Heartland Film Festival Announces 2017 Winners

2017 Heartland Film Festival

This year the Heartland Film Festival hosted more film titles and filmmakers than ever before and it is an honor to recognize these films as the best of the best.

Tonight the 26th annual Heartland Film Festival (Oct. 12-22, 2016) announced its slate of international cash prizes winners – including Grand Prizes, Best Premieres, Indiana Spotlight, and High School Film Competition winners – at its GLOW: Awards Party at the Hi-Fi in Fountain Square. Awarding more than $100,000 in cash prizes for 2017, the Festival has bestowed more than $3.1 million to independent filmmakers since 1992 – the largest total amount awarded by any film festival in the United States. The event was presented by the David and Betty Klapper Family Foundation.

“Congratulations to our international prize winners who came from around the world to share their powerful stories in Indianapolis,” said Heartland Film President Craig Prater. “Feature winners ‘Liyana’ and ‘Red Dog: True Blue’ hail from Swaziland and Australia as short film winners ‘The Cage’, ‘Edges’, and ‘The Wishing Jar’ represent the U.S. and Canada. This year the Heartland Film Festival hosted more film titles and filmmakers than ever before and it is an honor to recognize these films as the best of the best.”

The Heartland Film Festival has earned the special designation of being a qualifying festival for the Annual Academy Awards® within the Short Films category. This means that the winner of the Grand Prize for Best Narrative Short Film (“The Cage,” directed by Ricky Staub) will qualify for consideration in the Live Action Short Subject category of the Annual Academy Awards® without the standard theatrical run, provided the film otherwise complies with the Academy rules.

The 2017 Heartland Film Festival winners include:

$25,000 Grand Prize for Best Narrative Feature

  • “Red Dog: True Blue,” directed by Kriv Stenders (Australia)

$25,000 Grand Prize for Best Documentary Feature

  • “Liyana,” directed by Aaron and Amanda Kopp (Swaziland, USA, Qatar)

$5,000 Grand Prize for Best Narrative Short

Underwritten by Heartland Film Endowment’s Sparks Vision Award

  • “The Cage,” directed by Ricky Staub (USA)

$5,000 Grand Prize for Best Documentary Short

Underwritten by Heartland Film Endowment’s Sparks Vision Award

  • “Edges,” directed by Katie Stjernholm and Jonathan Hiller (USA)

$5,000 Grand Prize for Best Animated Short

  • “The Wishing Jar,” directed by Denver Jackson (Canada)

$3,500 Best Premiere for Narrative Feature

  • “The Drawer Boy,” directed by Arturo Pérez Torres (Canada, Mexico)

$3,500 Best Premiere for Documentary Feature

  • “Defining Hope,” directed by Carolyn Jones (USA)

$5,000 Indiana Spotlight Winner

  • “Little Warriors,” directed by Sam Miro (USA)

$2,000 Summer White Lynch Memorial Award – High School Film Competition Grand Prize

Underwritten by Gary D. & Marlene Cohen

  • “Two of Five Million,” directed by Socs and DZ Zavitsanos (Greece, USA)

$5,000 Jimmy Stewart Legacy Award Winner

  • “Little Pink House,” directed by Courtney Moorehead Balaker (USA)


The Jimmy Stewart Legacy Award honors a single film, selected from the Festival’s feature-length narrative and documentary titles. This film embodies the ongoing legacy of actor and national hero Jimmy Stewart and demonstrates the triumph of the human spirit through determination and the defiance of odds, humble vulnerability, and courage in the face of adversity. Made possible by a partnership with The Stewart Family.

Encore performances of feature-length finalists will screen Sunday, Oct. 22, exclusively at AMC Castleton Square 14, followed by Closing Night film “Laddie: The Man Behind the Movies,” directed by Amanda Ladd-Jones. Audience Choice Awards will also be announced at the event.

Submissions for the 27th annual Heartland Film Festival (Oct. 11-22, 2018) will open in January.

About Heartland Film, Inc.

Heartland Film is a nonprofit arts organization founded in 1991 with the mission to inspire filmmakers and audiences through the transformative power of film. Heartland Film is a curator and supporter of purposeful filmmaking, honoring a wide variety of cinema and awarding storytellers from all over the world. The films Heartland Film selects and exhibits – whether they inspire and uplift, educate and inform, or have the ability to shift audiences’ perspectives on the world – all have one thing in common: they are entertaining films that do more than just entertain. Every October, the Heartland Film Festival gives its moviegoers access to more than 150 visiting independent filmmakers from all over the world, right in the heart of the Midwest. Heartland Film Festival (Oct. 12-22, 2017) showcases more than 130 independent films over 11 days of red carpet premieres and events, parties and hundreds of film screenings across Indianapolis. The Heartland Film Festival has earned the special designation of being a qualifying festival for the Annual Academy Awards® within the Short Films category. Each year, the Heartland Film Festival awards more than $100,000 in cash prizes and presents its Festival Awards to top-judged submissions. Heartland Film has awarded more than $3 million to support indie filmmakers over the last 25 years. Beyond the Heartland Film Festival, Heartland Film honors theatrically-released films that align with its mission via the Truly Moving Picture Award, inspires the next generation of filmmakers via the Heartland Film Institute, and exhibits films across Indiana all year long via the Heartland Film Roadshow. To learn more, visit heartlandfilm.org.

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