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The Independent Critic

 2012 Heartland Film Festival: A-Z Reviews, Vol. 17 
The Last Race (28 Mins., Narrative Short)

Starring: Brandon Burke, Johnny Emery and Holly Fraser; Directed by: Jeremy Cumpston; Written by: Peter Schreck; OFFICIAL WEBSITE

An involving if somewhat histrionic short film that packs a strong emotional wallop in its 28-minute running time, The Last Race centers around a dreaded moment that randomly occurs in the lives of many families as this family, in particular, is faced with a difficult choice and absolutely not knowing the wishes of their loved one.

Directed by Jeremy Cumpston, The Last Race has proven to be quite popular on the film festival circuit including its current run at the 2012 Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis. Prizes have included an Award of Merit in the Accolade Competition, Best of Fest at the Breckinridge Festival of Film, 2nd Place at the International Family Film Festival and several other nominations along the way.

The Last Race was one of the more thought-provoking selections in Heartland's "Sports Shorts" collection, and the film does an excellent job of both creating a compelling story and fostering discussion on a very important issue.

Little Kyota Neon Hood (20 Mins., Narrative Feature)

Starring: Misa Shimizu, Andy Dow and Kaede Tsuchiya; Written and Directed by: Satsuki Okawa;

Little Kyota Neon Hood was a film that seemed to work for me on a far grander scale than it did for most of my peers who joined in the Heartland Film Festival experience this year. From beginning to end, I found myself completely enthralled by the story of Kyota (Kaede Tsuchiya), a young Japanese boy who finds comfort in a neon hood from daily life in his post-disaster country. He also finds considerable comfort in a foreigner (Andy Dow) who returns to the town that he once fled.

Weaving together heartfelt humor and authentic healing, Little Kyota Neon Hood is a funny and touching and honest film about hope beyond the pain even when there's a wide cultural chasm. The film is beautifully photographed by Shiro Chiba, and young Kaede Tsuchiya is a bundle of innocence and wonder.

Little Kyota Neon Hood was easily one of my favorite short film experiences from the 2012 Heartland Film Festival.

Look Up (5 Mins., High School Film Competition)

Directed by: Jake Oleson and Amanda Prager

Another endearing entry from the High School Film Competition as part of the 2012 Heartland Film Festival, Jake Oleson and Amanda Prager's five-minute short film Look Up is the story of a five-year-old boy who has a fascination with flying that won't seem to be extinguished.

Told simply yet affectionately, Look Up does a nice job of taking a slice of that child-like wonder and imagination and breathing life into it in such a way that both adults and children will enjoy this jewel of a film.

The Lower 9: A Story of Home (21 Mins., Doc Short)

Featuring: Stanley Stewart, Mack McClendon and Sandos McGee; Directed by: Matthew Hashiguchi, Elaine McMillion; OFFICIAL WEBSITE

The Lower 9: A Story of Home is a powerful 21-minute documentary short about four residents attempting to re-establish home following the decimation of the 9th Ward in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. Over 10,000 were displaced following Katrina, and co-directors Matthew Hashiguchi and Elaine McMillion do a marvelous job of allowing the camera to rest on four of these people who are attempting to renew their lives in "the Lower 9."

Rather than contribute unnecessary histrionics, Hashiguchi and McMillion wisely step back and allow the people to tell their own stories. It's an assured approach within a film that is both deeply moving and quite self-assured. That said, the film is also surprisingly devoid of that "tragic" feeling that has so frequently accompanied Katrina-themed films. The Lower 9: A Story of Home is more warm and nostalgic in capturing the spirit of these true survivors, a testament to their stories and to the willingness of these filmmakers to let go and allow this film to evolve as it should.