Heartland International Film Festival will bring more than 115 independent and award-caliber studio films to Indianapolis over the next 11 days.
With that many films screening across seven theaters, the lineup can be a little daunting.
Here are a few recommendations to get you started, with the caveat that we have not yet had a chance to screen these films. These choices are based on conversations with Heartland organizers, the filmmakers involved and our own gut feelings as fans.
Writer-director Sarah Polley's adaptation of Miriam Toews' novel brings arguably the festival's biggest names along with it: producer Frances McDormand, who also co-stars in the film; executive producer Brad Pitt; stars Claire Foy and Rooney Mara.
It follows a group of women who meet to discuss a series of sexual assaults in their isolated Mennonite colony.
"Women Talking" debuted in September and has collected an 87% score through review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. It will make its Indiana debut at Heartland.
When to see it: "Women Talking" will debut in Theater 2 of the Kan-Kan Cinema at 7:15 p.m. Oct. 13.
Look, there is considerable worldwide interest in what Harry Styles ate for breakfast yesterday, let alone anything remotely to do with his music and film exploits. Putting that aside, "My Policeman" looks like it could stand on its own merits.
Based on Bethan Roberts' novel, it centers around the 1950s love affair of Tom (Styles) and Patrick (David Dawson) — considerably complicated by laws against homosexuality and Tom's marriage to Marion (Emma Corrin). The trio meets 40 years later to discuss their intertwining lives.
When to see it: "My Policeman" will show at The Toby Theater in Newfields at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 13.
'Good Night Oppy'
If crying over a robot tens of millions of miles away sounds like your idea of a good time, then "Good Night Oppy" may be for you.
The Amazon Studios-led documentary tells the story of Opportunity, a rover sent to Mars for a 90-minute mission who ended up living an additional 15 years. The family-friendly film is making its Indiana debut.
When to see it: "Good Night Oppy" will screen in Theater 1 of Living Room Theaters at 4:45 p.m. Oct. 16.
This one comes highly recommended from Heartland organizers. Creative director Greg Sorvig praised the film's young lead actors at the festival's launch event last month.
The French-language film follows the evolving relationship of 13-year-old boys Remi and Leo. It has already won the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, and it will be Belgium's entry for best international feature film at the upcoming Academy Awards.
When to see it: "Close" will show in Theater 2 of the Kan-Kan Cinema at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday.
Mamie Till Mobley's quest for justice after the lynching of her 14-year-old son, Emmett, in Mississippi is chronicled in this biopic, based of course on real events. The boy's 1955 murder was a catalyst for the American Civil Rights Movement.
Whoopi Goldberg produced and co-stars in the film, but it's the performance of star Danielle Deadwyler you'll want to keep an eye on. Variety and others have her pegged as an early Oscar contender.
When to see it: "Till" will screen in Landmark Glendale Theater 10 at 7:30 p.m. Monday.
'Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets'
Another adaptation of a novel lands on our list with "Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets," from the book of the same name by Evan Roskos.
The film follows a 16-year-old's search for his lost sister as he simultaneously finds love and attempts to overcome an anxiety disorder, all with the help of an imaginary pigeon therapist (voiced by Tom Wilkinson). It's your typical YA/coming-of-age/mystery/quirky dramedy with a talking bird. You know. The usual.
'The Lost King'
In keeping with the surrealism, "The Lost King" tracks a history buff's quest to find the undiscovered remains of King Richard III of England. It is loosely based on the actual discovery of the monarch's body in 2012, more than 500 years after his death.
Oscar nominee Sally Hawkins stars, with co-star and screenwriter Steve Coogan. King Richard III, played by Harry Lloyd, appears throughout the film as the characters search for him.
When to see it: "The Lost King" will show at 7 p.m. Wednesday at The Toby Theater in Newfields.
'The Pez Outlaw'
The world of Pez collecting is way more high-stakes than you realized, as shown in the comedic spy-thriller documentary. Steve Glew brought dispensers from Eastern Europe to the U.S. that people weren’t able to obtain here. But that led to big problems with the man known as none other than “The Pezident,” who decided what arrived in the U.S. and what didn’t.
