Your Guide To The Dallas International Film Festival's Most Alluring Screenings.

Rejoice, Dallas-area film nerds, for the Dallas International Film Festival returns tomorrow. Now in its eight year, DIFF runs through next Sunday (April 14) and features more than 150 films for your viewing pleasure. In other words: It's no small thing.

Also, it's kind of like Christmas for local film fans.

Let me explain: Each of DIFF's many offerings acts like a shiny, new, mysterious present — ones that we get to unwrap with our eyes. Sometimes, the gifts are everything you could've asked for — or maybe even more. Other times, you get socks.

Hey, that's the fun of these things, right? Right — and especially when access to DIFF is as easy as it is. Your options are plentiful in this regard: You can go super big and splurge on a $750 all-access pass; you can go significantly smaller, but still fairly large, with the $75 payment option that affords you access to 10 screenings; or you can just drop 10 bones a screening and pick and choose the films you really want to watch.

But how to choose which ones to see? Well, if you want, over on DIFF's comprehensive site, you can go ahead and peruse each and every single one of the descriptions of the films being screened. Or — or! — you can let us do the dirty work for you and suggest our 11 favorite must-attend options to take in during the beast that is DIFF.

Why 11 and not 10? Because we like Spinal Tap. Also, stop asking stupid questions.

The Party Option: Opening Night.
Thursday, April 4.
Opening night boasts an impressive lineup, all while rolling out the red carpet for the grand opening of LOOK Cinemas up in Addison. Here, you can check out your choice of five films being screened at once in the new theater: Still Mine, Kon-Tiki, The Crash Reel, Java Heat (with star Kellan Lutz in attendance, no less) or the 50th anniversary screening of Federico Felliniâ��s Italian classic, 8 1/2. If you're looking for a night to see and be seen at this festival, with Hollywood-style glitz and glam everywhere you look, this is it. Just make sure you practice your answer to “…and who are you wearing tonight?”

The Stars Are Bright Option: MUD.
Friday, April 5.
Alright, alright, alright. It just wouldn't be a film festival in Texas if there wasn't a film being screened that stars Matthew McConaughey, now would it? MUD, which also features Reese Witherspoon and Sam Shepard, is the third feature from filmmaker Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter, Shotgun Stories), a guy who has made a big name for himself in a short period of time with Southern-steeped noirish crime films and dramas. Considering that MUD was nominated for a Palme d'Or at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, I'd say that qualifies the film as a must-see for sure — especially since there's only one showing of it.

The Family-Friendly Option: The Sandlot's 20th Anniversary Screening.
Saturday, April 6.
Has it been 20 years already since we first rounded the bases with Smalls, Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez and the rest of the backyard baseball gang? Apparently so. Crazy to think that it's been two full decades since we battled The Beast for that Babe Ruth-signed ball we stole from Denis Leary. Still, embrace this opportunity. Relive the nostalgia, grab some kids (ones you know, we hope) and go enjoy this flick in the perfect outdoor setting of Klyde Warren Park. Also of note: This screening is free to attend.

The Austin Option: The Bounceback.
Saturday, April 6, and Sunday, April 7.
Two-time Independent Spirit Award-nominated director Bryan Poyser may hail from Austin, but he's no stranger to DIFF: Poyser's film Lovers of Hate played the fest in 2010 after premiering at Sundance that same year. This year, he returns with his third feature, a heartfelt break-up/make-up romcom steeped in Austin Americana.

The Midnight Option: Buck Wild.
Saturday, April 6, and Sunday, April 7.
Texas. Hunting. Bromantic road trips. Love triangles. The impending zombie epidemic. No matter what's playing in the midnight slots at DIFF, you're always sure to get something balls-to-the-wall crazy. Buck Wild certainly fits that bill this year, with its premise certainly sounding as if it earns both its title and its time slot.

The Local Option: Pit Stop.
Saturday, April 6, and Monday, April 8.
Pit Stop's credits read like a Who's Who of Dallas-based filmmaking. For starters, it's directed by local filmmaker Yen Tan. Tan also co-wrote the script with fellow Dallas-based rising star David Lowery. And even more locals — James M. Johnston, Eric Steele and Kelly Williams –have their names attached to the project as its producers. And there's pride indeed to be had with this local offering, which brings us a beautiful and simple look at the complicated parallel lives of two gay men living in small Texas towns. The film received rave reviews at this yearâ��s Sundance and SXSW, but now the filmmakers are bringing it home for a screening. Let's show them some love, yeah?

The Doc Option: Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp.
Monday, April 8, and Tuesday, April 9.
Thanks to his own efforts through his books Pimp: The Story of My Life, Trick Baby and Mama Black Widow, it's easy to feel like we already know the story of real-life pimp Iceberg Slim's life. But as it turns out, the man who was so forthcoming with his looks into black culture still had a few secrets up the sleeves of his good-lookin' suits. Director Jorge Hinojosa, who is also notable for having served as Ice-T's longtime manager, peels back the layers of the man behind the myth and the legend in this documentary, which features archival footage alongside interviews with Slim's friends, his ex-wife, his colleagues, and his long list of famous admirers, which includes such recogniazble names as Chris Rock, Snoop Dogg, Quincy Jones and, of course, Ice-T.

The Festival Favorite Option: C.O.G.
Wednesday, April 10, and Thursday, April 11.
Famed author David Sedaris has never let his work be adapted into a film — until now, of course. Hot off Sundance and its Grand Jury Prize nomination there, C.O.G. is writer/director Kyle Patrick Alvarez's adaptation of Sedaris' 1997 essay collection, Naked. If you didn't listen to the Indie Spirit Awards when they gave Alvarez the â��Someone to Watch” award in 2010, well, here's your chance to start listening. If nothing else, he has Sedaris' approval.

The Hit Option: Kings of Summer.
Wednesday, April 10, and Thursday, April 11.
It has been described as Stand By Me meets The Sandlot meets The Goonies. It features three hilarious comedic performances from its trio of teen heroes (Nick Robinson, Moises Arias, and Super 8's Gabriel Basso). It also happens to costar Parks & Recreation's Nick Offerman and Community's Alison Brie. And it's the film that people haven't stopped ranting and raving about since it premiered at Sundance. It's my own personal most-anticipated film of the festival. But maybe you're not like me? Well, you should be, because this movie sounds awesome.

The Foreign Option: Reality.
Thursday, April 11
Writer/director Matteo Garrone is no stranger to acclaim. His 2008 film, Gomorrah, won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival as well as five awards at the European Film Awards (including Best Director). And Reality, his newer interpersonal dramedy set around the Italian version of Big Brother, has since followed suit, picking up the Grand Prix at 2012 Cannes, as well as a nominated for the Palme d'Or. Sure, you might have to read while you listen and watch. But don't let foreign films scare you. For one thing: You're an adult now, and you should act like it. For another: This might be your only chance to see something like this from across the pond anytime soon.

The Retrospective Option: The Exorcist's 40th Anniversary Screening.
Saturday, April 13.
Special guest William Friedkin, the iconic director of The Exorcist, presents a special retrospective screening of his infamous horror classic on this second-to-last day of the festival. If you're a fan of the film — or just the genre in general — you're not going to want to miss this. Would it be lame if I made a joke about how this option might make your head spin? It would be? Fine, I won't.

Visit our Facebook page for a chance to win free passes to see Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp at the 2013 Dallas International Film Festival!

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