Heartland Film Festival returns for its 30th year


For three decades, the Heartland Film Festival has shared international hits and local independent films. For his 30e year – last year confined to virtual screenings and a few socially distanced screenings at Tibbs Drive-In – the festival returns to select theaters for 11 days from October 7 to 17.

Artistic director Greg Sorvig said the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 racial justice uprisings have had an impact on this year’s festival lineup. Programming includes CJ Hunt’s documentary “The Neutral Ground,” which explores the removal of Confederate monuments across the country, a movement intensified in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. “Ferguson Rises,” a documentary exploring the town of Ferguson, Missouri, six years after Michael Brown’s death at the hands of a police officer, will also screen at the festival. The documentary premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year.

Sorvig said he can’t wait to watch “Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America” with others in Living Room Theaters. The film explores the history of racism in the country and how discussions surrounding race have changed over time.

“I am excited to see the reaction from the crowd,” Sorvig said. “And I think the film will also provide opportunities for dialogue afterwards.”

One film that is sure to have an impact at the festival is Tarabu Kirkland’s “100 Years from Mississippi”. Detailing the life of his mother, Mamie Kirkland, the film tells the horrific American story of lynching and racial violence and the grace of forgiveness.

For a full list of Heartland Film Festival films and to purchase tickets, click here.

“She went through very harsh realities when she was young, all before the age of 16,” Kirkland said of her mother, who died in 2020 at the age of 111. “It could have made a lot of people very bitter and harsh, but she didn’t have an ounce of hate in her body.

Mamie Kirkland was only 7 years old when she and her family, along with family friend John Hartfield, fled a lynching mob in her hometown of Ellisville, Mississippi, in 1915. When Hartfield returned to the town in 1919, he was publicly lynched, his body riddled with bullets before being burned. This tragedy – along with surviving the 1917 Illinois race riots and threats against her Ku Klux Klan family after moving to Ohio – left Grandma traumatized. For years, she told her children that she would never go back to Mississippi; she didn’t even want to see it on a map. However, not wanting her son to travel to the state alone, she accompanied him to film in 2015. Through “100 Years from Mississippi,” which will debut at Heartland on the big screen on October 15 at the Kan Cinema. Kan, Kirkland hopes the public is inspired to continue the fight for racial justice.

“[Mamie] was so compassionate, and that is part of the spiritual work that is asked of all of us, ”Kirkland said. “To transcend to see humanity in all situations, I think that’s the lesson. … Her story and her faith give you hope that there is an opportunity for people to change, but there are so many other things that have happened that make you wonder how much the needles have really changed. . But the only way to look at it is for us to be hopeful, she’s been absolutely optimistic, and I think it’s something to continue.

During in-person screenings, the public is required to wear their mask unless they are eating or drinking. With precautions in place, Sorvig said the 30e Heartland Film Festival offers the public the opportunity to reunite after an 18-month interval.

“Movies, especially those with an element of social impact, are so much more impactful and inspiring with an audience,” Sorvig said. “We were meant to experience the arts – music and film – together. I don’t think anything else can bring people from such different backgrounds together and experience something profound together. … We’re really excited to be back in theaters to show off this great list of films.

Contact editor Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.


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