Indy Shorts: Indiana Spotlight
Reviews of short films appearing in the Indiana Spotlight programs of the Indy Shorts International Film Festival presented by Heartland.
The Indy Shorts International Film Festival runs July 20-25. Click here for more info!
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Victor Elaine (say it out loud) is a local racing legend preparing for a demolition derby against his greatest rival. He’s a braggart but also talks in dulcet tones about the importance of being nice. Turns out his enemy is his own doppelganger — a black-garbed alter ego as nasty as his white-helmet counterpart is feel-good. “You’ve gotta stand up for your right to feel bad and sad. Jim Morrison said that… he sucked,” says the “bad” Victor. Writer/directors Mark Richard Miller and Dave Franzese tickle the funnybone with SNL-style gags but also craft a sneaky subtext about the downsides of competitiveness and chasing that next win. As the subtitle says, “It’s Not a Race.” Beautifully shot in crisp colors with racing action at the New Paris Speedway.
A City of Stories
Just four minutes long, this inspiring short documentary contemplates the perspective of the statue that stands atop Monument Circle at the center of Indianapolis, calling herself Victory and looking out over the city with a sense of awe and purpose. Roving sky shots takes us elsewhere across Indy, from the MLK/RFK monument to stores boarded up during COVID. Our narrator, Hope, continues a dialogue with Victory that will stir the pride in the heart of even the most cold-cockled Hoosier. Written by James Still and directed by Tim Taylor.
Most Hoosiers know the tale of the Cutters, the fictional cycling team from the 1979 film “Breaking Away” that competed in the Indiana University Little 500 race. But that bit of cinematic magic begat a real team, the Cutters Cycling Team, made up of IU students who give their all to train for grueling bicycle race. Why do they do it? This doc looks at the current team members and reveals a bond of brotherhood that goes far beyond any sense of sport. Plenty of race footage, but it’s the human story that hooks us.
Trouble at Lake Monroe
The incident seemed like just a footnote in the ongoing wave of racist incidents across the U.S. in recent times. A Black man, Vauhxx Booker, is accosted on the Fourth of July by a white group at an Indiana state forest, with cell phone footage casting a troubling portrait of Hoosiers. At one point he was held against a tree and threatened with hanging — the dark legacy of lynching made manifest. This startling documentary from Don Sawyer looks at the encounter with the benefit of a little time and perspective, and finds new details both illuminating and heartbreaking. For example, Booker had just completed conflict resolution training and thought he was equipped to talk down a group chanting white power slogans. No arrests were initially made, a breakdown of both jurisdictional power and our willingness to listen. You will quake with rage after watching.
Beauty standards are a touchy subject, now more than ever in a day where we post and share own images all over digital creation. But many of the issues facing Black women remain much the same. Here’s a fascinating short documentary from director Nifemi Adejumobo featuring three African-American women talking about their journeys of navigating a world that prefers females not look like them. They range from a grandmother, Juanita Taylor, to younger women like Zina Teague and Mariah Murray. How refreshing to hear them speak in an unguarded way about how they were made to feel about the tone of their skin or the size of their bodies. Mike Thigpen of Anderson University also ways in with some insight on colorism, and the way Black culture has been taught to judge itself in a world where white skin is the preferred, accepted standard for what is beautiful.
More Than Corn
Beautifully shot by director Rocky Walls and his crew, “More Than Corn” lives up to exactly its known, providing an eye-level look at small independent farming in Indiana that goes far beyond just the crop for which everyone knows the Hoosier state. Our spirit-guide is Genesis McKiernan-Allen, who runs the Full Hand Farm in Noblesville, providing not just a tour of their greenhouse operation but an intimate look at what it’s like to carefully choose crops, plant for four seasons in a state that endures both bitter cold and scorching heat in the course of a given year. Even if you’re not a veggie-lover, it’s hard not to salivate at the gleaming rows of radishes, turnips, greens, and a wide variety of other planted goodies. We also get a pick at the business side of framing, how Full Hand’s revenue was split evenly between farmer’s markets and restaurants until they had to adapt during pandemic. Probably could have used a little tighter editing, but a (literally) fresh take on an age-old vocation.
The Rope Warrior
David Fisher, who lives in Westfield, Ind., had his 15 minutes of fame in the 1990s as a minor celebrity who literally made his living from jump rope. He was on the talk shows and even performed for presidents. Now, 25 years later, he’s older and injuries — including a hip that was replaced — are mounting up, threatening his ability to perform. His wife, Renee, says she hates what he does. Should he hang up his rope and retire? David jokes about finding a way to keep doing his tricks from a wheelchair, but the end of his livelihood is out there as he goes around to school assemblies doing his act. This documentary might seem a little goofy at first — a spotlight on the guy who holds the world record for jumping rope with your butt, or “tush ups” as he calls them. But it finds surprising weight and emotionality looking at a guy who became the best there is at something most people consider trivial. A pleasant and unexpected journey.
David DelaGardelle was a freshman at Ball State University who had been tinkering around with making swords and armor with a childhood friend when he got the call from Marvel to make Heimdall’s sword Hofund, The Gatekeeper, for the first “Thor” film. What’s a young man to do? Drop out of college and embark on a career in blacksmithing, of course! Now as single dad living in Anderson, Ind., DelaGardelle talks about what it’s like to run a business that involves crafting ancient objects that are both beautiful and deadly. Now he’s dedicated himself to passing on his knowledge to others through art schools, a local ironworks and online videos. The story of a man who’s living the dream of every geek kid. Directed by Drew Dayton.