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Heartland Truly Moving Pictures Blog

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Heartland Film Festival Interview: Bram Conjaerts, Director of “The Circle”

One of the most fascinating films of the festival has the most deceivingly simple names. “The Circle” is all about the people who happen to live upon one of the greatest scientific experiments in human history. The Large Hadron Collider races particles around at such an incredible speed in order to recreate the Big Bang, the origins of the universe. This is located 100 miles underground in Europe and director Bram Conjaerts talked to those on the surface to learn what they think of all of this.

We were thrilled to talk to Bram about the focus on the documentary, his history with the Large Hardon Collider and the documentaries that intrigue him.

Heartland Film Festival: Do you remember the first time you heard about the Large Hadron Collider? What were your first thoughts on the experiments they were conducting?

Bram Conjaerts: The first time I heard about the experiment was a couple of years back, I believe it was in 2008.  That was before the start-up of the collider. My father who studied physics, told me about the LHC. I was immediately interested, because the experiment tries to answer some deeply human questions. How did it all begin? What is this reality we live in? Also the factor of not knowing what would happen when the first collisions of particles would take place, intrigued me and scared me at the same time. I heard about the possible creation of a black hole and had this dream that is a part of the film now. After some research and talking with physicists in Belgium I was more or less calmed. But I remained very interested in the larger whole.

In 2009 my graduation project “Henri and the Islands” won a price from the Flanders Audiovisual Fund which allowed me to began a new project on the LHC. Read more »

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Heartland Film Festival Interview: Matthias Zuder, Director of “Liquidation”

In just a few minutes, the Festival Award short film “Liquidation” can create discussions that will last for hours. In the film, a young couple are visiting his grandfather before he is punished for his Nazi involvement. There they are faced with a difficult moral decision.

We were able to talk with director Matthias Zuder about the audience reaction to that moral decision, the roles of Nazis in cinema and the humanity of the whole story.

Heartland Film Festival: The performance of Horst Westphal is so incredible because he is unrelenting and doesn’t seem to have any remorse for his past actions. With so many Nazis depicted in movies, what did you want to accomplish with his character?

Matthias Zuder: I wanted make a movie about opportunism and humanity. In this context, I thought it is important to present a human being, not the classic “Nazi-monster”. In the end, those people who did those incredible terrible things, they were people like us. Many of the cinema stereotypes of “classic Nazis” don’t remind me of that. So we are seduced to step aside, and feel that the actions of those people have nothing to do with the way we are, or as we live today. The novelist John Littell once wrote,  “Those, who kill, are human beings exactly like those who get killed, that’s the awful truth”.

When you start watching the movie and you don’t know anything about it, you wouldn’t think that this nice grandpa is guilty for the murder of thousands of people. It seemed interesting to me that I can give even a point of view of a person like this old man, who stands for his actions, but not for his guilt. His first problem seems not to be the massive traumata in the past, but the missing love of his relatives in the present days. That’s so human too. Read more »

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Heartland Film Festival Interview: Alex Stonehill and Bradley Hutchinson, Co-Directors of Barzan

Barzan tells a story that you wish didn’t have to be true. Sam Malkandi was happily living with his family in Seattle when the government believed that he was connected with al-Qaeda after a footnote in the 9/11 Commission Report. Now with little understanding of how this all happened, his family was torn apart as they desperately try for justice.

Directors Alex Stonehill and Bradley Hutchinson were following this heartbreaking story as it developed and showed the world the results in this Festival Award-winning documentary. We were thrilled that Alex and Bradley were able to talk to us about the tone of this film, the moral difficulties and read at the very bottom of the article to hear about how the family is doing after the movie.

(There are spoilers in the answer for the last question that is posted after the showtimes.)

Heartland Film Festival: How did you first hear about this story and what was it that inspired you to turn this into a feature film?

Bradley Hutchinson: Sarah Stuteville and Alex Stonehill told me about Sam Malkandi’s story before they left on a reporting trip to the Middle East. We had been wanting to find another project to work on since we made the short film It’s in the P-I. Once they got back from the Middle East I started to go through the footage with Alex. Through editing we quickly realized that with how epic Sam’s life story was, how good his interviews were and that his family was willing to really open up to us that we had to make this a feature length film.

Heartland Film Festival: There is clear sympathy for Sam Malkandi and his family. The tone of this film could have been a lot angrier. Why was it important for you to tell his story in this way? Read more »

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Heartland Film Festival Interview: Erica Liu, Writer and Director of “Springtime”

When you look at the average ages of the movie protagonists, there is a miscalculated representation that everyone who goes on an emotional character arc is young. In “Springtime”, writer/director Erica Liu created the character of Xiao Zhu, an elderly woman who decides that she never had her “springtime” in her life so she goes to the big city to find something exciting and new.

We were so happy to talk to Erica about her Festival Award-winning short film and ask her about filming in a city, why there aren’t as many elderly characters and what are the films that have inspired her.

