"Simón" and "We Dare To Dream" win $20,000 Grand Prizes. Matthew Modine honored with Pioneering Spirit Award.
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(October 14, 2023) INDIANAPOLIS - The 32nd Heartland International Film Festival (HIFF) announced the 2023 award winners and presented more than $60,000 in cash prizes to recipients at the Awards Presentation at The Jazz Kitchen on Saturday, October 14. The 11-day festival continues on Sunday, October 15, with in-person and virtual screenings. Encore screenings of the Grand Prize for Narrative Feature and Grand Prize for Documentary Feature will be held at Living Room Theaters. HIFF's Closing Night presented by The Klapper Family Foundation will showcase "The Holdovers" from Focus Features to a sold-out crowd at The Toby Theater at Newfields.
Major cash prizes were awarded to “Simón” from Director Diego Vicentini ($20,000 Narrative Feature Grand Prize), “We Dare to Dream” from Waad al-Kateab ($20,000 Documentary Feature Grand Prize), and “Hard Miles” from Director RJ Daniel Hanna ($5,000 Jimmy Stewart Legacy Award). In partnership with the Stewart Family, HIFF is the only festival in the world to have an award in honor of beloved actor Jimmy Stewart with a cash prize underwritten by the Stewart Family. The Jimmy Stewart Legacy Award and $5,000 cash prize is awarded to one film in the HIFF lineup that best demonstrates the triumph of the human spirit through determination and the defiance of odds, humble vulnerability, and courage in the face of adversity.
"Congratulations to all of the 2023 Heartland International Film Festival award-winning filmmakers," said Artistic Director Greg Sorvig. "Your films have captured the attention and admiration of our jury, and it has been an honor to showcase your work."
Matthew Modine attended the Awards Celebration to accept the Pioneering Spirit Award. He has two films at the Heartland International Film Festival. He is the Executive Producer of the documentary "Downwind" and he stars in "Hard Miles."
The 2023 Heartland International Film Festival's theme promised attendees "You can't look away" from the 120 independent films including 19 World/U.S. Premieres, 22 Special Presentations from major distributors and 7 Indiana Spotlight films. Screenings continue through Sunday, October 15 at Newfields, Living Room Theaters, Landmark Glendale 12 and Emagine Noblesville. Select award-winning titles will also be available to stream through the end of the weekend.
Audience Choice Award Winners will be announced on Monday, October 16 in the categories of Overall, Narrative, Documentary, Special Presentation Narrative, Special Presentation Documentary, Horror and Indiana Spotlight. Voting for audience choice awards will close at 11:59 PM EDT on Sunday, October 15. The Indiana Film Journalists Association Best Special Presentation Award will also be announced at this time.
The full film lineup, schedule and tickets for the 32nd Heartland International Film Festival can be found at HeartlandFilmFestival.org.
2023 HEARTLAND INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL AWARD WINNERS
PIONEERING SPIRIT AWARD
The Pioneering Spirit Award honors individuals who embody Heartland Film's mission; those whose work has inspired conversation, ignited imagination, and shifted perspectives. The Pioneering Spirit Award honors individuals in the prime of their career. Past honorees include include Colman Domingo, Will Smith, Jessica Biel and Geoffrey Rush.
Matthew Modine is an esteemed actor, producer, and director whose expansive body of work has spanned independent short and feature films all the way to major blockbusters that have redefined popular culture, including "Full Metal Jacket," "The Dark Knight Rises," "Stranger Things" and "Oppenheimer."
PIONEERING SPIRIT: RISING STAR AWARD
The Pioneering Spirit: Rising Star Award is reserved for young and up-and-coming talent. This year's recipient, Dominic Sessa, stars opposite Paul Giamatti in Alexander Payne's "The Holdovers," and delivers a phenomenal breakthrough performance in his feature film debut.
THE SPIRIT OF HEARTLAND FILM AWARD
This award honors a person who demonstrates enthusiasm and dedication to working with or promoting Heartland Film. Heartland Film is proud to recognize Amy Pauszek as the inaugural recipient of The Spirit of Heartland Film Award.
Amy embodies the gratitudes and values outlined in the criteria for this special award. Her continuous support and promotion of Heartland Film is appreciated by all the Heartland Film Staff.
Grand Prize for Narrative Feature ($20,000 Grand Prize)
"Simón," directed by Diego Vicentini (Venezuela & USA)
Barely escaping the clutches of the oppressive Venezuelan dictatorship, freedom fighter Simón must now combat his trauma and guilt as he builds his case for asylum in order to be able to stay in the USA.
