15th Annual Heartland Film Festival 2006

By Madelyn Ritrosky

The Heartland Film Festival’s mission is to “recognize and honor filmmakers whose work explores the human journey by artistically expressing hope and respect for the positive values of life.”

Celebrating its 15th year, the Indianapolis festival runs October 19-27, 2006, and features 4 special event film presentations, 17 Crystal Heart Award winners, 10 other selected films, and 7 past grand prize winners for a total of 38 films.

So what’s the festival experience so far?  The opening night film was the U.S. premiere of Amazing Grace, a gripping emotional drama about the man who tirelessly fought to bring about the end of legalized slavery in the British Empire in the early 19th century. 

William Wilberforce is not a well-known historical name in the U.S., but having seen the film and hearing the filmmakers vouch for its historical integrity, I was impressed by the courage of Wilberforce and the vision of the filmmakers.

For the kiddies, Heartland always has the Kids’ Movie Party, complete with a film premiere, the filmmakers, food, other treats, and games.  This year, it was the world premiere of Air Buddies, the latest installment in the Air Bud series of family films about that very special, athletic golden retriever.  The “buddies” in the new film are Buddy’s and Molly’s five puppies.  The children in the audience were enamored with those little puppies.

Although The Nativity Story is not quite complete, it is fast-tracked for a December 1, 2006 release, and director Catherine Hardwicke brought a selection of clips and did a long Q&A session for an appreciative audience. 

The film’s goal is to tell the story of Mary and Joseph and the birth of Jesus not as religious spectacle writ large, but as a profound and emotional human drama.  Hardwicke said she is “going for epic intimacy.”

Two films in the festival’s regular line-up are Outlaw Trail and Secret of the Cave, both family adventure films where the protagonist is a teenage boy who struggles to come to terms with his sense of self and family within some larger community of characters.  Both films have enough mystery, potential danger, and plot to be enjoyed by adults as well as school-age children.

Heartland’s awards night honored the previously selected Crystal Heart Award winners, with suspense reserved for the grand prize winners.  Shooting Dogs, about the 1994 Rwandan massacres, won the $100,000 Grand Prize for Best Dramatic Feature. 

The $25,000 Best Documentary Feature award went to The Hip Hop Project.  And Shade won the $10,000 award for Best Short Film.

Stay tuned for more in-depth coverage of selected films and filmmakers…

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