Heartland Film Festival: The short film follows Xiao Zhu for every scene as she searches for her personal springtime. What was it like working with Tsai Yu Chu Huang to create this very real character?

Erica Liu: Huang Tsai Yu Chu is actually my grandma, so I always tell people it feels like I got 26 years of pre-production/rehearsal with her in some ways. The trust was already there and I knew enough about her life that we could have discussions about her own experiences to help her get into character. My mom was also on set as Grandma Wrangler/Translator, which made her feel more comfortable. Before each scene, the three of us would just talk instead of rehearse, since it was sometimes difficult for her to remember all of her lines. Plus, that’s exactly the way my grandma is in real life. At 86 years old she’s still bouncing around, taking ukulele lessons, wanting to open a food truck…I always feel like a hack because it was really less about “directing,” and more about just helping her feel comfortable in front of the camera and being herself. Read more »

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Heartland Film Festival Interview: Daniel Patrick Carbone, Writer and Director of Hide Your Smiling Faces

Few films are able to capture the emotional realism of childhood. It’s a strange time that rarely fits into the normal structure of a movie, but Hide Your Smiling Faces is able to do something very special. When a death of a peer occurs in a small town, the kids are filled with an overflow of emotions they don’t understand. This movie is able to capture a very sympathetic and confusing time with an amazing amount of authority.

We are thrilled to be able to talk with writer/director Daniel Patrick Carbone about working with such young actors, using improvisation, and what first feature films have inspired him.

Heartland Film Festival: When a film doesn’t have a traditional narrative, audiences tend to examine each character moment with a greater level of detail. What was it like working with your child actors to establish these nuances? Did you learn from them about responding to violence?

Daniel Patrick Carbone: This was always the intent with this film, from the very first draft of the script, which was written as a series of vignettes, loosely based on my own memories of childhood. I wanted the film to have a collage-like, patchwork structure where how characters get from point A to point B is less important than how one formative moment for a young person influences the ones around it. Read more »

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Heartland Film Festival Interview: Maggie Baird, Co-Writer and Lead Actress of Life Inside Out

From the early frames of the movie, it is obvious that Life Inside Out is a very personal story. Yet how far back that goes is rather surprising. Maggie Baird has been a working actress for many years before she turned to screenwriting. In Life Inside Out, Maggie is the co-writer and the lead actress but even beyond that this is a story that hit close to home in many ways—even literally.

We’re thrilled Maggie was able to talk with us about the formation of this story, what it’s like to be a leading actress and the inspiration from “small” movies.

Heartland Film Festival: The bonding between Laura and Shane is essential in this movie. How did you develop a chemistry with Finneas O’Connell? How did you two approach your scenes together?

Maggie Baird: Finneas and I have had great chemistry right from the beginning of his life…in 1997 when he was born. He is actually my son!! A lot of the plot of the movie was inspired by him.

Approaching our scenes together was an incredibly natural process for us. I was in fact, a little concerned of casting him in the part because I didn’t want him to be uncomfortable and because I was aware that it would be hard for him to say “no” if he really didn’t want to do it. It is kind of strange to play a part that is inspired by yourself but not actually you (the character of Shane is different in many ways from Finneas, although they do have things in common as well.

Fortunately, he did want to do it and he was wonderful in it (he is a very natural actor and a great performer). He was fantastic to work with and in the end it was just an incredible experience.

Heartland Film Festival: How did you start working on this screenplay? How did you team up with Lori Nasso, your co-writer, and director Jill D’Agnenica? Read more »

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Heartland Film Festival Interview: Andrew Mudge, Director of “The Forgotten Kingdom”

In one of our Festival Award winning films, The Forgotten Kingdom, an aimless boy from Johannesburg travels back to his village in Lesotho when his father passes away. His journey is an incredible cinematic experience as we explore who Atang is and the majesty of Lesotho.

With a film so warm and authentic, it may be surprising to hear that writer/director Andrew Mudge is not from Africa. Andrew talks to us about the first time he traveled to Lesotho, the importance of quiet intensity and the influence of David Lynch.

Heartland Film Festival: I read that you first visited Lesotho when your brother was a volunteer there with the PeaceCorps. What was it about this country that compelled you to want to devote years of your life to telling this story?

Andrew Mudge: The inspiration for The Forgotten Kingdom came from two trips I made to Lesotho and South Africa in 2003 and 2006. I explored Lesotho’s remote areas, and became fascinated by this little known country totally surrounded by South Africa. It’s such a visually rich place; landscapes of river valleys, hillsides of thatched huts, blanketed men traveling the country on horseback. It feels like a frontier, and reminded me of how the American West must have been 150 years ago. So I wanted to capture this place on film, and tell a story that had elements of magical realism, a reflection of the mystical nature of the country itself. The storyline came to me when I learned about men who leave Lesotho to go work in the goldmines of South Africa, and only return home in their coffins, usually victims of HIV/AIDS. I suddenly had the image of a tough city kid building a coffin for his father, and his reluctant return to the motherland. That was the launching point of writing the story.

