The opening weekend of the Indianapolis International Film Festival is now officially behind us. And, wow, what a start it has had. I’ve seen four full-length features and I’ve been consistently blown away.
Drinking Buddies was the perfect film for opening night: funny, cute, charming and satisfying. The plot is simple; two co-workers at a brewery–both in relationships–wrestle with their feelings for one another and question their current partners. We’ve all been there and we all know of the trials and complications that come with these crises, which makes this a totally relatable film, full of laughs and requisite cringes.
[And, by the way, if you were really on top of it, you got a ticket to the opening night after party at Sun King Brewery. Great beer (Sun King, obv.), great food (Brad Gates Catering), and a freaking popcorn bar (Just Pop In...who else?). Late night for a Thursday, but an absolute ball.]
Friday night was the first of the off-site films, with Medora screening at the Harrison Center gym (seriously, you just couldn’t beat this location). I mentioned this film and my friend asked, “Is this about Medora, Indiana? Because there isn’t anything there.” He’s right and he’s wrong. Medora is a tiny, struggling town not far from Seymour. As this inspiring documentary illustrates, there really isn’t much there: few jobs, few opportunities, and little hope. But there are the Hornets–the local high school basketball team coming off a 0-22 record. The struggling town, mirrored by the struggling team, makes for a wonderful story.
(And, once, again, there was a great after party at the Dorman Street Saloon. Drinking next to the co-director of Medora and the coach of the Medora Hornets was an unexpected highlight and just a damn fun night.)
Blood Brother screened on Saturday night and I’m honestly still not quite sure what to say about it. Simply put, this is a documentary about an American man dedicating his life to an orphanage for children with HIV in India. The rest is just an emotional, infuriating, agonizing, inspiring story. Expect to hear more about this profoundly moving film in the months to come.
After two fairly intense documentaries, I was ready for some levity, but I didn’t get it. Coldwater is about a young man in a wilderness juvenile reform facility, facing unspeakable abuse in the name of rehabilitation. The camp is successful at transforming its residents, but the cost is tremendous.
If you missed Drinking Buddies and Blood Brother, you’re out of luck. You’ll have to hope they come to a theater nearby, find them on iTunes or wait until they’re on video, but Medora and Coldwater are both screening again (4:30 on Thursday and Friday afternoon respectively), as well as so many more films.
I remember feeling giddy about this film festival last year and I raved about how outstanding it was, and it really was great. But it’s better this year. So far, it simply has not missed. The films have been great, the people have been great, but there’s something more. It’s hard to describe, but after a few days, the festival really starts to feel like summer camp. Night after night, you’re walking the same route, seeing some of the same faces and just feeling amazing. If you only catch one or two films, that’s great (and you just must), but the best way to experience this festival is to see as much as you possibly can. The films are great, but I’ve had this rare feeling that I’m making memories that I’ll carry with me forever. Sounds hyperbolic and silly, I know, but I bet I’m not alone. Make it a priority to see some films this week. You will not regret it.