Heartland Film Festival reviews, part II

October 14, 2010
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This year, 101 features and shorts are part of the Heartland Film Festival--and you really should consider getting out and seeing a few (you have through Oct. 23.)

To give you a little more incentive, I've got some tickets to give away. Just post a comment below on either your favorite Heartland film from past years (if you haven't gone, enter anyway with your thoughts on the festival and the kinds of films you'd like to see there).

What should you see?

Well, while I couldn't get an early look at all of them, I did see a good percentage of the features. You can find some of my best of the fest picks--including "Thundder Soul," "The Parking Lot Movie," and "Paradise Recovered"-- in this week's IBj (and online here).

As to the rest of the fest, here are my thoughts on those that either didn't make my best list or weren't screened early enough to be considered.

And since I'm only one person, I've asked some fellow IBJ staffers to screen some that I didn't have time to get through. Their comments follow mine.

For complete festival information, including showtimes, click here.


“Mister Rogers & Me’

Fred Rogers is, of course, interesting. It’s the “me” that the problem in this documentary about an MTV employee who becomes fascinated with his neighbor, the esteemed gentle gentleman of kid TV fame. The framing device may be wobbly, but any chance to reconnect with Rogers’ message to keep things “deep and simple” is worthwhile—and there’s a beautiful sequence in which Tim Russert shares a story about the great man

“Bilal’s Stand”

It’s a given that what’s onscreen in some festival films is going to inadvertently show their low budgets and quick shooting times. In the end of Bilal’s Stand,” though, when we learn the story behind the story, those deficits end up making the film more powerful. Up until then, it’s “Boyz in the Hood” meets every competition film you’ve ever seen (in this case it’s, believe it or not, ice sculpture), with some sharp insights into urban teen life that I haven’t seen in conventional Hollywood films


In a style similar to those annoying Charles Schwab ads, this animated feature offers an unconventional twist on science fiction expectations . Often very funny, the film follows a trio of astronauts as they attempt to find out what happened to a robotic Mars lander from a previous expedition. If only the ending of this atmospheric, original flick didn’t fizzle out completely, it might have made my strong recommendation list.

“Lt. Dan Band: For the Common Good”

While I admire and applaud actor Gary Sinise for his sincere and effective efforts to entertain the troops with a cover band named for his “Forrest Gump” character, this documentary has no dramatic arc or momentum to drive audience from congratulatory scene to congratulatory scene.

"Come Together: A Beatles Tribute"

Here's another doc with no build. Focusing on the phenomenon of Beatles cover bands, the film has a few insights but is also saddles with pedestrian narration by John Lennon's sister and an unwillingness to get below the surface with the hundreds of immitation Johns, Pauls, Georges and Ringos.

"Looking for Lurch"

The first few minutes of this documentary offers the Ripley's-like kick of seeing a beast of burden with the largest circumference horns in the world. But the title is deceptive. Lurch is found within minutes and the rest of this too-long documentary is a been-there look at a woman helping needy animals.

"Fort McCoy"

There are strong moments in this WWII drama, in which a barber (Eric Stoltz) and his family are relocated to a base next to a POW camp, the screenplay attempt to jam too much in, including a friendship between his daughter and a prisoner (which ends badly) and a romance between his daughter and a Jewish soldier.

"The Yankles"

Cursed with an unappealing lead actor, this flick covers most of the cliches of the underdog/redemption sports film, telling of a former ballplayer with a few too many DWIs doing time coaching an Orthodox Jewish baseball team. Nothing new--or particularly interesting--here.

Okay, so I'm starting to sound overtly negative. (Remember: the films I'm most bullish on are in this week's IBJ.)

Now, though, I'll turn the blog over to my colleagues.

