Our second batch of Heartland reviews includes some excellent documentaries and an adorable narrative feature about nervous French people falling in love. Check out our first round of reviews here. And go see some of these on the big screen: Screenings run Oct. 15-Oct. 23 at AMC Castleton Square 14 and AMC Showplace Indianapolis 17. A complete guide and schedule is, of course, available on Heartland's website.
A comedy of discomfort. Angélique, a masterful chocolate-maker afraid of just about everything and everyone, takes up a job at an outmoded chocolate factory. The owner of the factory, Jean-René, is also a bashful, anxious sort. Their courtship is amusingly and painfully awkward, filmed and paced with the light, whimsical, Gallic touch of films like Amélie and, not uncoincidentally, Chocolat. The original title, Les Émotifs Anonymes, doesn't translate easily: It refers, in part, to Emotions Anonymous, a real-life support group attended in the film by Angélique and dedicated to helping the emotionally impaired. —Scott Shoger
In 1983, domestic abuse victim Debbie Peagley was arrested for her involvement in the murder of her vicious boyfriend. Although Debbie rightfully admitted to manslaughter, she was convicted of premeditated murder. What followed was 25 years of lies, witness tampering and misconduct at the hands of the California DA’s office. Then in 2009, prison doctors diagnosed her with terminal cancer. The poignant documentary follows Debbie as she and her pro bono lawyers race to get her released. This on makes us care, it raises questions and it captures the determination needed to create any sort of change in our hopelessly monolithic America. —Derrick Carnes
During the Liberian civil war, hundreds of militias fought in the streets for power. Among the most feared were the Butt Naked Soldiers, blood drunk mercenaries who charged naked into battle and preferred to kill their enemies with machetes. Their leader was known as General Butt Naked. But at the height of his power, the General vanished, returning from exile years later claiming to be a converted Christian. This film follows the General as he visits his victims, one by one, begging their forgiveness. There are so many moving moments that you may begin to feel desensitized to them, but never to the greatness of this film. —Derrick Carnes
After Jack Sanderson’s parents died, he found it hard to get excited about Christmas. Then a friend showed him a picture of his father playing Santa at a neighborhood party. Following his dad’s example, Jack grows his beard, dyes his hair and tries to discover what it means to be Santa Claus. There’s not a lot at stake here, but that doesn’t stop us from watching. The scenes of Jack at Santa School are hilarious and the history of our Christmas traditions is fascinating. At the core, this is a documentary about humanity and what it means when we give to each other selflessly. —Derrick Carnes
Kimokea Kapahulehua is on the verge of fulfilling a promise that he made to his late uncle years ago. His promise: to travel the 1750-length of the Hawaiian islands. And for the first time in history, Kimokeo and his team try to accomplish this feat in an outrigger paddling canoe (or “wa’a”). After one 400-mile stretch, the paddlers’ hands have turned to hamburger. After another, a teammate discovers that he has cancer. The film is convoluted at times, but even though its story is unfamiliar, it’s never hard to relate to: it’s a universal tale about creating meaning for your life that wasn’t always there. —Derrick Carnes