The Independent Critic

 2012 Heartland Film Festival: A-Z Reviews, Vol. 9 
Erasing Hate (93 Mins., Doc Feature)
Featuring: Andrew Micheal Carter, Matt Franta, James W. Thompson Jr., Directed by: Bill Brummel;

It's not particularly surprising that this expansion of an MSNBC doc feels an awful lot like a television documentary, though that's not particularly a bad thing. Bill Brummel directs this film that follows the story of Bryon Widner, a former skinhead "pit bull" who endures immense pain in having the facial tattoos marking his years of hatred removed from his body.

The story of Widner was popular in the news for quite awhile, and it certainly does make for an inspiring documentary. 25 treatments took over a year and a half, a process that began when Widner and his wife reached out to the Southern Poverty Law Center and others in an effort to begin a journey down a different path. It's a challenging journey, both physically and in terms of leaving behind people who don't like to be left behind, but Widner and his wife commit to it and Brummel does an excellent job of creating a thought-provoking and balanced portrait of it all in this 2012 Heartland Film Festival Official Selection.

Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare (99 Mins., Doc Feature)
Featuring: Don Berwick, Steve Burd and Shanon Brownlee; Directed by: Susan Fromke, Matthew Heineman; Distributed by: Roadside Attractions;  OFFICIAL WEBSITE; OFFICIAL FACEBOOK

Nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance and an award-winner during the 2012 Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis, Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare has already been picked up by Roadside Attractions for a limited nationwide release in theaters.


Escape Fire is an ambitious but impossibly convoluted film that overreaches and ends up landing quite softly rather than with the force that would match the obvious passion of the filmmakers for the subject matter. For those who've dealt with the healthcare system in the United States for quite some time, it's doubtful that Escape Fire will prove to be particularly informative or enlightening, however, for those who've long believed it's a system out of control then this film will certainly add some fuel to the fire.

While Escape Fire is rather fundamental in its approach, co-directors Susan Fromke and Matthew Heineman do a nice job of bringing out the issues while introducing some ideas to address the problems. In this election year, this may very well be one of the films that should be seen but probably won't be.

Evolution (12 Mins., Narrative Short)
Starring: Elisabeth Muller, Georg Jungermann; Written and Directed by: Georg Jungermann;

This solid German entry into the 2012 Heartland Film Festival centers around a woman named Lena (Elisabeth Muller) who finds a message from her boyfriend (Georg Jungermann) that he will be arriving home late. He informs her that there's a present for her in the wardrobe, but asks her to please wait until his return to open it.

Can she do it?

Nominated for Best Foreign Project at the Central Florida Film Festival, Evolution has been enjoying a solid run on the film festival that began in September of last year at the Harlem International Film Festival and is a delightful mixture of romance and comedy that works largely on the strength of the chemistry between Muller and Jungermann.
Expectations (3 Mins., High School Film Competition)
Directed by: Carmel High School Team

Expectations is a well done entry in the High School Film Competition from a student team at Carmel High School. The film centers around a student struggling to make the choice between accepting a full ride soccer scholarship or chasing her dream of becoming a chef at culinary school.

Expectations is a rather straightforward entry in this year's competition, but the performances are convincing and the film itself makes its point clearly and concisely despite a a modest running time of a mere three minutes.

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