For those like me who do not have much knowledge of film, it may come as a surprise that Indianapolis hosts the largest short film festival in the midwest. The Indy Shorts Film Festival began last year as a facet of Heartland Film, an Indianapolis based nonprofit whose goal is to, “inspire filmmakers and audiences through the transformative power of film.” It is a highly anticipated and respected event that is an Academy Awards qualifier with 19 past finalists going on to receive nominations and five winning the award.
I had the opportunity to attend part of the festival this year to see just a few of the films that were featured. I arrived at Newfields that Friday for the last showing of the evening and quietly got in line behind excited film enthusiasts as they filtered into The Toby Theater.
The selection I had opted to see was called “Wanderlust,” and it was a collection of submitted short films that had a common thread of adventure and exploration of the unknown. I saw everything from a documentary of the life of a couple who lives in an Airstream (The New Homesmiths: We Live in an Airstream) to an animated short where a trucker compares life on the road to the lonely existence of a whale (The Phantom 52). From start to finish, all seven of the films fascinated and inspired me in different ways.
I came into the experience with only a casual interest in film and an appreciation for the basic elements of it, so I felt that much of what I saw would be lost on me. But in film, like any other art form, it is most important that the work can make a connection with its audience, playing on universal experiences that others can relate to. I may not know much about camera angles, animation, or crafting a plot, but the human element of storytelling is impossible to miss. One film titled El Astronauta, a story about a man whose father has delusions about going to the moon to be reunited with his late wife, especially seemed to strike a chord with the audience. In the Q+A following the screening, the filmmaker representing El Astronauta received the bulk of the audience’s questions. Some had parents suffering from Alzheimer’s who recognized the main character’s grief and frustration. Others were able to relate to the father and the generational differences that are straining his relationship with his son. Indy Shorts tries to get as many filmmakers as possible to attend the event in person and participate in panels and Q+A sessions, and after being present for it I can see why. It is in those interactions where those real connections can happen.
When I exited the theater I handed the attendant my ballot on which I had scored each of the films according to what I believed they deserved, and although I felt utterly unqualified to do so, it was so exciting to be a welcome participant in this world where I was so new. Anyone can attend the event with the purchase of a pass or a ticket, so you would like to be part of this experience next year, keep your eye out for tickets and schedules on the Heartland Film website, where you can also see more about this year’s event.