Heartland Closes, Audience Choice Award Winners Announced  

The 17th annual Heartland Film Festival came to a quiet close on Friday, October 24 as writer/director Daniel Barnz visited Indy with his Phoebe in Wonderland, in theaters this Spring.  The crowd at the Indiana History Center enjoyed the film, a Q&A with the filmmaker and the last party of the Festival.  People lingered over the finger food and wine, a collective resistance to the end of another great year.

Highlight of the evening, by far, was the announcement of the Audience Choice Award winners, those films voted on by the movie-goers themselves as the best of the best in 2008.

First up was the unexpected nab by an Official Selection for Best Short Film – the youth-inspired doc by Laren Poole, GO, took top honors.

Indiana-based filmmaker Don Boggs topped the Documentary category, as A Ripple of Hope (pictured), about the night Robert Kennedy spoke to Indianapolis after Martin Luther King, Jr’s assassination, was voted best by the masses.

And in what most saw coming a mile away, Grand Prize Winner Captain Abu Raed took home the double-play of honors with the Audience Choice Award for Best Feature, too.  Amin Matalqa’s quiet observation on dreams and possibilities is making a splash at festivals around the world, and it captured crowds in Indianapolis, too.

What’s not so easy to see in naming just these three top-rated films is the adoration festival fans had for most, if not all, of this year’s nearly sixty films.  Second Hand Wedding, the feature from New Zealand’s Paul Murphy, was a consistent sell-out all week, leaving the audience smiling as they filed out from the full theaters.  The short doc Montana de Luz connected with Heartland audiences so much so that it gave Ripple a run for its money in the Audience Choice Award race.  And the addition of three extra short film collections proved a smart move on the part of programmers–they remained as highly attended as any of the feature-length films this year.

If you attended the Festival and haven’t yet given us your feedback, please take the time to complete the Festival Survey.  If you didn’t make it out this year, read the blogs, watch the videos, read up on the movies and most of all, plan to attend in 2009.

Thanks to all for another memorable year!