5 Things to Know About the 2023 Dallas International Film Festival

Your guide to a week’s worth of movie premieres, events, and parties at the Dallas International Film Festival.

The 17th annual Dallas International Film Festival (DIFF) kicks off April 28 and runs through May 5. It’s the city’s marquee film event, and it draws industry members from across the country and the world for a week’s worth of movies and good times. Naturally, it also draws lots of attendees—maybe even you—who gather to watch those movies, meet the filmmakers, and see the actors. Before DIFF gets underway, here’s what you need to know about the Dallas film festival, from the buzzworthy premieres to the can’t-miss parties and the passes you’ll need to get inside.

What exactly is the Dallas International Film Festival?

The annual Dallas International Film Festival is the signature event of the Dallas Film Society. It was established in 2006 and aims to curate and champion films from diverse, emerging, and underrepresented voices. Since its founding, DIFF has screened more than 2,500 new films from 50 countries, hosted more than 100,000 filmgoers and filmmakers, and issued more than $1.1 million in awards.

This year, DIFF will feature screenings of more than 100 films from nearly 30 countries, as well as Q&A sessions with filmmakers and actors. There will be nightly red carpets, special events throughout the week, and a festival lounge where guests can eat, drink, and hobnob with film industry members and other attendees.

Where’s everything happening for the film festival?

Due to the pandemic, last year DIFF presented its first full, in-person festival since 2019, with screenings taking place at six venues across Dallas. This year, the festival is consolidating its presence in West Village and making the Violet Crown theater its home base. Violet Crown opened its doors late last year after taking over from the Magnolia Theater, which has hosted DIFF events in prior years.

Violet Crown has recliner-style seats, plus a restaurant and bar, so you can sip wine and snack on pizzas, hot dogs, and Avocado Spring Rolls during movies. It will show the majority of the festival’s 100-plus films, and will also be home to filmmaker appearances and Q&As throughout the week. The only other venue hosting screenings is the Texas Theater in Oak Cliff, which is currently on the schedule for April 29 and May 5.

How do DIFF tickets work?

If you want to attend DIFF, you’ll need a pass. Those come in a few varieties, beginning with the basic festival pass ($100 for students and seniors, $200 for everyone else) that provides access to all screenings. The next step up is the $250 Star Pass, which grants holders access to all screenings, plus opening and closing night films, the opening night party, the closing night party, and certain sponsored events and private venues. The $500 Star Plus Pass provides the same benefits as the Star Pass, but it’s good for two people, so you can bring your movie-loving friend or partner along for the ride.

What movies are showing at this Dallas film fest this year?

More than 100 films will screen at DIFF this year, and they cover a wide range of formats and topics, from comedies and dramas to documentaries and animated shorts. A Disturbance In The Force: How The Star Wars Holiday Special Happened, a documentary directed by Richardson’s own Jeremy Coon and Steve Kozak, will be screened on May 4, naturally. It tells the tale of the ill-fated “Star Wars Holiday Special” that aired on CBS in 1978 and features behind-the-scenes archival footage from Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford. It also incorporates the voices of “Weird Al” Yankovic, Kevin Smith, Seth Green, and the late Gilbert Gottfried.

The documentary Sk8 Girlz will have its world premiere at DIFF. The film portrays an underdog story that covers the rise of an all-female skateboarding team from Orange County, California. Meanwhile another female-led flick, It’s Only Life After All, looks at the lives of the folk-rock band, Indigo Girls.

DIFF will also host the world premiere of Chocolate Lizards, a comedy that takes place in Buffalo Gap, Texas, and follows a duo as they face off against the bank, the sheriff, and a corrupt oil company. It stars Rudy Pankow, Thomas Hayden Church, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Bruce Dern and is based on the 1999 novel of the same name. That’s just a small sample of the films worth adding to your calendar.

What else is there to do at the film festival?

DIFF attendees will stay plenty busy if all they do is watch films, but there’s more going on throughout the week, including filmmaker events, post-show Q&As, and parties. So, keep your head on a swivel, and be sure to check the website as more items hit the schedule. If you purchase a Star Pass or Star Plus Pass, you’ll have nightly access to the Festival Lounge, which is located in the West Village next to the Violet Crown theater. It’s stocked with gratis food and drinks, so it’s a smart spot to start or end your evening. And you won’t want to miss the opening night and closing night parties; they’re your chance to meet actors and directors and fully immerse yourself in the world of Dallas film.

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Kevin Gray is a freelance writer and editor covering all things food, drinks, and travel. He’s written for The Dallas Morning News, Forbes, Liquor.com, Men’s Health, and Wine Enthusiast, and his extensive home bar is turning into a real Hoarders situation.