Since 1992 Indianapolis has held its own celebration of cinema with the Heartland Film Festival, a ten-day, multi-theater marathon every October of documentaries, shorts, narrative features, and animated works made across multiple continents from myriad points of the human experience, usually with an emphasis on uplift and positivity. Several have aired previously at other festivals; at least one will be its their American theatrical debuts; I think there may even be a world premiere, but my notes are sketchy on that point. For the 25th annual event, dozens of volunteers screened 2,535 submissions from dozens of countries and narrowed them down to 135 entrants, several of which will be vying for official festival prizes.
Last month my wife and I had our second annual date night attending Heartland’s Preview Night at the Athenaeum Theatre downtown, at which the staff announced their official selections and competition finalists, and released this year’s schedule in a very nice, silver booklet for their milestone anniversary. For said occasion, the Festival will also include encore presentations of entrants from previous years such as Rudy and Lars and the Real Girl.
Among the numerous films coming to Indianapolis in October, the following is a partial list of what jumped out at one or both of us, some of whose stars will be in town appearing at their screenings. If we can make time to see one of these during one of our busiest months of the year, the results will be reported here on MCC. Trailers are enclosed where existent.
* The Tiger Hunter: This 1970s period dramedy goes first because it stars Abed from Community. Danny Pudi (also soon to costar in NBC’s Powerless) emigrates from India to America to make a name for himself outside his father’s accomplished shadow, surrounded by Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite), Kevin Pollak (The Usual Suspects), and Rizwan Manji, a.k.a. snarky boss Rajiv from NBC’s Outsourced. [official site]
* Book of Love: The first feature film from TV director Bill Purple (New Girl, Fresh Off the Boat) was originally titled The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, and will be opening the Festival on October 20th. Jason Sudeikis (in serious Race mode) befriends Game of Thrones‘ Maisie Williams, who’s trying to build a raft and sail the ocean to go hunt down her real father. Attending the screening in person will be costar Jessica Biel, producer Melissa Purple (the director’s wife, I’m guessing?), and character actor Richard Robichaux (Bernie).
* The Ultimate Legacy: A young jerk (Miko Olivier from Castle season 6) must jump through inspirational hoops before he can receive an inheritance. It’s the third movie in a trilogy, apparently a beloved favorite among longtime Heartland fans we heard gasping in happy surprise at the announcement. Costarring Raquel Welch, Lee Meriwether, Bill Cobbs (from so many things), beloved movie-monster guy Doug Jones, and Brian Dennehy, who was also in the first one, The Ultimate Gift, which is on the encore list. Dennehy will be appearing in person for the latter, along with the series’ producer. [Facebook page]
* USS Indianapolis: The Legacy: Let’s not forget the Festival shows more than narrative features. If the Nicolas Cage vehicle about the famously sunken WWII battleship never sees a release date, at least we can check out this documentary that’s probably higher in quality. My wife the history buff had the pleasure of meeting one of the survivors at a book signing, so this one stuck out for obvious reasons. [Facebook page]
* Lion: From director Garth Davis (Top of the Lake). An Indian child adopted by Australian parents (Academy Award Winner Nicole Kidman and David Wenham, a.k.a. Faramir) grows up to become Slumdog Millionaire‘s Dev Patel, who returns in adulthood to his homeland using literally Google Earth to track down his parents. Costarring Rooney Mara as the Concerned Girlfriend. [Facebook page]
* Pushing Dead: Psych‘s James Roday is a longtime HIV-positive writer who takes on the American healthcare system. Costarring Robin Weigert (Jessica Jones), Khandi Alexander (NewsRadio, Treme, Scandal), and former Lethal Weapon star Danny Glover. [official site]
* A Writer’s Roots: Kurt Vonnegut’s Indianapolis: Documentary about the celebrated Hoosier author of Slaughterhouse-Five and a couple dozen other novels that I read in high school nearly back-to-back. I think this may have already aired on PBS.
* Winter Thaw: John Rhys-Davies headlines a Tolstoy adaptation about a 19th-century Russian cobbler who tries to atone with his family shortly before he thinks the Lord is about to take him away. Costarring Karl Johnson (Hot Fuzz) and a lot of Lithuanians. A previous press release indicated this would be a holiday 2016 TV-movie, which might explain why I’m finding next to nothing about it online.
* Josephine: Closing the festival is a Kickstarter’d Civil War drama in which Alice Coulthard (TNT’s The Last Ship) poses as a man in the Confederate Army to track down her long-lost husband. Full disclosure: I had a hard time keeping a straight face through the trailer, but you might like it more. Costarring Boris McGiver (useless middle-manager Marimow from The Wire!), Linds Edwards (Powers), and Mitch Eakins (AMC’s Turn). [official site] [official trailer on Vimeo]
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Other actors appearing in this year’s film lineup: Aidan Gillen, a.k.a. Mayor Tommy from The Wire; Titanic’s Billy Zane; Peri Gilpin from Frasier; Katee Sackhoff, a.k.a. Starbuck; James Marsters from Buffy/Angel; Lost‘s Terry O’Quinn; Indiana Jones’ girlfriend Karen Allen; Richard Linklater’s daughter from Boyhood; Northern Exposure‘s Janine Turner; Mackenzie Astin from The Goonies; Jonathan Pryce; Heather Matarazzo; Jeremy Sisto; TV’s Alan Thicke (did you catch his cameo in the This Is Us pilot?); li’l Abraham Attah (Beasts of No Nation); Sam & Max creator Steve Purcell; Sons of Anarchy‘s Kim Coates; EGOT winner Rita Moreno; and many other actors and nonfictional participants whose works are likely worth checking out.
Tickets are on sale in advance at the official Heartland Film Festival site, slightly higher than normal box office prices but worth it for bragging rights of saying you supported an official film festival and helped save the cinematic arts.