20 years now, Heartland Film Festival has been devoted to screening

films that celebrate the human spirit - and giving those who've

made those uplifting films the resources they need to keep making

them. And those resources aren't too shabby: $150,000 in cash prizes,

including a $100,000 prize for best narrative feature, $25,000 for

best documentary feature and $10,000 for best short film. Total

screening attendance added up to 21,500 at last year's festival,

which screened the 2011 Academy Award winner for best live action

short, God of Love.


awaits this year? We can give you a sense with our capsule reviews,

but we won't call them our top picks; we didn't have a chance to see

any of the documentary slate before we went to print, for instance.

But here are a few that we saw and more-or-less liked, including

three that are up for that $100,000 grand prize: Kinyarwanda,

Inuk and The



festival opens Thursday, Oct. 13, with screenings of The

Way at the IMA's Toby Theatre;

both of the film's stars, Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez, are

scheduled to attend. All award-winning films will be presented on

Friday, Oct. 14, at AMC Castleton Square 14. Then, regular screenings

of all the films invited to the festival will run from Oct. 15-Oct.

23 at both AMC Castleton and AMC Showplace Indianapolis 17 on the

Southside. Individual advance tickets, available online for $7.50,

are $9 at the door. The Heartland Film Festival Awards will be held

Saturday, Oct. 15, at the Old National Centre.


are by Derrick Carnes (DC) and Scott Shoger (SS).





Hotel Rwanda is mentioned during this network narrative about the

Rwandan genocide; characters reject it as a possible safe haven,

wrongly assuming that only those who can pay will be let in. Compare

the hotel with the mosques at the center of Kinyarwanda,

which Muslim clerics have opened to all who need refuge, Christians

and Muslims alike. The ecumenical goodwill of the imams earns

unreserved praise from the film, which seems to have been made to tell

their story of rising above the insanity. But there's room,

especially at the beginning, for multiple storylines and ideas,

including a shocking early scene in a re-education camp that suggests

that neither truth nor reconciliation can erase the past. Winner of

the World Cinema Audience Award for Dramatic Feature at Sundance.






Inuk, has its hokey

elements, particularly during its slow-mo action scenes on the icy

northern expanses of Greenland. But stop right there - how often do

you see anything beyond a National Geographic special filmed in

Greenland? And I'll make another bet that you're unfamiliar with a

children's home that aims to help troubled Inuit youth by reuniting

them with the land and Inuit culture. Inuk, the title character, is

one of those troubled children; he finds himself with the help of a

seal hunter (warning: the killing of a seal is an affirmative act in

this film's world). (SS)

Saigon Electric




hell - it's a remake of Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo!

Like in the original, the breakdance crew at the center of Saigon

Electric is determined to save

their youth center from a predatory developer. But there's wisdom to this

film: the youth center storyline occupies no more than a quarter of

the film's running time, leaving plenty of room explore a well-played

country mouse/city mouse relationship between a ribbon dancer from

the sticks and a B-girl from the hood. You've seen it all before, but

probably not in Saigon, so you may find it surprising how it all

plays out. (SS)

The Hammer

3 stars


perseverance, an underdog triumphs against all odds. We've seen

this one before, a la Rudy, Hoosiers or

any other inspirational sports flick, but The Hammer

has enough character to be enjoyable. Russell Harvard (There

Will Be Blood) plays Matt

Hamill, the first deaf wrestler to win a National Collegiate

Wrestling Championship. His struggles are many and somewhat

predictable but Harvard, who is also deaf, steals the show. The

frustrations of hearing loss are rendered through subtitles - one of

the film's strongest traits - as many characters speak only in

sign language. You can overlook the watered-down cliches - this

one feels real. (DC)

The Lutefisk Wars




Christopher Guest-style mockumentary with the same passion for

Lutheran jokes as your average episode of A Prairie Home

Companion, The

Lutefisk Wars is, well, pretty

darn funny at times, unashamed of its corniness and with enough in

the tank to last 85 minutes without lagging. Viewers should have an

appreciation for Midwestern protestant culture going in; the film is a

series of inside jokes, to a certain extent. But the energy of the

cast and filmmakers is infectious, and the faux-documentary footage,

including a clever silent film sequence, is well crafted. (SS)

