Heartland Film Festival 2015: Shorts Program 11 – This, That, and the Other

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This review is part of my coverage of 2015’s Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis. Click here for more of my coverage of the festival. You can find my coverage of other Indianapolis area film and TV events here.

Unlike the Sci-Fi and Art Appreciation shorts, This, That, and the Other didn’t have a clearly defined theme. As such this block of short films included 7 varied and unique films. Read my thoughts on each of the short films below.

Dakota (2015)
Narrative Short/USA
Director: Greg Kwedar
Writers: Clint Bentley, Greg Kwedar
Cast: Dustin Doering, Cesar Lopez

“During a routine investigation of an abandoned truck, a border patrol agent uncovers something that will cause him to question the very nature of his job.”

Dakota shows us a small part of a border patrol agent’s day and a chance run-in with an abandoned truck. Director Greg Kwedar does a wonderful job depicting how vastly isolated the main character is while on his patrol. This make the tension in his investigation of the Dakota more effective and the brief comic elements that undercut it land very well as a result.

This short film was conceived as a feature and as such the finished product feels a little unsatisfied. We’re introduced to a character, the story unfolds and then it ends. But Dakota leaves with a sense that there’s far more to the story. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it left me wanting a little more out of it.

Obsessive Grade – 6.5/10

Growing Home (2014)
Documentary Short/Jordan, USA
Director: Faisal Attrache
Writers: Faisal Attrache, Heidi Hathaway
Featured Subject: Samer Al Sees

“Samer, a displaced Syrian barber, has taken refuge along with his young family in the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan. His daily distractions cannot diminish his desire to return home.”

Growing Home shows the sad reality of Syrian refugees in Jordan. They live as best they can in less than ideal conditions and wish to go back to Syria. It’s heartbreaking hearing Samer talk about his homesickness. Seeing the community that’s formed in the camp is fascinating but the feeling that these people should be home never leaves.

Obsessive Grade – 7.5/10

The Nature of War (2014)
Documentary Short/USA
Director: The Rauch Brothers

“Army National Guard Specialist Justin Cliburn remembers the unlikely friendship he formed with two Iraqi boys he met while deployed in Iraq.”

Justin Cliburn’s voiceover reciting the story of his friendship with two young Iraqi boys is filled with emotion in this brief, 3-minute animated short film. The animation is charming and does well to demonstrate the language barrier between the characters. The story is touching and poignant.

Obsessive Grade – 7.0/10

Upendo (2015)
Narrative Short/USA
Director: Jeremy Ian Thomas
Writer: Jeremy Ian Thomas
Cast: Shannon M. Brown, Dionne Gipson, Gary McDonald

“A film about family, love and hope. Is love forever? This is the question Ishmael, a 10-year-old boy, asks his father.”

Through intercutting flashbacks with present day, Upendo tells a heartwarming and very personal story about a father teaching his son about love. It’s beautifully made with sequences that have a flair of fantasy to them.

Obsessive Grade – 7.5/10

Not a Stranger (2015)
Documentary Short/Canada
Director: Kate Green
Writer: Kate Green
Featured Subject: Colin Easton

“One man’s pursuit of real world human connection for 365 days, while asking the question: ‘Can talking to strangers actually make you happy?'”

Colin Easton’s “Stranger Project” is a sweet documentary about the man’s challenge to himself to speak to a new stranger every day for an entire year. The documentary goes into Easton’s battle with depression and becomes an uplifting story about his resolution not to succumb to it.

Obsessive Grade – 7.5/10

Born With It (2014)
Narrative Short/Japan
Director: Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour, Jr.
Writer: Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour, Jr.
Cast: Dadie T, Aoba Kawai, Koudai Izumiya, Ryota Shinoda, Masakazu Saiga, Kyoko Yanagihara

“In a Japanese town, a biracial boy tries to prove to his class that his dark skin is not a disease.”

Born With It takes the ignorance and prejudice of racism and transplants it into a story about the naiveté of children. The result is an eerily charming story about a biracial kid who thinks he may have AIDS because his Japanese classmates can’t comprehend why his skin is dark.

Obsessive Grade – 6.5/10

Open Your Eyes (2015)
Documentary Short/USA
Director: Irene Taylor Brodsky
Writer: Irene Taylor Brodsky
Featured Subjects: Durga Singh Gaha, Manisara Gaha, Gauri Gaha, Jhimisara Gaha

“Manisara and Durga have cataracts, and their Napali mountain home is now full of darkness.”

Open Your Eyes introduces audiences to the problem of cataracts in Nepal and how many people are blind from it and unable to get treatment. The film follows Manisara and Durga, an elderly couple getting treatment for their cataracts. It’s a charming documentary and the subjects are fun to watch and sweet. The emotion after the procedure is wonderfully depicted.

Obsessive Grade – 7.0/10

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Shorts Program 11
Average Score – 7.0/10

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