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The USA Film Festival Announces Schedule of Events for Its 54th Year

Written by USA Film Festival

The USA Film Festival announces the schedule of events for the 54th Annual USA Film Festival, April 17 – 26, 2024. The community arts program will be held at the Angelika Film Center, 5321 E. Mockingbird Lane, Dallas, Texas. Most of the programs will be presented as FREE admission.

One of the oldest festivals in the U.S., the USA Film Festival celebrates its 54th year. The first festival to devote itself to the American filmmaker back in 1970, today presents over 50 days of diverse programs every year.

 “We are so pleased to be able to once again celebrate Dallas Arts Month with our annual Spring Festival,” USAFF Managing Director Ann Alexander says, “We are honored to bring a number of distinguished Master Artists to our stage with repertory screenings — including Martin Sheen, Billy Dee Williams, and Dean Pitchford — and celebrate so many talented filmmakers with new works. With support from our wonderful Sponsors, most programs will be presented free of charge.”

 This year’s program highlights and Artists in attendance include:

Salute to Martin Sheen in conjunction with a screening of Terrence Malick’s chilling debut feature Badlands (1973). Inspired by the real-life killing spree of Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate in 1958, Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek play young lovers on the lam across South Dakota in this memorable, atmospheric neo-noir classic. The film screening will be followed by a film compilation Tribute featuring clips from Sheen’s long and celebrated film and television career.  An on-stage conversation with Martin Sheen hosted by actor/writer Stephen Tobolowsky will follow the screening.

Salute to Dean Pitchford in conjunction with a 40th Anniversary screening of Footloose (1984). Inspired by a news story on Elmore City, Oklahoma, songwriter/screenwriter Dean Pitchford crafted the story and music that became a beloved film (and theater) classic. Featuring a treasury of Top 40 songs, the rousing musical drama portrays the timeless struggle between innocent pleasure and rigid morality when city-boy Ren McCormick finds himself in a small southwestern town where dancing and rock music have been banned. The film stars Kevin Bacon, John Lithgow, Chris Penn, Lori Singer, Sarah Jessica Parker and Dianne Wiest, and was directed by Herbert Ross.  Screenwriter and lyrical mastermind Dean Pitchford will be in attendance to introduce the film and discuss the making of the enduring musical.

Salute to Billy Dee Williams in conjunction with a screening of Lady Sings the Blues (1972). Directed by Sidney J. Furie and garnering five Academy Award nominations, the film captures the essence of Billie Holiday, one of America’s most brilliant jazz singers. Diana Ross stunned in her debut film performance, and the on-screen chemistry between Ross and Billy Dee Williams (Louis McKay) thrilled audiences.  An on-stage conversation with Billy Dee Williams about his life and careerwill follow the screening and audience members will receive a free copy of Williams’ New York Times’ bestselling autobiography “What Have We Here?” This program will be presented in partnership with Sammons Jazz and the Sammons Center for the Arts in celebration of Dallas Jazz Appreciation Month (D’JAM).

 Actor Bruce Vilanch, director/editor/producer Marc Saltarelli, and producer Stephen Israel will attend the Festival to present the rousing and poignant documentary Studio One Forever. From 1974-1994, the Studio One nightclub in Los Angeles and its adjoining live music venue, The Backlot, became a popular destination offering hope and community for gay men during tumultuous times. Through personal accounts, the documentary delves into Studio One’s cultural impact against the backdrop of a progressing gay liberation clashing with 80s conservatism and the escalating AIDS nightmare. The film takes us to current day events — including the discovery of previously unseen photographic archives, West Hollywood’s recent plans to demolish the building, and efforts of community advocates to preserve the club’s rich history.

Actor John Magaro returns to the Festival to present Shane Atkinson’s dark comedic crime drama LaRoy, Texas. The film follows Ray (Magaro), a broke and depressed man who is mistaken for a dangerous hitman and given an envelope of cash. Along with his P.I. friend Skip (Steve Zahn), he must escape the actual hitman to make it out of LaRoy alive. The film also stars Dylan Baker, Megan Stevenson, Matthew Del Negro and Brad Leland. 

