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The Independent Critic

 2012 Heartland Film Festival: A-Z Reviews, Vol. 12 
The Girl Next Door (25 Mins., Doc Short)

Directed by: Andrea Picco

One of the more emotionally devastating of the Heartland Film Festival's 2012 shorts, this 25-minute documentary short film from Andrea Picco chronicles the life of a 15-year-old Michigan girl who spent two years as a sex slave. While Picco keeps it fairly straightforward here, to do so is appropriate as this young woman's story is devastating and her testimony powerful enough. Concerned about what could happen to her younger brothers, she stayed silent for two years and endured mind-boggling sexual abuse, imprisonment and much more.

The Glowing Hours (22 Mins., Narrative Short)

Starring: Maya Beresford, Virgie Gilchrist and Michelle Augustin; Written and Directed by: Paul Young; OFFICIAL WEBSITE; OFFICIAL FACEBOOK

The Glowing Hours is a delightful 22-minute short film about a young girl named Olivia (Maya Beresford) who travels through the memories of her past searching for the love of her mother. The film brought to mind the magnificent French film Ponette. While I'm not quite ready to compare Beresford's performance to that of four-year-old Victoire Thivisol, I'm quite prepared to say that she's absolutely sublime in this sweet and magical film about friendship, healing and transcendence. Writer/director Paul Young has created an unforgettable gem here, a film that he created at the mere age of 21-years-old.

Beresford may look familiar to fans of the band Coldplay. She appeared in their recent video for the song "Paradise" and has also done commercial work. If this short film is evidence of her talent, Hollywood should come knocking in the very near future. Lloyd Quinton also leaves a strong impact as Spook, while Virgie Gilchrist also does a tremendous job in the generally strong ensemble cast.

D.P. Sam Care, who was chosen by BAFTA as one of 42 "Brits to Watch" in 2011, does a tremendous job with the lensing in creating a film that feels both intimate and universal.

Good Karma $1 (14 Mins., Doc Short)

Directed by: Jason Berger, Amy Laslett

Had I not been so incredibly aware of Sharon Wright's Change for a Dollar, then there's a pretty good chance that I'd have reacted more favorably to this 14-minute documentary short directed by Jason Berger and Amy Laslett. The film certainly doesn't follow the exact arc of Wright's film, a narrative short, but thematically they are so similar that I couldn't help but reflect on my preference for Wright's film.

That said, Good Karma $1 is an intriguing look into need, generosity and the people we so often see holding these sorts of signs used by the homeless in seeking generosity. The film is an insightful yet sympathetic portrayal that would likely work well as a feature-length documentary. In this format, however, the film feels like more of a novelty and an unfinished product.