A girl and her dog in a small Florida town. Rowdy boarding school students in France. A man and his dog walking alone across Australia. They all meet in Indianapolis this month for the 13th annual Heartland Film Festival, helping to fulfill the festival mission statement: To recognize and honor filmmakers whose work explores the human journey by artistically expressing hope and respect for the positive values of life. Crystal Heart Award winner 'Alone Across Australia' features adventurer Jon Muir as he attempts the first ever solo walk across Australia. “Heartland is looking forward to another amazing festival as we welcome stars, filmmakers and studio representatives to Indianapolis,” said Jeffrey L. Sparks, president of Heartland Film Festival. “Jeff Daniels, Cicely Tyson, AnnaSophia Robb and director Wayne Wang will open the festival with a special screening of the delightful Twentieth Century Fox film Because of Winn-Dixie. With star power normally reserved for big festivals, this shows that Heartland is indeed coming into its own. Our opening night will truly be an evening to remember. We are thrilled to present a powerful and diverse collection of films and events that will have filmgoers of all ages seeing life differently.”
Because of Winn-Dixie star AnnaSophia Robb is a 10-year-old up-and-comer from Denver who appears alongside Johnny Depp in next year’s Willy Wonka re-imagining, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, directed by Tim Burton. Her co-star is Winn-Dixie, a dog named after a grocery store. Other cast members are a bit more familiar. Versatile Jeff Daniels has nearly 50 films to his credit, including Terms of Endearment, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Pleasantville and the recent remake of The Goodbye Girl. Cicely Tyson became one of America’s most beloved actors with her dazzling turn in The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. The movie is directed by acclaimed filmmaker Wayne Wang, best known for The Joy Luck Club, Smoke and the romantic-comedy Maid in Manhattan.
And that’s just the start of the festivities!
Heartland, which runs from Oct. 21-29, will honor a record 21 films with Crystal Heart and Jimmy Stewart Memorial Crystal Heart Awards and cash prizes at the annual Crystal Hearts Awards Gala at Conseco Fieldhouse on Oct. 23. The winning selections will be screened at AMC Castleton Arts Cinema on the Northside, AMC Greenwood Park on the Southside and the Indiana History Center Theater downtown from Oct. 22-28.
The films include Les Choristes, a dramatic feature about the attempts of one Monsieur Mathieu to transform a group of rough French boarding school students into an “angelic” choir; Alone Across Australia, a documentary about adventurer Jon Muir’s attempt to complete the first-ever solo, unsupported walk across the Australian continent with only his dog for company; and Dear Frankie, about a Scottish mother who covers for an absent father by creating letters for the boy from a colorful dad who travels the seas. All is well, until the day the young man bursts in with the news that the home ship mentioned in all the letters is scheduled to arrive at their harbor in just a few days …
Also showing at the three theaters will be the 2004 Heartland Film Sidebar: Truly Moving Musicals. The seven showcased films are 42nd Street, An American in Paris, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Kiss Me Kate, Meet Me in Saint Louis, Singin’ In the Rain and Star!
This year, the Crystal Heart Awards Gala will feature the charming and talented Mary Kay Place as MC. A cast member in the cult TV series Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, she went on to films like New York, New York, The Big Chill, Girl Interrupted and Being John Malkovich. Heartland will present special awards to screenwriter Mike Rich (Finding Forrester, The Rookie and Radio) for his pioneering spirit in supporting Heartland’s mission and to Academy Award-winning songwriters Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman for their contribution to musicals (Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang).
Heartland will also honor its Truly Moving Pictures Award of Excellence recipients: America’s Heart and Soul, Bobby Jones — Stroke of Genius, Finding Neverland, Miracle and Two Brothers. The ceremonies will be followed by the Afterglow Party, where attendees can nibble hors d’oeuvres, listen to music by the Carl Storie Band and mingle with the filmmakers and stars.
There will be other opportunities to meet the talents behind the cameras, such as at the Filmmakers’ Brunch at the Mariott Downtown Sunday, Oct. 24. On Monday, Oct. 25, from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., students and filmmakers alike are welcome to participate in one of two separate all-day educational programs at 30 S. Meridian: “An Inside Look into Film and Music,” taught by music editor Joseph DeBeasi (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? and Because of Winn-Dixie) and “Creative Screenwriting in Today’s Film Industry,” taught by screenwriter Mike Rich.
The festival will go out with a final treat. On Friday, Oct. 29 in the IMAX Theater at the Indiana State Museum, Heartland will present its newest Award of Excellence recipient, the highly-anticipated Finding Neverland, a Miramax film inspired by the life of J.M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan. Finding Neverland is directed by Marc Forster and stars Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet and Dustin Hoffman.
Another year, another large roster to coordinate. Festival President Jeff Sparks isn’t concerned. “Heartland has experienced tremendous growth in recent years; growth that can be attributed to Heartland holding steadfast to a bigger vision of impacting culture through film,” Sparks said. “And it is that big vision that has pulled Heartland forward and continues to give us momentum. I think we will look back on 2004 and say it was a banner year for the festival. I hope you can join in the excitement and help us celebrate some of the world’s most Truly Moving Pictures.” For full information on the screenings and events of the Heartland Film Festival, call 866-433-1010, go to www.heartlandfilmfestival.org or pick up one of the guides that are available at Marsh supermarkets.
Theater locations AMC Castleton Arts 6135 E. 86th St. (in the parking lot of the mall) Indiana History Center Theater 450 W. Ohio St. AMC Greenwood Park 14 461 S. Greenwood Park Drive (in the parking lot of the mall)