Writer/director Marcos Efron, actress Leven Rambin, actor Shane West and producer Stephen Israel will be in attendance to present the doomsday thriller Last Night on Earth. When a young couple learn of the imminent destruction of Earth via asteroids, they decide to leave the city for the hills of Tennessee to spend their remaining days together in virtual isolation. However, their peaceful existence is disrupted when the breakdown of society catches up with them. The film stars Leven Rambin, Jake McLaughlin, Shane West, Dee Wallace, and Sohvi Rodriguez. 

Writer/director Finn Taylor will make a return visit to the Festival with producer Jeanine Thomas to present Avenue of the Giants. The moving film is inspired by the true story of Herbert Heller, a holocaust survivor who kept his miraculous escape from the Auschwitz Birkenau death march a secret for 60 years. The film stars Stephen Lang, Elsie Fisher, Luke David Blumm, Leah Pipes, Ben Geurens, Ursula Parker, Slavko Sobin, Stella Stocker, Oskar Hes, and Robin Weigert.  

Actress/executive producer Nika King will be in attendance to present Joshua Weigel’s inspirational Possum Trot. Inspired by the incredible true story, the film follows Donna and Reverend Martin as they spur a movement of compassion in their East Texas church to adopt some of the most difficult-to place kids in the foster system — inspiring twenty-two families to adopt seventy-seven children.

Writer/director Shuchi Talati will be in attendance to present her captivating debut feature Girls Will Be Girls. The beautiful, sweetly awkward coming-of-age film follows Mira, a successful Indian student shouldering high expectations from her parents and her teachers who finds herself at odds with the school’s strict rules as she begins to wrestle with new desires and curiosity sparked by a handsome classmate.

 Writer/director/producer Holly Morris will present a screening of her visually stunning documentary Exposure – an intimate story of resilience, survival and global citizenry which follows a Muslim chaplain, a French biologist, a Qatari princess and eight other women from the Arab World and the West who attempt to ski across the melting Arctic sea ice to the North Pole. The film will be followed by an on-stage conversation with Morris and an Arctic scientist. This program will be presented in partnership with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Nine Texas Short Filmmakers will join us for an eclectic program of new short works. Filmmakers in attendance include Betty Buckley, Ben Terrell, Alyssa Udovitsch, Tim Yager, Hannah Abu-eideh, Vered Rodriguez, Joe Scott, and K and Karen Foster (Blacksmith Rose).

 Other featured programs include:

 — Josh Margolin’s Thelma, a playful subversion of the action genre, starring June Squibb (in her first leading film role of her 70+ year career), Fred Hechinger, Richard Roundtree (in his final on-screen performance), Parker Posey, Clark Gregg and Malcolm McDowell.

 — Director/co-writer Matt Winn’s satirical black comedy The Trouble With Jessica, starring Shirley Henderson, Rufus Sewell, Olivia Williams, with Indira Varma and Alan Tudyk.

 –Danny Lee’s Who Is Stan Smith? — an intimate portrait of the tennis legend, humanitarian and shoe designer, Stan Smith. Executive produced by LeBron James and Maverick Carter.

 –Peter Flynn’s documentary Film Is Dead. Long Live Film! — an insightful exploration of the vanishing world of private film collecting. Presented with the G. William Jones Film & Video Collection, SMU Libraries.

 –Glenn Holsten’s fascinating in-depth documentary Jamie Wyeth and the Unflinching Eye.

–Bill Plympton’s wildly entertaining animated new feature film Slide.

 –Bernardo Arsuaga’s engaging documentary The Michoacan File explores the origin, history, and impact of Mexican food on modern society.

 –Marco Ricci’s empowering documentary Lucha: A Wrestling Tale follows four young women from Taft High School in the Bronx who recognize wrestling as a way to transform their lives.

 –Along with several compilation programs of Short Films.

 Jurors for the USAFF’s International Short Film Competition include actor Jim Beaver, animator/director Bill Haller, actor/writer/director Stephen Tobolowsky, actress/producer/documentarian/educator Diane Baker, manager/writer/producer/director Chris Roe, actor/producer/musician Shane West, artist/director/writer Rosson Crow and writer/actor Tora Hallström.

For more details and to view the full schedule of programs, visit


Tickets range from Free – $10 (quantities are limited).

 ADVANCE TICKETS will be available online beginning April 5th:

 DAY-OF-SHOW TICKETS — (Based on availability) Any unsold/unreserved tickets will be made available at the Angelika Film Center upstairs Sales Desk beginning ONE HOUR prior to EACH showtime.


