INDIANAPOLIS — As is usually the case, some of the films appearing at the Heartland International Film Festival have an excellent chance to hear their names called on the stage of the Oscars next year. But this year's festival is heavy, perhaps more than usual, on Hoosiers and Hoosier connections on the big screen.
The ten-day festival runs October 6-16, with more than 115 independent films being shown in the event's 31st year. "We actually decided to cut back this year, because we're going to do more screenings of each film," said Jessica Chapman, marketing director for the Heartland festival. "We got more than 1,000 submissions, so we've really narrowed it down to the best of the best.
"We have 20 award contending films. These are more of the bigger studio-type films, and we get preview looks before anyone else gets a chance to see them," Chapman said. "We have "My Policeman" with Harry Styles, we have "Empire of Light" with Olivia Colman and we have two films with Sadie Sink, because we know we have a lot of "Stranger Things" fans out there."
The very first feature on opening night tells an updated story of the man who became the foundation of music in the U.S. as we know it — and how a tiny recording studio in Indiana helped make him a star.
"Louis Armstrong's Black and Blues" from director Sacha Jenkins and Apple TV relies on home recordings that Armstrong made on reel-to-reel tapes through the latter part of his life and career. The recordings had only previously been heard by archivists and authors, and they give new insight into Armstrong's thoughts about jazz, other music, civil rights and life in general.
Armstrong was still a side man — though a prominent one — in the band of King Oliver when he recorded a cornet solo in the song "Chimes Blues" at Gennett Records in Richmond, Indiana. The recording on April 6, 1923 made Louis a star in his own right, propelling him to success that no other Black performer had experienced at that time.
The Heartland Festival's closing night features another Hoosier in a critically acclaimed role that's something of a comeback for him after being out of the spotlight for years. But you'll have to wait a bit to see Brendan Fraser's "The Whale", as the Heartland showing of the film has already sold out.
The Heartland International Film Festival will have screenings of movies at five theaters across Central Indiana, plus virtual screenings you can buy to watch at home. Watch our full interview with the festival's Jessica Chapman in the link above, and click here to find out more about how to get tickets.