"The journey continues
The 15th Annual Heartland Film Festival remains focused on its mission to recognize and honor filmmakers whose work explores the human journey by artistically expressing hope and respect for the positive values of life. “This is an exciting year because we have more filmmakers coming in than ever before, from all over the world,” said Heartland President Jeffrey L. Sparks. “They range from industry heavyweights like Michael Apted and Debra Chase to young filmmakers just beginning their careers. With so many film festivals being done around the world, filmmakers have to pick and choose which ones to attend — and knowing that Heartland is becoming the film festival to not miss is a real affirmation.”
The festival opens Thursday with the U.S. premiere of Amazing Grace from Michael Apted (the 7 Up series, Nell, The World is Not Enough, Gorky Park) and runs for nine days, presenting nearly 40 dramatic, documentary and animated films for all ages, including 17 award-winning films selected from a record 647 submissions.
“People often ask me what am I most excited about this year,” Sparks said. “It is so hard to choose. I think seeing young filmmakers make it through the hundreds of entries from many, many seasoned filmmakers to win the Crystal Heart Award is the most satisfying and exciting. The folks behind Secret of the Cave and Ithuteng jump to mind, along with the three student filmmakers that won the Jimmy Stewart Memorial Crystal Heart Award. They stand out in my mind as filmmakers to watch.”
As always, one of the highlights of the festival is the Crystal Heart Awards Gala. Carlos Diaz will MC the event, set for Saturday evening, with presenter Judy Stewart at his side. Among this year’s recipients are Hollywood notables Jon Voight, Lee Meriwether and Sophie Scholl star Julia Jentsch. The festival will conclude in royal fashion on Friday, Oct. 27 with a screening of the acclaimed film The Queen starring Helen Mirren.
“The primary reason Heartland is enjoying such great success is the response of the folks from Indiana,” Sparks said. “We have more than 600 volunteers and a loyal following that support this work and come out to see the films. I know many NUVO readers are among the most faithful, and I thank them for all they do to make the Heartland Film Festival one of the top festivals in the world.”
For complete information on the 2006 Heartland Film Festival, go to www.heartlandfilmfestival.org.
A sampling of this year’s films
Mother of Mine
Drama. 111 minutes. A story about one little boy who had two mothers and still had none. During the Second World War more than 70,000 war children were sent from Finland to Sweden, Denmark and Norway in the biggest evacuation of children ever experienced in the world. Mother of Mine is the first feature-length film ever made about the fate of an individual war child. Crystal Heart Award winner.
Drama. 90 minutes. In 1961 Circleville, Utah, grave robbers unearth a leather pouch that reignites the legend of Butch Cassidy’s cache of stolen treasure. A shady museum curator becomes convinced that Butch’s 69-year-old brother holds the clue to the whereabouts of the loot. But it’s Butch’s 16-year-old grandnephew, Roy, and his eclectic Boy Scout Patrol that are forced to fend off the curator when they learn a belt buckle Roy has worn for years, once owned by Butch Cassidy, is actually a map made by the outlaw. Crystal Heart Award winner.
Secret of the Cave
Drama. 88 minutes. Roy Wallace knows his dad is Irish, but when he finds himself in a tiny fishing village on the Irish west coast, he feels a long way from home. Before long, unexplainable events begin to occur, and murmurs of ghosts sweep through the village. Determined to solve the mystery and disprove the superstition of the villagers, Roy takes on the case with all the curiosity and shortcomings you might expect of a 21st century teen-ager. Crystal Heart Award winner.
Forgiving Dr. Mengele
Documentary. 80 minutes. The story of a shocking act of forgiveness by Holocaust survivor and Terre Haute, Ind., resident Eva Mozes Kor and the firestorm of criticism it has provoked. Eva and her twin sister, Miriam, were victims of Nazi doctor Josef Mengele’s cruel genetic experiments at Auschwitz — an experience that would haunt them their entire lives. The film follows Eva’s metamorphosis from embittered survivor to tireless advocate for reconciliation. Crystal Heart Award winner.
Ithuteng (never stop learning)
Documentary. 72 minutes. In 1997, Mama Jackey approached Nelson Mandela with a bold new vision to save the children of South Africa’s Lost Generation. She reached out to 700 rape victims, drug addicts, rapists and other criminals … ages 12-22. To her, they were all students. Every one of them had failed the grade they were in. Using a mixture of tough love and her unique shock therapy, she offered them hope. They began coming every Saturday, voluntarily, to her school, The Ithuteng Trust. Crystal Heart Award winner.
Little Big Top
Official Heartland Selection — Dramatic Feature. 89 minutes. Seymour Smiles (Sid Haig) is an old circus clown and life-long drunk who returns to his small, Indiana hometown to live the rest of his days in his family’s abandoned house, boozing in solitude. But when his childhood friend Bob (Richard Riehle) convinces him to help the struggling clown squad at the local amateur circus, Seymour is thrust back into the place he fears the most: the spotlight. Set in the real-life Peru Amateur Circus of Peru, Ind., hometown of writer/director Ward Roberts.
Official Heartland Selection — Documentary Short. 16 minutes. Imagine a dancer: the body his instrument, his legs and feet so essential. What if he is missing one leg? Homer Avila connected with dance as his life’s passion while studying at the University of Tennessee. In 2001, Avila was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and had his right leg and hip amputated. Buoyed by the support of the New York and greater dance community, Avila returned to dance, seeking to further explore his new potential.
Drama. 115 minutes. 1994 Rwanda: 800,000 killed in 100 days. Based on a true story, the film follows idealistic young Joe Conner (Hugh Dancy), a teacher in a Rwandan school headed by Father Christopher (John Hurt). Ethnic tension between Tutsis and Hutus erupts into genocide, and the world turns upside down. As the killing gets closer to the school, the European refugees are evacuated, but the Rwandans are left behind. Joe and Father Christopher must make a choice: to remain with the Rwandan people or to run away. Crystal Heart Award winner.