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The Independent Critic

 2012 Heartland Film Festival: A-Z Reviews, Vol. 15 
Jack and the Dustbowl (19 Mins., Narrative Short)
Jack and the Dustbowl (19 Mins., Narrative Short)

Starring: Adam Boyer, Ron Caldwell, Eli Hannon; Written and Directed by: Brandon McCormick;

Jack and the Dustbowl is a spirited Depression-era short about a man named Jack (Eugene Russell) who refuses to give in to his dustbowl surroundings and chooses to dig in despite the apparent futile nature of it all. Will he find a miracle or lose everything?

Written and directed by Brandon McCormick, Jack and the Dustbowl features beautiful photography from Sean Conaty and a fine lead performance from Eugene Russell, whose Jack is a man of almost impenetrable optimism and spirit. Found within the Heartland Film Festival's "World of Whimsy" shorts collection, this delightful family short is an official selection that should have no problem finding a home on the family fest circuit.

Jaso (10 Mins., High School Film Competition)

Directed by: Caelan Barr; OFFICIAL WEBSITE

This 10-minute short received an Honorable Mention in the 2012 Heartland Film Festival's High School Film Competition, a competition that seems to have been particularly competitive this year. Directed by Caelan Barr, Jaso is a documentary short about a young girl in Liberia who unintentionally swallowed lye and burned her esophagus. She ends up being adopted by an American family, and now has regular surgical procedures that help to ensure her ability to eat normally.

Barr's Jaso picked up Best Documentary at the 2012 Dominique Dunn Film Festival along with Best Film of 2012 at the Rocky Mountain Student Film Festival. Barr also picked up an Honorable Mention in the Scholastic Arts and Writing Competition before finding himself a prize winner at Heartland. Barr made the film while still a high school student. He now attends the Denver School of the Arts, where he is a freshman in the Video Cinema Arts Program.

Jaso is a profoundly moving and inspiring documentary that captures the kind of story that is always popular at the Heartland Film Festival. With several shorts behind him already, one can't help but look forward to future works from Caelan Barr.