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The Independent Critic

 2012 Heartland Film Festival: A-Z Reviews, Vol. 5 
Breathe Easy (5 Mins., High School Competition)
Breathe Easy (5 Mins., High School Competition)

Featuring: Carly Lindmeier; Directed by: Dena Odell

Director Dena Odell does a nice job with this five-minute short doc entry into the 2012 Heartland Film Festival High School Competition. Breathe Easy follows Carly Lindmeier, who was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis at three-months-old and is now on a medication and treatment regimen that would rattle many people.

In a mere five minutes, Odell paints an emotionally compelling and honest portrait of Lindmeier and makes you want to learn more about both Lindmeier and Cystic Fibrosis. Lindmeier is now a spokesperson for the organization working to cure Cystic Fibrosis, and Odell's film serves as an excellent introduction into its cause, effects and quite a few things it's likely you never knew about the disease.

Buzkashi Boys (22 Mins., Narrative Short)
Buzkashi Boys (22 Mins., Narrative Short)

Starring: Fawad Mohammadi, Wali Talash, Jawanmard Paiz; Directed by: Sam French; Written by: Sam French, Martin Desmond Roe

Far and away one of my favorite cinematic experiences among this year's short films at the 2012 Heartland Film Festival, Buzkashi Boys was shot on location in Afghanistan by an alliance of Afghan and international filmmakers. The film follows two boys, a charismatic street urchin and a defiant blacksmith's son, who struggle to grow up and realize their dreams in one of the most challenging lands. "Buzkashi," in case you don't know, is a national sport in Afghanistan - a brutal game of horse polo played with a dead goat.

Buzkashi Boys often reminded me, at least in its vibe, of the film Mongol, though this film tugged at my heart considerably more and its words and images have stayed with me long after I found myself sitting down to watch the film. The ensemble cast that includes Fawad Mohammadi, Wali Talash and Jawanmard Paiz is uniformly strong, while D.P. Duraid Munajim captures both the hearts and hopes of these young boys and the electricity and excitement of Buzkashi. The film does occasionally slow down just a tad too much, but when I find myself pondering the 2012 short films from Heartland Film Festival this film is nearly constantly one of the first to come to mind.

Jim Dooley's original music adds to the film's emotional impact and urgency, while Matthew Thompson's art direction manages to infuse the film with humanity that never caters to American stereotypes. Buzkashi Boys picked up a Crystal Heart Award during the 2012 Heartland Film Festival.

Caine's Arcade (11 Mins., Doc Short)

Featuring: Caine Monroy, George Monroy; Directed by: Nirvan Mullick; OFFICIAL WEBSITE; OFFICIAL FACEBOOK

Caine's Arcade is one of those novelty human interest docs that you will either love or you will hate. Unfortunately, perhaps, for director Nirvan Mullick, I'd just seen another Heartland doc similar in tone to the film just prior to watching this film and, quite honestly, they didn't compare favorably. Caine's Arcade is about 9-year-old Caine Monroy, who builds an arcade made out of cardboard in his father's auto parts store. The film's director, Nirvan Mullick, becomes Caine's first customer and is determined to make this the best day of Caine's life.

My only problem? I just plain didn't care. I didn't care about Caine, his father or Mullick. While there are times when a filmmaker can become part of the story and, of course, there are certainly documentarians who've made a career out of doing so, too often it comes off as self-serving and bordering on pretentious. Caine's Arcade only lasts 11 minutes, but about halfway through I found myself checking the clock and wondering how much longer I had to go.

Novelty works. Caine's Arcade doesn't.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic