Itâ€™s tough to argue with quality movies, a dedicated group of film lovers who moonlight as festival staffers and $200,000 in cash prizes. Which probably explains why Indianapolisâ€™ Heartland Film Festival just keeps getting bigger.
Though Heartland just celebrated its fifteenth year in October, the festival is hardly old news. Attendance was up almost 18 percent this year, with a total of more than 21,000 visitors. â€œI think the heart of the growth comes from consistently having a strong selection of films for a very diverse [audience], which builds strong word of mouth,â€ says festival president Jeffrey Sparks. â€œFolks who see one or two films in their first year often plan to see more the next year and bring friends.â€
This year, writer David Wolstencroft was on hand to accept the festivalâ€™s coveted $100,000 grand prize on behalf of Michael Caton-Jonesâ€™ Shooting Dogs, which stars John Hurt as a Catholic priest caught in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Made in 2005 and screened at some of the worldâ€™s top festivalsâ€”including Cannes, Toronto and Karlovy Varyâ€”Shooting Dogs has yet to find a partner for a larger theatrical release. Sparks hopes Heartland can help. â€œOur hope is that the winning filmmakers would use the monies to help launch the film, which is the plan of the folks behind Shooting Dogs.â€
The festival will begin accepting entries for its 2007 events in mid-March; log onto www.heartlandfilmfestival.org for more information.