The Heartland Film Festival opens Oct. 18 with nine days of film screenings and special events. Want some help making your selections? IBJ staff and freelancers previewed most of this year's offerings. Some of the best are reviewed below. For more reviews-which we will continue to update as the fest approaches-visit the Not Strictly Business section of ibj.com.
"Home of the Giants," dramatic feature
Given the generic title (please change it before it's too late), the Hoosier high school basketball milieu, and the film's very presence at this positive-values fest, I think I can be forgiven for expecting a very different kind of film. My expectations happily went out the window, though, as I became caught up in this intense, superbly crafted thriller that's worth a place in the hearts of anyone who loved "A Simple Plan" or "The Grifters."
Haley Joel Osment plays a teen who gets caught up in the larcenous activity of his basketball-star pal. I will tell you no more, except that it's great to see a post-Tarantino crime film that avoids cinematic self-referencing in favor of straight-ahead storytelling and believable, individual characters. An edge-of-the-seat pleasure. Oh, and a good basketball movie as well.-Lou Harry
"Validation," dramatic short (part of the Shorts Collection)
In the opening moments of this film, a parking attendant offers validation-personal "You're a good person" validation-to customers. "One-joke alert!" went my cinematic radar. But, surprise, this black-and-white delight evolved first into "Forrest Gump"-like fantasy, then into a wonderful world of its own. With a pitch-perfect payoff, "Validation" offered 16 of the most joyful minutes I've spent watching a movie in a long while. -L.H.
"Heart to Heart," documentary feature
Director Brian Gordon packs a lot into this 40-minute film: a life-threatening illness; a cutting-edge surgery; a remarkable-yet-tedious six-month hospital stay and this big-picture message for the masses: kids need the benefits of modern medicine, too.
Filmed in large part at Riley Hospital for Children, this documentary from IMS Productions follows then-12-year-old Bailey Hunsberger and her family as she reaches a critical point in her lifelong battle with heart disease. With Bailey's heart failing, her doctors request special permission to get help from a mechanical pump not approved for use in the United States.
Outrage over the lack of treatment options for infants and children is the overarching theme of this film, but the focus is on Bailey's battle. We see her both as a mature-before-her-time youth dealing with her own mortality and an awestruck adolescent meeting her teenage crush-"Grey's Anatomy" actor Patrick Dempsey, who also narrated and earned a producing credit.-Andrea Muirragui Davis
"Midnight Clear," dramatic feature
The creators of "Midnight Clear" understand that people don't just sink into despair, they sink a little, rise a bit, sink some more. And that peace doesn't come from having all of one's problems solved, but by finding hope.
They also get that making a film with a religious message doesn't have to mean dragging viewers through a one-dimensional sermon. The more we believe in the individual humanity of characters, the more we care about their redemption. And it's those human touches-accentuated by nuanced performances by K Callan ("Lois and Clark's" Martha Kent) and Stephen Baldwin-that give this film its emotional power. Bring tissues.-L.H.
"Darius Goes West," documentary feature
An excellent documentary for parents and their kids, especially sons, to enjoy together, "Darius Goes West" follows a 15-year-old boy on his cross-country quest to have his wheelchair jazzed up on MTV's popular "Pimp My Ride." Darius has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, which kills most people before they reach their mid-20s. He raps about his life with family, friends and his genetic disorder. The film succeeds at not being schmaltzy or overly preachy, but the ending drags. It's as if the director couldn't decide what poignant ending to include, so he included every one.-Kathleen Schuckel
Films screen at AMC Clearwater Crossing 12, UA Circle Centre 9, and AMC Greenwood Park 14. For more reviews, visit the Not Strictly Business section of ibj.com. For a complete list of films and screening times, visit heartlandfilmfestival.org.