“My Vietnam, Your Iraq”

A diverse and often gut-wrenching look at Vietnam veterans and their children fighting the war in Iraq. The families are from different ethnic groups and from different parts of the country, which offers a nice variety, but at times you’ll wish the camera stayed longer with a family instead of trying to fit eight stories into an hour. Still, it’s impressive how much the parents and children are willing to share, even severely emotional moments of buddies dying or memories of soldiers covered in blood. Regardless of your views on either war, the film is also worth viewing to see how both generations have handled their time in the service and after, as some have gone on to organize or join anti-war organizations.–Rebecca Berfanger

“Don’t Quit Your Day Dream”

If you think the vagabond lifestyle of a struggling musician sounds unappealing, this documentary will only reaffirm your suspicions. Two musicians haul their band, The Good Listeners, across the country and pair up with unknown (and mostly drunk) players. with names like Bingo. It’s kind of fun watching the ambitionless group make songs together but by the 12th one you’re ready for them to just shut up already. –Gabrielle Poshadlo


A pastor (played by director Corbin Bernsen) feels he has lost his connection with God, leaves his church, and moves back to the small town where he was raised. There he is drawn to his best friend from high school who is now in trouble with the law. The redemption theme may be familiar—and the film starts slowly—but a strong finish makes me want to recommend it friends open to its Christian message.—Perry Reichanadter
“Raspberry Magic”

Weaving a science fair, raspberry plants and a family’s struggle into a heart-warming tale of perseverance, this charmer is told from the point of view of a young girl learning that life isn’t always like a science project. In her eyes, life has more to do with understanding and love. —PR

Ashley’s Ashes”

An overstressed loser into data recovery gets a gift, an urn of ashes, from an unknown source, setting in motion a predictable journey of self-discovery. A surprise ending doesn’t make up for the slow pace.  

Your thoughts?

  • very excited
    Really looking forward to this years film fest. Really want to see 10 mountains....
  • Favorite Heartland movie
    One of my favorite Heartland Film Festival movies was Captain Abu Raed. I have limited time to go see movies this year and am having a hard time deciding which ones to go see.
  • Love Lt. Dan Band
    I found this Gary Sinise documentary very moving and it leaves the audience wanting to do more for our soldiers and their families. It makes you both laugh and cry, and it leaves you with a greater appreciation of everything Gary Sinise!
  • Which to see??
    I'm with Lee Ann - there seem to be a number of wonderful films this year that will make it tough to pick only a few to attend. My son and I are planning to see The Presence. Recently, I saw the Heartland film 'Validation' and loved it - what a great message!
  • First Timer
    This will be my first time at the Heartland Film Festival. I'm going to see the High School Short films because my son is in one of them. I love that the HFF promotes young filmmakers and am looking forward to seeing what they accomplished.
  • Most Moving Movie in my lifetime
    When my son suggested that I attend the Greenwood showing of Captain Abu Raed, I did it to appease him. Thankfully so! I've even googled it. The child actors were from the streets. One is now attending the Jordanian King's academy. It should have won an Oscar. It showed that when a man stands up to evil, it doesn't matter the language. Goodness comes through. I am so grateful that the Heartland Film Festival brought it to Indy.
  • Snowmen
    I would really like to see Snowmen with Bobby Coleman. He did a great job in the "The Last Song" and I would love to see some of his other work.
  • HFF
    I've never been to the Heartland Film Festival, and I would love to make this my first time!
  • Return Attender
    My husband and I are excited to return for our second year of attendind the Heartland Film Festival. Last year we enjoyed the drama "For My Father" and comedy "Spooner".
  • Pick me! Pick me!
    "For My Father" left me breathless last year - and I've enjoyed many other HFF films over the past many years. The Festival is one of Indy's greatest cultural assets! Looking forward to this year's treasures...
  • Come Together - A Beatles Tribute
    I heartily disagree with your review of "Come Together - A Beatles Tribute". The concept was original and is the first time that Abbey Road has permitted such a project to proceed. The content and editing were tremendous, and the film gives great insight to a band which, while in existence for only 9 years, has moved people for over 40 years and whose songs continues to thrive. Granted, Julia Baird (Lennon's sister) is not trained in media presentations, but she provides background unavailable elsewhere, and without her support the film would not have been possible.
  • Profoundly moving
    I don't remember the name of the movie but a few years ago I saw one about an orphanage in Africa for children of Aids. I have honestly considered going there to help ever since.....
  • Fav film set in Finland
    Been going for years to festival. My favorite film was about a boy sent to live with relatives to avoid the war in Paris. But it showed amazing Finland soldiers on ski in white doing lots of damage in frozen terrain. Also loved Captain Abu, and War Bride. You've got to go!
  • Moved by the Spear
    I was moved, inspired, and entertained by the film "The End of the Spear". I loved seeing the prologue and seeing western life from the point of view of the Indian who had killed the missionary decades earlier.

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