- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 23, 2001

INDIANAPOLIS — For Jeffrey Sparks, the right movie can make the world a better place.

Ten years ago, he helped start the Heartland Film Festival to honor films that uplift - films he thought the children he worked with as director of a home for delinquent teen-agers needed to see.

The "Heartland Film" can be dark or lighthearted, but must be truthful in its portrayal of the human journey, Mr. Sparks said. This year's festival includes about two dozen films over nine days, concluding Saturday.

"These kinds of films are particularly relevant given the state of the world that we're living in at the moment," said filmmaker Scott Bindley, whose film "Madison" is part of the festival.

"Madison" is Bill and Scott Bindley's true Indiana story of Jim McCormick's 1971 Gold Cup hydroplane victory in his boat Miss Madison. The movie opened at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival.

Angelo Pizzo, an Indiana University graduate who produced and wrote "Hoosiers" and "Rudy," has been on the festival's advisory board since the beginning.

He met Sparks in 1993 while filming "Rudy" on the campus of Notre Dame. A year later, Mr. Pizzo won the festival's Crystal Heart award for the movie, which starred Sean Astin as a boy who overcame poor grades and limited athletic ability to play football for the Fighting Irish.

"It was about a pat on the back and a nice little trophy," Mr. Pizzo said. "But it was something substantial to encourage people who are making the kinds of films that Heartland is interested in to keep going."

Sparks said interest keeps growing, and the festival this year has "more volunteers and more sponsors and more contributors and more members" than ever.

Heartland is one of the few festivals to give cash prizes, awarding $100,000 in Crystal Heart Awards to this year's top 17 films.

"The War Bride," a drama about a plucky young World War II bride, directed by Lyndon Chubbuck, won the $50,000 prize for best dramatic feature during the Crystal Heart Awards Gala on Saturday.

In honor of the 10th anniversary, 10 critics, including Charles Champlin, formerly of the Los Angeles Times, selected the 10 most "Truly Moving Pictures." The films, being shown at the festival, are "The Best Years of Our Lives" "Chariots of Fire," "Glory," "The Grapes of Wrath" "Hoosiers," "It's a Wonderful Life," "Schindler's List," "The Shawshank Redemption" "Tender Mercies" and "To Kill a Mockingbird."


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