AFI Dallas International Film Festival 2009"A man's got to know his limitations." So said Clint Eastwood in Magnum Force, and the same sage advice could be applied to film festivals. The third edition of the AFI Dallas International Film Festival bears evidence that the organizers and programmers recognize their limitations. Robert Koehler in Variety noted that the number of features has been cut nearly in half from last year's edition (from 150 to 77). Most of the screenings now take place at just two venues rather than three, making it easier to see more films.

A steady stream of sell-outs have been reported throughout the first weekend of the festival, which opened on Thursday with a gala presentation of Rian Johnson's caper comedy The Brothers Bloom, with stars Adrian Brody and Rinko Kikuchi joining director Johnson on the red carpet. (John P. Meyer of Pegasus News has a report and photos.) Screenwriter and director Robert Towne received an award on Friday night before a screening of the classic Chinatown and talked with film critic Richard Schickel afterward. Director Kathryn Bigelow received an award on Saturday night just before her powerful dramatic thriller The Hurt Locker screened locally for the first time. (Unfair Park has brief comments from Towne and a photo of Bigelow.)

Filmmakers, journalists, and industry veterans convened on various panels. James Rocchi of AMCtv.com shared his thoughts on "Scary Symbols: How do Horror Films Show Us What's Really Scaring Us?," while Karina Longworth of Spout.com talked wrote * about "What Lessons Can Indie Filmmakers Learn From Indie Bands?" The festival rolls on through the week, with tonight's highlight looking to be the Centerpiece Gala screening of Guillermo Arriaga's romantic drama The Burning Plain, with the director and actors José María Yazpik and Joaquim de Almeida in attendance.

* UPDATE: Thanks to Karina for pointing out that she wrote about the panel mentioned, but the one she moderated was on documentaries in the age of video blogs. My apology for the error.