When to see it: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at The Historic Artcraft Theater. 3 p.m. Oct. 15 at Deboest Lecture Hall at Newfields. 2:15 p.m. Oct. 16 at Living Room Theaters.
‘State of the Unity’
A couple from South Bend — Jillian Speece and Nathaniel Hoff — are at the heart of this documentary that chronicles their 50-state tour in a station wagon that already had 264,000 miles. Sensing the country’s division, the duo, who comprise the band The Bergamot, performed concerts and asked people to sign their car with messages of unity and empathy. The documentary shows the journey, with its setbacks and triumphs.
When to see it: Showings are scheduled for 7:15 p.m. Friday at The Toby Theater at Newfields and 1 p.m. Sunday at Living Room Theaters. Online streaming available via heartlandfilm.org through Oct. 16.
Wild and fun high school student Lola is known for throwing an annual birthday camping party with a scavenger hunt. After her untimely death, her best friends discover she has already hidden their gifts for that year’s trip. But the discovery leads to secrets they never knew about her. Their grief-filled journey to healing includes grappling with mental health and substance abuse. Executive producer Laura Palmer is from Carmel, and the film is inspired in part by the death of Director Jeffrey Crane Graham’s teenage best friend.
When to see it: Showings at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Glendale Landmark Theater 10 and 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Deboest Lecture Hall at Newfields. Online streaming available via heartlandfilm.org through Oct. 16.
Academy Award nominee David Strathairn — known for his work in “Nomadland,” “Good Night, and Good Luck,” and “Lincoln” — stars in this stunning solo performance. In doing so, he introduces more people to Jan Karski, who survived the Blitzkrieg, risked his life for the Polish Underground and became among the first to speak the truth of the Nazis’ devastation to the Western allies.
When to see it: You can catch it at 7:45 p.m. Friday at Glendale Landmark Theater 12 and 7:15 p.m. Oct. 16 at Living Room Theaters. Online streaming available via heartlandfilm.org through Oct. 16.
'The Wind and the Reckoning'
In the 19th-century Hawaiian Kingdom, a man stands against a foreign invasion as the people deal with an outbreak of leprosy that forces some to live on a remote island. When Ko’olau and his son Kalei contract the disease, they refuse to be permanently separated from their family. It's based on a real-life story told by his wife Pi’ilani.
When to see it: Showings are at 4:45 p.m. Saturday at Living Room Theaters and 5 p.m. Sunday at Glendale Landmark Theater 10. Online streaming available via heartlandfilm.org through Oct. 16.
In Kenya’s Maasai homeland, 12 women became East Africa's first all-female anti-poaching unit. Instead of using military-style training, Virginia, Liz, Momina and Damaris spend a year releasing trauma and finding healing that changes them and their communities.
When to see it: See it at 6:15 p.m. Friday at Living Room Theaters and 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Glendale Landmark Theater 12. Online streaming available via heartlandfilm.org through Oct. 16.
'Pinball: The Man Who Saved the Game'
The movie is based on the story of writer Roger Sharpe, whose pinball expertise and superb hand-eye coordination helped lift New York City's ban on the game in the 1970s. Add in a love story, and you've got more to add to the historical angle.
When to see it: Showings are scheduled for 7:45 p.m. Tuesday at Living Room Theaters, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at The Historic Artcraft Theater and 2:45 p.m. Oct. 15 at Glendale Landmark Theater 10. Online streaming available via heartlandfilm.org through Oct. 16.
Oscar-nominated documentarian Matthew Heineman’s (“Cartel Land”) latest film looks at the final nine months of the United States’ 20-year war in Afghanistan.
It offers the on-the-ground perspectives of a U.S. special forces unit, an Afghan general and his soldiers and Afghan civilians attempting to flee the country as it succumbs to Taliban rule.
When to see it: “Retrograde” will show at 5:45 p.m. in Theater 1 of the Living Room Theaters.
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Rory Appleton is the pop culture reporter at IndyStar. Contact him at 317-552-9044 and email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter at @RoryDoesPhonics.
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: 15 film recommendations for Indy's Heartland Film Festival