Film: 2009: Indianapolis International Film Festival: Summer 2009

Films at the Indianapolis International Film Festival

Coverage by Madelyn Ritrosky and Jared Winslow

IIFF Web Site:

2009 IIFF featured a number of films with Indiana connections

INDIANAPOLIS— When it opened July 15-25, 2009 the Indianapolis International Film Festival (IIFF) it included several feature-length and short-subject films with direct connections— from writers and producers to actors and locations— to Indiana. Others feature content relevant to Hoosier special interest groups, including veterans and those diagnosed with Autism.

America on Wheels: The Model T (Dan T. Hall, director)

First They Came For... (Kate Chaplin, director)

"What is she to you?" Alden Thompson Burgess, director

"Buttery Top" (Kelly Hayes & Catherine Crouch, directors)

Arranged: The Musical (Suraj Das, director)

THE TIGER NEXT DOOR: This film makes its U.S. premiere in Indianapolis. Dennis Hill, convicted felon, former meth addict, ex-biker, and resident of Flat Rock, Indiana, has been breeding and selling tigers in his backyard for 20 years. His dream is to make his fortune by breeding solid white tigers, but at what cost to the animals and at what risk to the community? The Indiana Department of Natural Resources wants to shut his operation down. Joe Taft, director of the Exotic Feline Rescue Center in Center Point (near Terre Haute), seems to agree. Director and producer Camilla Calamandrei will be in town to promote the film. Experts estimate there are now more tigers in private U.S. captivity than there are roaming in the wild anywhere in the world. 87 minutes.

Film about Flat Rock tiger breeder makes U.S. debut at Indianapolis festival

Film showcases one Indiana man who breeds, sells tigers from backyard compound; another who runs a large exotic feline rescue in Center Point; and IDNR officials INDIANAPOLIS•Experts estimate there are now more tigers in private U.S. captivity than there are roaming in the wild anywhere in the world.

Dennis Hill, a resident of Flat Rock, Indiana, has been breeding and selling tigers from his backyard for 20 years. His dream is to make his fortune breeding solid white tigers, but at what cost to the animals and at what risk to the community? The Indiana Department of Natural Resources wants to shut down Hill’s operation. Joe Taft, director of the Exotic Feline Rescue Center in Center Point (near Terre Haute), wants to help them.

Animal lovers won’t want to miss the THE TIGER NEXT DOOR, a feature-length documentary that reaches far beyond Indiana’s borders to shed light on the ethically murky practice of private tiger breeding in the U.S. Director and producer Camilla Calamandrei became

interested in the issue after reading about a New Jersey woman keeping 20 tigers in her backyard. The state was poised to confiscate the animals and transfer them to a sanctuary in Texas. Calamandrei, an animal lover and documentary filmmaker, decided to film the event. Over the next several years, she continued following and filming similar cases in other states. “I soon learned there are more than 5,000 tigers being kept by private citizens in the U.S. The government lacks complete records of who owns them and where they are located. Then I came across a story about Dennis Hill’s battle with the state of Indiana to keep his 24 tigers, three bears, six leopards and a cougar,” Calamandrei reported. “I realized his situation is a compelling representation of what is happening across the U.S.”

A RIPPLE OF HOPE: Many Indianapolis residents will remember Robert F. Kennedy’s April 4, 1968 campaign stop at 17th & Broadway the day that Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis. This Anderson University documentary, directed and produced by award-winning filmmaker Donald Boggs, captures a day in the life of RFK on his presidential campaign tour. Although riots and fires erupted in cities across the nation as word of King’s death spread, Kennedy refused to cancel the Indianapolis rally. His speech that night is credited with averting violence in Indianapolis and showcases the personal courage that linked these two extraordinary men in life as well as death. 55 minutes.

RACING DREAMS: A celebration of family, country, and auto racing, the festival’s closing night film will be screened on the Friday night prior to the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard. The Academy Award nominated director of this feature-length documentary chronicles the lives of three adolescents (two boys and one girl) and their families in intimate detail. The film showcases each family’s love of racing and the sacrifices they must make so their child can make it to the next level and possibly enter professional racing. 94 minutes.

THE WAY WE GET BY: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Indiana has a veteran population of nearly 518,000 people, nearly 66,000 of whom live in Marion County. Hoosiers who have served in the military, or who have loved ones who have served, won’t want to miss THE WAY WE GET BY. A deeply moving, award-winning film about military veterans, war, aging, loneliness, mortality, and how our culture casts its elders (and too often its soldiers) aside. It tells the story of three Maine Troop Greeters who volunteer at the Bangor airport to thank American solders departing and returning from Iraq. The 84-year-old Bill is a veteran and widower dealing with prostate cancer who is unable to care for himself and his farm. Jerry, a former Marine, is a senior citizen who tries to keep his spirits up despite health issues of his own and the death of his beloved canine companion. Joan, who feels a deep connection to the soldiers she meets, has a both helicopter-pilot granddaughter and a grandson who are about to ship out with the National Guard. The film is a celebration of three unsung heroes who share their love with strangers who need and deserve it. 5 p.m. 84 min.