My Last Day Without


3 stars


a one-day business trip to New York, a German businessman meets a

singer-songwriter who introduces him to her Brooklyn world. Their

differences in culture are clear, but their attraction transcends

them quickly. What sounds like just another romantic flick actually

has many great moments capable of surprise. The chemistry between the

two main characters is unquestionable, and the screenplay doesn't

concern itself with the fluff that's customary in the more

forgettable films of the genre. Although some of the romantic

subplots are only there to reinforce the themes, My Last

Day Without You is made with an

artist's touch. (DC)


3 stars


Thyne (Bones) plays

Lovell Milo, a man who begins experiencing his life out of order - every day he wakes up at a different age, on a different day of his

life. Terrified, Lovell searches for ways to make it stop, until he

notices a pattern and works to uncover why this is happening. Part

Twilight Zone, part

It's a Wonderful Life,

Shuffle's science

fiction mystery is original enough to grab your attention, but it's

the film's focus on family and emotions that keep hold. The

screenplay trips over its own feet at times but stays untangled

enough to entertain. (DC)

Unicorn City

3 stars

When hardcore gamer

Voss fails to impress during an interview for a software company

position, he creates a live action utopia for gamers in an effort to

impress his would-be employers. The film operates well enough to

make us forget that the format here is nothing new - it pays a

respectable homage to tabletop gamers everywhere. We get some

genuine laughs in the first half of the film, and the enjoyable cast

does a lot to equalize the meandering screenplay, but it's not

enough in the end. This one has heart, to be sure, but the writing

feels like a spigot that's been turned on and then broken off. (DC)

A Year In Mooring

3 stars

In A Year In Mooring

(or should we say "mourning"), a charismatic and capable Josh

Lucas plays the unnamed Young Mariner, a grieving man who has a go at

restoring an old sailboat in a bid to help mend his own battered

psyche that's been left raw from a fresh tragedy. The movie is

sparse. The tale is told mostly through images scattered dialogue.

This helps stretch the feeling of the mythological but also keeps us

from really caring. The film never quite soars, but it delivers a

fresh pace in a fast, fast world. (DC)

Janie Jones




cliches roll out fast and fierce in the first ten minutes:

an aging groupie (a bedraggled Elizabeth Shue) surprises a jaded rawk

singer (Alessandro Nivola) by announcing that they had a kid together

years ago: 13-year-old Janie Jones (Abigail Breslin, the Little

Miss Sunshine pageant

contestant), who just happens to be a precocious little

singer-songwriter. And then, against all odds, it all clicks into

place: Nivola and Breslin are charming together; their songs, written

by Clem Snide singer Eef Barzelay, aren't bad; and while Nivola's

character's quest to play South by Southwest seems a little naive for

a guy with a major-label deal, everything else feels authentic. (SS)

Love Birds




garden-variety quirky romantic comedy distinguished only by its New

Zealand setting. Rhys Darby, who's obsessed with the band Queen for

no apparent reason, is rather an unambitious sort, perfectly happy

with a life working on a road gang and living in his parents' house.

Sally Hawkins (Happy Go Lucky,

etc.; kind of wasted here) works for a zoo, dealing with birds much

of the time; she's a temporarily-frigid widower with an encouraging,

slutty friend. Darby adopts a duck; Hawkins gives him guidance on

duck care; there's an ex-girlfriend in the way; yadda yadda yadda;

quack, quack, quack. Not unenjoyable, nicely light and fluffy at

moments, but utterly forgettable. (SS)

A Buddy Story

2 stars

A Buddy Story

follows Buddy Gilbert, a struggling singer/songwriter trying to make

it big, and his developing relationship with Susan, the wounded

neighbor from across the hall. Together, the two take a tour of

back-room bars and community centers where Buddy performs. The

problem here isn't the craft, but rather the screenplay's

inability to distinguish its characters from any other quirky

romantic comedy of the last decade. Not only does it fail to

introduce anything new, but it also does nothing old in any

particularly interesting way. Buddy and Susan's chemistry is a

shining beacon, but with nothing at stake, it's hard to notice.


An Ordinary Family

2 stars


Seth returns home after a period of estrangement, he brings a

surprising visitor - his boyfriend, William. The rest of the family

is quick to accept, but the patriarch, Seth's big brother and

Presbyterian minister, Thomas, sits in judgment. The parry-and-joust

of the familial squabbles that follow is standard. A slow reveal of

the family's backstory provides some rare payoffs, but prevents us

from caring too deeply. There are some tender moments, and the

filmmakers' good intentions come through loud and clear, but An

Ordinary Family doesn't bring

any new insight to the quest for acceptance. - (DC)