The 14th Annual Heartland Film Festival, running from Oct. 13-21, will screen 40 films that make a positive impact on American culture and encourage moviegoers to see life differently. Heartland shows films that address difficult issues, are rooted in substance and enrich, inspire and provide hope.
Although all of the films selected for Heartland pertain to this mission, Innocent Voices, Dear Francis, Shakespeare Behind Bars, The Innocent and No Easy Way deal with pressing social, political and cultural issues that should make all viewers not only see life differently, but want to change the world they live in.
Innocent Voices, a dramatic feature produced by Lawrence Bender, co-producer of Kill Bill and Kill Bill 2, is based on the true story of screenwriter Oscar Torres’ childhood. It is a poignant tale of Chava, an 11-year-old boy who suddenly becomes the “man of the house” after his father abandons the family in the middle of a civil war. Chava’s life becomes a game of survival, not only from the bullets of the escalating war, but also from the dispiriting effects of daily violence.
Dear Francis is a documentary feature addressing the issue of the African AIDS pandemic. Filmmakers Brent Gudgel and Jason Djang followed the story of Lance and Kelly, two Texas college students who volunteer for an unconventional HIV prevention campaign to Swaziland high schools. The two collegians leave for Africa with high hopes — and naiveté. As they begin to interact with the Swazi teen-agers, they quickly discover that the problems surrounding the pandemic are much more complex than they had ever expected. Distressing stories of sexual abuse, rape and incest flood Lance and Kelly’s sensibilities. The contrast of life experiences between the Americans and their Swazi counterparts could not be more different, leaving Lance and Kelly at a loss for how to respond to such troubling realities.
Shakespeare Behind Bars, a film by Hank Rogerson and Jilann Spitzmiller, follows an all-male Shakespeare company working behind bars at Kentucky’s Luther Luckett Correctional Complex. For one year, a cast comprised of convicted felons rehearse and perform a full production of Shakespeare’s last play, The Tempest, a play, fittingly, about forgiveness.
In the film, the parallels between actor and inmate, text and life are striking. The film shows men who are, in some ways, stuck in time, constantly replaying the text and gestures of their own crimes, wondering what subtle strike would have changed their fate. But it also shows these men searching deeply to discover the reasons that they committed murder, rape or robbery, and trying to move forward in their lives. In this process, we follow these men as they discover the power of truth, forgiveness and transformation.
The Innocent, written and produced by Lauri Feldman and Michael Husain, documents the story of the people exonerated from death row in the United States. The exonerated take us into their lives as they are arrested, convicted and sentenced to death for crimes they did not commit. They tell us of the ways they found to survive death row — emotionally, psychologically and spiritually — under the threat of pending death. Each of these people is eventually freed and they share with us their struggle to live on the outside.
No Easy Way, a dramatic feature, is an unusual story of extraordinary love. This film focuses on the interracial relationship between a classical pianist coming to terms with the AIDS virus and an inner-city streetwise mother of two working towards a better life for her children.
These five films are only a slice of what Heartland will bring to the Indianapolis audience. “It’s a wonderfully diverse group of films,” said Heartland President Jeffrey Sparks. He believes that there is something for all ages and tastes.
Even with this great diversity, four of the 23 films chosen to receive a Heartland award did have one common thread: Indiana. These include The Innocent (Indianapolis filmmaker Michael Husain), Knock Knock (Indianapolis student filmmaker Jaron Henrie-McCrea), Pearl Diver (filmed in Goshen) and Thin Ice (by two Taylor University students).
Heartland’s opening night event on Oct. 13 features an appearance by one of the hottest actors in Hollywood — Dakota Fanning — along with director/screenwriter John Gatins and a premiere of DreamWorks Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story at the IMAX Theatre.
The festival closes Oct. 21 with a special screening of Warner Bros.’ Duma at the Indiana History Center with special guest and director Carroll Ballard (The Black Stallion, Fly Away Home) scheduled to attend.
Tickets for screenings and special events went on sale Sept. 9. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.heartlandfilmfest.org or call Heartland’s toll-free ticket line at 1-866-HFF-1010.