presentation of the 1953 George Stevens classic starring Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur, and Van Heflin. SCHEDULE

Short Competition Films Announced

DIFF also announced films featured in its Shorts Competition and High School Shorts Competition.

Films in the Shorts Competitions include “The Appraisal”; “ATM”; “Baba”; “Baby Proof”; “Bellybutton”; “The Buyers”; “Can’t Let You Go”; “The Cocoon”; “Death and Ramen”; “Eid Mubarak”; “Fetch!”; “Forest of Hope”; “The Foundry”; “Fuck Me, Richard”; “Funny Face”; “Green Water”; “Grey Horse”; “Hangman”; “How Do We Leave”; “How to Make a Ghost”; “How to Meal Prep During a Famine”; “I Have No Tears, and I Must Cry”; “Jerome”; “La Cosecha”; “LǍo Lao LǍo Le”; “Men of Salt”; “Meta Care”; “Motherland”; “The Old Young Crow”; “Our Males and Females”; “Peach Bottom”; “Picture Day”; “Planta de los Dioses”; “Radio Telescope”; “Really Good Friends”; “Share for Me”; “Sleep Study”; “Starving”; “The Stranger”; “Supermarket Affairs”; “That’s Our Time”; “Today, I Will Be the Bread”; “Tomato Kitchen”; “The Wake”; “Whisper”; “Wild Ones”; “The Word”; “Wüm”; and “X to X.”

Films in the High School Shorts Competition include: 2023; “After Hours”; “Animating Autism – The Dane Parsons Story”; “Arena Crew”; “The Balland of Jimp Bibbler”; “Breaking the Mirror”; “Charming Little Wooden Chair”; “Elevator”; “If Not Me, Then Who?”; “In Return”; “The Life of a Child Star”; “On Repeat”; “Redo”; “The Secrets of the Universe”; “Shadowed”; “Solum”; and “Tough Names.”

Check times for Shorts Block here.

Celebrating Film and Filmmakers

At the Dallas International Film Festival (DIFF), the focus is on showcasing a wide range of voices and perspectives through film. This platform provides opportunities for emerging and underrepresented filmmakers to share their stories. Since its start, DIFF has screened more than 2,500 new films from 50 countries, awarded over $1.1 million in prizes, and welcomed more than 100,000 filmgoers and filmmakers. As the signature program of the Dallas Film Society, a nonprofit established in 2006, DIFF is dedicated to celebrating the impact of film on society, honoring filmmakers, and providing leadership in film education.

In addition to its mission, the DIFF festival benefits from an extensive list of sponsors, including AdChat DFW, Akin,, Canopy by Hilton Dallas Uptown, Capital One, Commerce House, Consulate General of Canada, Dallas County Historical Commission, Dallas Film & Creative Industries Office, Dallas Sports Commission, Favorite Brands, Fort Worth Film Commission, Four Corners Brewing Co., H-E-B, Mercury One, Nicole Kwon, Nowadays Orange Productions LLC, Oliver Wyman, Panavision, Presbyterian Village North, SAG-AFTRA, SAGindie, Selig Polyscop.

For DIFF’s 2023 schedule and film guide, go here.

Get on the list.
Dallas Innovates, every day.

Sign up to keep your eye on what’s new and next in Dallas-Fort Worth, every day.

One quick signup, and you’re done.
View previous emails.

e Company, ShotDeck, Texas Film Gear, The Event Nerd, The Preston of the Park Cities, Vestals Catering, Violet Crown Cinema Dallas, Virgin Hotels Dallas, Visit Tulsa, and West Village.

Through year-round screenings, educational programs, community partnerships, and festivals, DIFF raises awareness of film’s approachable and inclusive art form, championing filmmakers who tell important stories and amplifying unheard voices.

For more information and to get Festival tickets and passes, go here


R E A D   N E X T