Toward the end of a Q&A session at the Angelika Film Center with director Lisa Immordino Vreeland, whose new documentary about fashion icon Diana Vreeland had just been screened, the first-time moviemaker was asked when the film’s soundtrack might be available. “I don’t know,” admitted Vreeland, a tall, willowy brunette who’s married to Diana’s grandson. “I guess it’ll come out on DVD. I’m new to all this!”
Vreeland’s frankness — and her top-drawer film about the legendary editor of Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue magazines — seemed to typify the first few days of the sixth annual Dallas International Film Festival, presented by the Dallas Film Society. As always the festival has been an intriguing mix of glamour and spontaneity, fascinating new films of all stripes, and up-close, unscripted glimpses of the people who make them.
Take Thursday’s Opening Night Gala presentation at the Majestic Theatre, for instance. Before the screening of Liberal Arts, a thoughtful flick starring the likes of Zac Efron, Elizabeth Olson, and Josh Radnor, there was a Red Carpet parade outside on the Majestic sidewalk that had a little something for everyone.
Austinite Mark Potts, who directed Cinema Six, a low-budget (less than $100,000) film about aimless guys working at a family-run movie theater, said he was here not only to show the film, but to shop his next project. Actor Drew Waters (Friday Night Lights) was talking up Cowgirls ‘N’ Angels, a family-friendly adventure about rodeo in which he plays a “broken-down rodeo clown.” The role wasn’t too much of a stretch for him, Waters explained, since he was actually on the rodeo circuit, participating in “bull and bare” (bull-riding and bareback-bronco riding) events for four years on the East Coast.
Then there were the businesspeople who were funding the festival. Among them: Arthur E. Benjamin, back for his third year at DIFF, and Gina and Scott Ginsburg, whose Boardwalk Auto Group Volkswagen Dealers are the 2012 presenting sponsor. The Ginsburgs are movie buffs who’ve been involved with DIFF and other local film festivals for 12 years, Scott said. So why is VW being featured, when he sells other, more upscale autos as well? “VW has an excellent product line,” Scott replied. “It’s among the fastest-growing lines in the world and, with our new factory in Tennessee, the Passat is made right here in the United States.”
The next day still more festival sponsors — and officials — turned up at the Hotel Palomar for the exclusive annual Chairman’s Luncheon. The guests included Janis Burklund of the sponsoring Dallas Film Commission, film society board members Ellen Winspear and Don Stokes, former DIFF chairman Michael Cain, and festival patriarch Leiner Temerlin and his wife, Karla. While a video screen behind them played continuous snippets of various DIFF films, Lynn McBee, film society board chairman, and Lee Papert, the group’s president and CEO, gave brief, graceful welcome talks. And everybody chit-chatted about — what else — film.
Four days later, Winspear was among those in the audience for a screening of the much-anticipated Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel. Fast-paced and visually compelling, the film is the first feature-length documentary look at Vreeland, a visionary legend who revolutionized journalism as well as fashion with her outsized, original point of view.
The movie features vintage photos and TV and film clips, as well as no fewer than 45 “talking heads,” including fashion designers like Manolo Blahnik, actress Ali McGraw and models Lauren Hutton and Penelope Tree. Vreeland, who died in 1989, “saw things in people before they saw it themselves,” says designer Diane Von Furstenberg. In one telling clip, which has Vreeland addressing the idea of a story about her life, she tells interviewer George Plimpton: “I don’t give a damn what’s in it, as long as it sells. I’m as practical as Bloomingdale’s.”
That practicality, as well as her creativity and positive outlook, make Vreeland an excellent contemporary role model, director Lisa Immordino Vreeland said after the screening. The message is “to believe in yourself — to know that you can live beyond any possible dreams,” Lisa said. “Have faith in yourself.”
Then the filmmaker, who’s currently working on another project about another, unnamed “visionary woman,” was off to be interviewed by Peter Simek of the FrontRow arts website, at Dallas’ West Village. Diane Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel will be shown again today at the Angelika at 7 p.m. Thursday afternoon, Lisa Vreeland will be at the Forty Five Ten clothing boutique, signing copies of her book by the same name, beginning at 5.
And the Dallas film festival beat goes on.