One of the first things we discovered about The Heartland Film Festival is that the info in their program booklet isn’t all accurate. It lists The Greatest Return, the documentary we’d come to see, as seven minutes long. Actually, it’s 42 minutes long–and worth every one of those 42 minutes. With gorgeous footage from exotic locations and insightful interviews with some of the world’s greatest conservationists, The Greatest Return is exactly what Heartland advertises itself to be: truly moving. Kudos to writer/director Matt Mays and everyone else we know–Bill Baker, Thom Zimmerman, Tim Wilsbach, Earshot Audio-Post, and many others–who had a hand in this.
The Greatest Return is only the first of four short documentaries in Heartland’s Shorts Program 6: Doing The Most Good. The second, Dean Hamer’s Twins, is a slight-but-affecting portrait of Frances and Frankie Mokwa, who were separated and institutionalized early in their lives. Frances loves her disabled brother, and overcomes challenges of her own to be reunited with him.
Next up: David Darg’s Sun City Picture House. To say that it’s the story of an effort to build a movie theater in a tent city in Haiti is to sell it short. Our heroes–a Haitian man, a priest, and a group of young Christian aid workers–also volunteer their services in pulling the unclaimed dead out of the local hospital morgue and giving them a decent burial. There’s a profound sadness here, and great joy, as well–and, in spite of what a couple of people in the audience associated with the film had to say, the morgue scenes are probably too gruesome for young children. But, in the end, Sun City Picture House is uplifting and beautiful, the new theater a beacon of hope for a people whose lives have been shattered.
(Speaking of Haiti: we also watched Indiana University alum Jace Freeman’s The Country Club, part of Shorts Program 7. It’s a short documentary about a 12-year-old boy coming to terms with his future while living in a tent city on a Port-Au-Prince golf course. It’s a beautiful piece of work we recommend highly.)
The final Shorts Program 6 film was both the most accomplished and the least successful: Irene Taylor Brodsky’s Saving Pelican 895. Produced for HBO Films, it’s the story of the efforts of conservationists to clean and save birds found coated with oil after the BP oil spill. At 37 minutes, it’s a good 20 minutes too long.
You still have plenty of time to see Shorts Program 6 (and Shorts Program 7) this week at Heartland in Indianapolis. Check the program guide or the website for details. Don’t trust them all–but figure the showtimes are accurate.