AUTISTIC-LIKE: GRAHAM’S STORY: In partnership with the Indiana Chapter of the Autism Society of America, the first screening of this film will be shown in a “sensory-friendly” format to make the theater less restrictive for families and children with autism and/or those who display autistic characteristics. This documentary directed and produced by Graham’s father is an intimate family portrait showing their determined quest to find the right therapies, right doctors, and diagnosis to describe their son. The film illustrates the medical, social, and public health issues faced by families whose autistic-like children have no clear diagnosis. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) cites statistics that one in every 150 children born in the U.S. has autism, but maybe not. 51 min.

SHOOT FIRST AND PRAY YOU LIFE: This film, presented as a graphic homage to the classic Spaghetti Western, is a tale of love and revenge featuring comedian Jim Gaffigan, a native of Chesterton, Indiana. Gaffigan is known for his “Comedy Central Presents” specials in which he does stand-up talking about things like the dangers of eating Hot Pockets. In SHOOT FIRST AND PRAY YOU LIVE, Gaffigan plays outlaw Mart Ryder, a member of the Cut-Throats gang, which are wild marauders and skilled gunfighters who become part of a showdown involving a man set to avenge his dying father. He has also appeared on The Ellen Show, Ed, Sex and The City, Law & Order, and That 70s Show. 100 min.

HOOSIER LENS AWARD NOMINEES: Presented by Film Indiana, the Hoosier Lens Award recognizes the best film made in Indiana or the best film made by an Indiana filmmaker. This year, four Hoosier filmmakers will have their short films screened during the festival. The shorts are all groups for a single screening in an IIFF category called “Living in Indiana / Filming in Indiana / Indiana Filmmaker Shorts.” This is the second year for the Film Indiana award at IIFF.

  1. FIRST THEY CAME FOR…Written, directed, and co-produced by Indianapolis’ own Kate Chaplin, this film is inspired by the Reverend Martin Niemoller poem of the same name. Niemoller was a prominent German and Lutheran pastor who opposed Hitler’s Nazi forces. The film is set in a-not-so-distant future where a nondescript regime takes away innocent people while one man struggles between standing up for what is right and saving himself. 6 min.
  2. ILLUSIONS OF LIFE: Shot at several Indiana locations last summer, this film won best short of the year at Fort Wayne’s Windsong Film Festival. Ball State University graduate and Indiana resident Brian Pearce examines the thin line between dream and reality in his newest short, which follows Toby Johnson, a typical young man in need of extra money as he becomes a human test subject. During the test the border between dream and reality blurs until it is nearly imperceptible. Will he be able to tell the difference? 10 min.
  3. FREE WALL: This film is part of Ball State University’s Emerging Media Initiative. Over 180 students and faculty spent 18 months working on all aspects of the film, including writing, producing, directing, acting, and post-production. It was shot on location in Muncie and Indianapolis and its music was created by Indiana-based artists and recorded on the BSU campus. The film touches on social class and race issues and how two young men with very different backgrounds and life experiences find they share deep interest in graffiti are. As the summer comes to a close, tension them becomes unbearable and one decides to take matters into his own hands. 42 min.
  4. AMERICA ON WHEELS—MODEL T: The Model T is remembered as the car that singlehandedly revolutionized U.S. transportation. This documentary chronicles the100-year anniversary celebration held in Richmond and Hagerstown, Indiana in 2008. Every conceivable version of the Model T is showcased, from touring cars complete with "mother-in-law seats" to speedsters to a mail delivery truck and more. This nostalgiaand history-rich documentary captures the many personalities of this indelible automobile and those who love it, proving the allure of the open road and the spirit of adventure are alive and well in the U.S.A. 26 min.

CHICKEN COWBOY: Shelly the Chicken wasn't looking for a fight, but he found one. Can he face his fears and stand up for himself? This animated short was created by Hoosier native Stephen Neary, who grew up making sketches in Indianapolis and is now finishing his third year at NYU. CHICKEN COWBOY has been screened in Seattle, New York, and was included in this year’s Aspen Shortfest. Neary has interned for Warner Brothers and has worked on SNL’s “TV Funhouse” cartoons. 7 min.

LO: Written and directed by native Hoosier Travis Betz, Lo is a dark but comedic love story about a demon named “Lo” summoned to help a lonely young man named Justin rescue his girlfriend, the quirky, mysterious April. Justin is played by Ward Roberts, who was born and raised in Peru, Indiana and who graduated from Indiana University. Unfortunately, love is a tricky little devil and Justin has a hard time controlling Lo, who has other plans for the tasty human. From singing demons, to talking hands, dancing bartenders and human-sized rats, Justin discovers love is hell and hell is funny. 7 min.

2006 IIFF

Reviews: "Over the Hedge," "Kinky Boots," "Look Both Ways," "Water"

"The Geography of Love"

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