Heartland Film Festival: What did you do to create an authentic feel for Lesotho in the script and in the final product? Also are you fluent in Sotho?

Andrew Mudge: I’m not fluent in Sesotho, but I can get by (I know more than how to just ask for beer and where the bathroom is). As for the authenticity, I regularly consulted with my Basotho friends when I was developing it from outline to final draft. I spoke to everyone from Sangomas (traditional healers), to village chiefs, to people living with HIV/AIDS. I’m proud that the final film is the collaboration of many minds and hearts.

Read more »

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Heartland Film Festival Interview: Jill D’Agnenica, Director of Life Inside Out

There is magic in music as it has the qualities to relax, inspire and sooth the soul. Music is in the heart of our Festival Award-winning narrative film, Life Inside Out, as a mother of three finds rebirth in her life when she picks up her old guitar and decides to try out songwriting at a local open-mic. When her emotionally frustrated son starts to join her, they experience a new bonding.

We were thrilled that director Jill D’Agnenica was able to talk with us about everyday inspiration of creativity, the power of Kickstarter and what it was like to work on the ABC show LOST.

Heartland Film Festival: Music is such an important part of this film and it seems like all of the songs are original works. What was it like coming up with this soundtrack and tracking what the songs will mean to the characters?

Jill D’Agnenica: The music was so much fun! We had to plan it all out and even record most of it before we started shooting. Maggie Baird (co-writer and lead actress) and I spent many, many hours carefully going through the script and 1) identifying where we wanted a song or songs and 2) working out what song that would be.

Maggie and [co-star Finneas O’Connell] are both songwriters in real life. And all the songs you hear them play in the movie are theirs. In many cases, Maggie and Lori Nasso (co-writer) identified a particular song for a certain scene in the script. For instance, when Laura sits at the piano singing “I Know” that then moves into a montage of Shane walking alone at dusk and Laura driving around the city looking for him. Read more »

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Heartland Film Festival Interview: Matthew Moore, Director/Co-Writer of The Amber Amulet

Now more than ever, it feels we are surrounded by superheroes. They are always in the multiplex, comics are still popular and now they’re even on TV shows. The Amber Amulet is a Festival Award-winning short film without any supernatural powers, but it has Liam, a young boy, who wants to be a hero in his own town. So he dons a thin mask and tries to help his neighbor from being so sad.

We were excited to be able to talk with Matthew Moore, the film’s director and co-writer, and ask him about this influence on the culture, the reality it is set in and how an acting background can help you as a director.

Heartland Film Festival: We are in such a superhero heavy culture right now. A film like Kick-Ass suggests that is a negative aspect on society while your film shows a more hopeful light. What do you think is the importance of heroes like this?

Matthew Moore: I think the importance of our little hero, is that he has a power all of us possess. The power to affect positive change. You don’t need a utility belt for that.

Heartland Film Festival: This movie never feels silly in either way even though you have a little boy scurrying around the neighborhood with a mask on. What did you to do to establish such a wonderful tone that makes sure every act feels like the most important thing in the world?

Read more »

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“The Book Thief” Set for Special Premiere at the Heartland Film Festival

Upcoming 20th Century Fox release to conclude the 22nd annual Heartland Film Festival; Academy Award® winner Geoffrey Rush, lead actress Sophie Nélisse, and director Brian Percival to receive awards

The Heartland Film Festival has announced details of its 2013 Festival (Oct. 17-26), including 134 independent films from 76 countries. The Academy Award®-qualifying festival within the Short Films category will be host to special Hollywood premieres, workshops and filmmakers from all over the world, including a special premiere of “The Book Thief.”

Based on the beloved bestselling book, “The Book Thief” tells the inspirational story of a spirited and courageous young girl who transforms the lives of everyone around her when she is sent to live with a foster family in World War II Germany.

Note: Film stills, Festival logo and other press materials available at this link.

Closing Night Event – Special Premiere of “The Book Thief” (20th Century Fox)

  • Saturday, Oct. 26, 7 p.m. – The Toby, Indianapolis Museum of Art – tickets $25
  • Closing Night Party to follow at The Jazz Kitchen – tickets $20 (combo ticket $40)
  • Q&A to follow with cast and filmmakers.

Talent scheduled to attend (subject to change):

  • Actor Geoffrey Rush (Academy Award® winner)
    • Will receive the Heartland Pioneering Spirit Award
  • Actor Sophie Nélisse
    • Will receive the Heartland Pioneering Spirit: Rising Star Award
  • Director Brian Percival
    • Will receive the Heartland Truly Moving Picture Award for the film

The Festival Closing Night Event will include the presentation of select awards, including the Best U.S. Premiere Awards and the Audience Choice Awards.

Visit HeartlandFilmFestival.org for full schedule and lineup, and to purchase screening and special event tickets.

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