The American Film Institute will announce today the launching of the spandy-new Dallas International Film Festival, a ten-day fest which will kick off next year, running March 22-April 1, 2007. The inaugural fest will showcase some 150 films, with a focus on international film. Michael Cain, who directed the 2006 Sundance film TV Junkie, has been named artistic director of the fest. Cain previously founded and ran the Deep Ellum Film Festival in Dallas, which is expected to take a bow as the new fest builds up momentum.

The Dallas International Film Festival marks the third fest the AFI has been involved with; the organization already runs the AFI Los Angeles International Film Festival and SilverDocs. Target is already on board as a major sponsor for the Dallas fest, and will be providing awards to winners in the narrative and doc categories. The festival will run in venues throughout Dallas, including AMC Northpark Theaters, Landmark Magnolia and Inwood Theaters, and other locations, with discussions ongoing for other venues, including art museums and Southern Methodist University.

As a former Dallas resident with family living four hours north in Oklahoma City, I am thrilled at the news that Dallas will have its own major film festival. Now my family back in OKC will be able to make the short trip down to Dallas to see what I expect will be a lot of quality films. Dallas has a strong film and arts community, and that part of the country seems to be getting more access to quality film of late. In Oklahoma City, for example, when I moved from there 12 years ago, you weren't likely to see any independent films in theaters at all. Now Oklahoma City is showing indie films at both the Oklahoma City Art Museum and Quail Springs Cinemas, and my family is actually able to see many of the films I write about.

Having lived in Dallas, though, the one thing I wonder about is how much they're going to spread the fest out around the sprawling metropolis, and how Dallas' notoriously bad traffic will impact people getting around a large fest. Hopefully some of the venues will be clustered fairly close together to make it easier for people to catch as many films as possible. Anyhow, it's exciting for the Dallas film community to have their own fest. Austin's SXSW Film Festival will run March 9-17, 2007, so Texans can piggyback from one film fest right onto the other, if they want. I wonder, though, if a lot of Dallas residents who might have otherwise gone to SXSW will eventually just go to the Dallas fest, if the quality of films is similar. What do you Texans out there think? Is it great that the AFI is involved in bringing Dallas a bigger, shinier, film festival?