USA Film Festival 54 is supported in part by the City of Dallas Office of Arts and Culture, the Texas Commission on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. Presenting Sponsors include Sidley Austin LLP, Dave Perry Miller Real Estate, Gaedeke Group, Carol and Alan J. Bernon Family Charitable Foundation, Moody Fund for the Arts, Headington Company, Dallas Tourism Public Improvement District, Mary Fox and Laura Fox, Dallas Film & Creative Industries, Dallas Producers Association, MPS Studios, SAG-AFTRA, Fons PR, and the Angelika Film Center.


A year-round film festival featuring 50 days of programs

The USA Film Festival is a 54-year-old Dallas-based 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to the recognition and promotion of excellence in the film and video arts. Year-round events include the annual KidFilm® Festival; monthly screenings; special programs and premieres; and the USA Film Festival, held each Spring. Throughout the year, the Festival presents a variety of membership, exhibition, educational, and cultural programs designed to promote equity and equality, and to bring together audiences and artists for a “live cinema” experience.


USAFF54 is pleased to be a part of Arts Month! Dallas Arts Month was first launched as Dallas Arts Week in 2013​. It is a city-wide celebration of Dallas arts and is held annually in the month of April. Art​s Month is designed to build awareness and appreciation for the work of Dallas artists and organizations and foster creative learning and activity throughout the city. Residents and visitors are encouraged to participate in events and programming offered by art and cultural institutions from all disciplines. For more information, please visit


USAFF54 is proud to once again partner with the Sammons Center for the Arts and Sammons Jazz to present screenings celebrating the rich history of jazz. Dallas Jazz Appreciation Month (D’JAM) is a special month-long celebration of all things jazz, including the amazing jazz artists, past and present, legends and rising stars, who call North Texas home. Held each April as part of the national program Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM), D’JAM presents a variety of events highlighting and showcasing jazz in the greater Dallas area. The local initiative is coordinated by a volunteer collective of jazz presenters, jazz educators, and jazz supporters that includes nonprofit arts groups, universities, festivals, high schools, cultural centers, jazz clubs, and museums.

About the author

USA Film Festival

The USA Film Festival is a Dallas-based, 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to the recognition and encouragement of excellence in the film and video arts through the presentation of diverse cultural and educational programs.

YEAR-ROUND programs and events include the annual Spring USA Film Festival, now in its 54th year; the annual KidFilm® Family Festival, now in its 40th year, the oldest and largest-attended international children's film festival in the United States; special premieres; an International Short Film Competition; year-round "Meet the Filmmakers" screenings; film series and retrospectives organized around important themes and filmmakers; presentations of restored prints on the big screen, and educational activities including filmmaker discussions and extensive community outreach activities.

LIVE CINEMA -- Through its year-round multicultural programs and special events, the USA Film Festival provides an opportunity for the public to discover films not scheduled for commercial distribution and sheds new light on familiar films by facilitating discussion and encounters with filmmakers and lecturers.

With the exception of special member screenings, all events are open to the public.

MOVIES ON THE BIG SCREEN THE WAY THEY WERE MEANT TO BE SEEN -- Programs take place at proper theater settings throughout the Dallas area, in fully accessible facilities, to ensure maximum accessibility for all publics.

A YEAR-ROUND EVENT -- The Festival presents programs every month -- We're a 50-Day Festival!

PROGRAM MISSION -- Equality/Diversity/Inclusion/Education --To enrich our community by providing a wide variety of diverse cultural and educational programs; To promote equality, equity and inclusion through both our programs and through access for all publics by presenting free and low cost programs; To celebrate the film and video arts; To utilize the power and popularity of the visual medium to reach and teach people of all ages; To support filmmakers by providing an outlet for their works as well as providing the opportunity to speak with our audiences.

AFFIRMATIVE OPERATIONAL POLICY -- FREE ARTS PROGRAMS! --The Festival believes that a great city should have access for all residents to educational opportunities and cultural programs, particularly for publics who have been historically underrepresented based on gender, race, religion, age, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status. The Festival is committed to serving residents from throughout the Dallas community by providing as many high quality, socially and culturally diverse program opportunities as possible with no financial barriers.

Annual attendance = 30,000+
Most programs are FREE admission to the community.