James Faust loves movies. That's a good thing, especially since he's the Director of Programming for the AFI Dallas International Film Festival, which wrapped its third edition last week. Some film programmers will brook no negative comments about their selections, but James was quite willing to listen when I questioned his sanity for picking Oskar Roehler's Lulu & Jimi, an out-of-control, absurdist melodrama that veers from one mad scenario to the next.
He readily admitted that he and a friend were the only two people laughing when the film played at Sundance, but he defended some of the same things that I had derided. James is a pleasant, humble man, but he's not about to back down just because you don't agree with him. That same spirit is evident in some of the films in the program. Jeffrey Levy-Hinte's terrific Soul Power, in which music history comes alive, consists of footage shot in 1974 as final preparations were being made for a music festival in Zaire, intended to accompany the "Rumble in the Jungle" boxing match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. James Brown, B.B. King, Bill Withers, and other notable musicians appear; it made me nostalgic for the days when Ali spoke his mind.
Judging from the crowds lining up in advance, AFI Dallas sells far more individual tickets than passes, which means that completely different audiences show up from one film to the next (as opposed to, say, SXSW, where you start to recognize fellow pass holders in line). So a late evening screening of Daniel Burman's Empty Nest drew a Spanish-speaking crowd that reacted more strongly than I did. Still, I liked the picture that Burman created of a long-married couple (Oscar Martínez and Cecilia Roth) dealing with life, and each other, after their children leave home.