Grand Prize for Documentary Feature ($20,000 Grand Prize)
"We Dare To Dream," directed by Waad al-Kateab (United Kingdom)
As the Refugee Olympic Team prepares to compete at the Tokyo Olympics, "We Dare to Dream" chronicles their hopes and desires as they fight for a better life. Waad previously won the HIFF Documentary Feature Grand Prize and Richard D. Propes Documentary Social Impact Award for her Oscar-nominated 2019 feature "For Sama."
Jimmy Stewart Legacy Award ($5,000 Cash Prize)
"Hard Miles," directed by RJ Daniel Hanna (USA)
A strong-willed social worker (Matthew Modine) at a youth prison assembles a cycling team of teenage convicts and takes them on a transformative 1000-mile ride.
Humor & Humanity Award ($2,000 Cash Prize)
"American Fiction," directed by Cord Jefferson (USA)
"American Fiction" is Cord Jefferson's hilarious directorial debut, which confronts our culture’s obsession with reducing people to outrageous stereotypes. Jeffrey Wright stars as Monk, a frustrated novelist who’s fed up with the establishment profiting from “Black” entertainment that relies on tired and offensive tropes. To prove his point, Monk uses a pen name to write an outlandish “Black” book of his own, a book that propels him to the heart of hypocrisy and the madness he claims to disdain. Winner of the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival People's Choice Award. Special presentation of Orion Pictures.
Richard D. Propes Narrative Social Impact Award ($2,000 Cash Prize)
"Radical" directed by Christopher Zalla (Mexico)
Based on a true story, "Radical" takes place in a Mexican border town plagued by neglect, corruption, and violence, where a frustrated teacher (Eugenio Derbez) tries a radical new method to break through his students’ apathy and unlock their curiosity, their potential…and maybe even their genius. The film shines a light on the incredible opportunities children can manifest when an innovative teacher awakens their curiosity and allows them to discover the joy of learning.
Richard D. Propes Documentary Social Impact Award ($2,000 Cash Prize)
"The Space Race," directed by Lisa Cortés and Diego Hurtado de Mendoza (USA)
"The Space Race" uncovers the little-known stories of the first Black pilots, engineers and scientists that became astronauts. Special presentation of National Geographic Documentary Films.
Best Narrative Feature Premiere ($2,500 Cash Prize)
"Sight," directed by Andrew Hyatt (USA)
A world-renowned eye surgeon takes on the impossible task of saving a blind orphan's sight, only to be met with memories of his own traumatic past and realize his own strength can only take him so far. Starring Greg Kinnear.
Best Documentary Feature Premiere ($2,500 Cash Prize)
"UnBroken" directed by Beth Lane (USA)
Seventy-five years after the remarkable escape of seven Jewish siblings who evaded Nazi capture, the daughter of the youngest child embarks on an international quest to uncover answers about her family’s extraordinary survival and the outstanding bravery of the German strangers who helped them.
Horror Award ($2,000 Cash Prize)
"Et Tu," directed by Max Tzannes (USA)
A dark comedy thriller about a director driven to madness during a regional production of Julius Caesar. Starring Lou Diamond Phillips and Malcom McDowell.
Indiana Spotlight Award ($2,000 Cash Prize)
"Liminal: Indiana in the Anthropocene," directed by Zach Schrank (USA)
Liminal: Indiana in the Anthropocene is a meditative aerial film that illustrates our state as a microcosm of this new planetary epoch. Entirely filmed with drone cameras by Indiana Aerials and accompanied by an original score written by Fort Wayne composer Nate Utesch (aka Metavari), Liminal reveals a compelling and uncanny view of Indiana in all its features and forms.
About Heartland Film, Inc.
Heartland Film is a nonprofit arts organization that runs the 11-day Heartland International Film Festival in October, the Academy Award®-Qualifying Indy Shorts International Film Festival in July, the Truly Moving Picture Award and other year-round programs. Based in Indianapolis, Heartland Film was founded in 1991 with the mission to curate, promote and celebrate thoughtful and engaging films from diverse perspectives. Over the years, Heartland Film has presented $3.5 million in cash prizes – the largest total amount awarded by any film festival in North America – presented 200+ studio films with the Truly Moving Picture Award, and showcased more than 2,000 feature and short films, including 10 Oscar®-winning short film titles. The 32nd Heartland International Film Festival is scheduled for October 5-15, 2023, and the 6th Indy Shorts International Film Festival was held July 18-23, 2023. For more information, visit HeartlandFilm.org.