Every October, the film world comes to Indianapolis for ten days of cinema. The Heartland Film Festival is the signature event presented each year by Heartland, which is a non-profit organization that hosts events year round.
For 2013, there were more than one thousand submissions from countries all over the world. A committee narrowed down the field, and then narrowed it down some more. In the end, 120 titles (many of them shorts) and a few more from the high school filmmaker category made it into the festival.
What does it mean for a film to be selected for this festival? Well, Heartland is a festival that qualifies as an Academy Award Festival for shorts, which means the award-winning shorts from this festival are eligible for consideration by the academy. Some films make their world premiere here, and that means that audience response may guide the film’s fate. Some films have already been released and are available on DVD or download. What all of these films have in common is that they are independent — which means they are not funded by a big studio. They are labors of love; they are peoples’ life works.
What is it like attending a screening? Well, in Indianapolis, the majority of screenings happen at two suburban chain movie theaters. The Festival has a presence, and there are volunteers everywhere to answer questions. There’s complimentary coffee, and merchandise for sale. The audience receives a ballot on the way to their seats, so that after the show they can cast their vote for a people’s choice award. Before each show, the audience is typically welcomed by either someone associated with the film or a volunteer. The previews are for films in the festival, which is fun. After the screening, there are often people on hand for a Q & A session. Occasionally actors are on hand for meet and greets after the shows. The other fun thing about these films is that most of them have a social media presence, and they are happy to chat online about their work.
Are films any good? These films are so good. Our first selection this year was No Ordinary Hero: The SuperDeafy Movie. Not only was the director in attendance, but a couple of producers were on hand as well. We even met cast member Ashley Fiolek, who played herself. In real life, as in the movie, she’s a kick-ass motor cross champion. The first screening sold out, so they added an additional screening Sunday night. Then by Wednesday at noon, the last two showings (Wednesday afternoon and Thursday afternoon) were sold out, so the theater moved Thursday’s show into a larger auditorium.
As you can tell, I would recommend to anyone to check out the selections at next year’s Heartland Film Festival. The films focus on relationships, the human spirit, human rights issues, and so much more.
Have you ever attended a film festival? What was it like?