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The Independent Critic

Samuel Goergen, Ava Torres, Mike Markoff, Deborah Lacey
MD Neely
Eric Epperson
22 Mins.

 "Hard to Place" Snags Indiana Spotlight Audience Award at Indy Shorts 
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It's not surprising that Hard to Place, which screened this past weekend at the 2019 Indy Shorts International Film Festival, would end up snagging the fest's Audience Choice Award in the Indiana Spotlight category. The immensely moving short film is precisely the kind of film that Heartland Film audiences are known to love, a deeply personal story with strong elements of faith and fine performances that leave you feeling inspired and ready to change the world. 

In this case, Hard to Place was created to call the church to meet the needs of foster families and foster youth in their communities, a calling that comes to live through the story of two young kids, Nick (Samuel Goergen) and Emma (Ava Torres), for whom it's no longer safe to stay in their home leading them to make a desperate escape and attempt to live on their own. 

Hard to Place soars on the strength of the two incredible lead performances, simultaneously filled with strength and tenderness, resolve and vulnerability. As the older of the two, Goergen's Nick is like the ultimate protective big brother determined to do what is right and to find a better life for he and Emma. Young Ava Torres is simply wonderful as Emma, a little ball of precious energy yet one filled with rich authenticity and hints of the woundedness borne out of her likely traumatizing experiences. These are both powerful performances and they make me excited to see future projects from both performers.

Solid supporting turns are turned in by Mike Markoff Donny, a creepster beyond creepy. Deborah Lacey's brief but important appearance as Rhonda gives the film a nice emotional resonance as everything begins to wind down. 

Written by Eric Epperson and directed by MD Neely, Hard to Place features a subtle, impactful original score by Chris Coleman and atmospheric, tension heightening lensing by Michael J. Hartnett. Hard to Place was filmed in Glasgow, Kentucky, a picturesque area not far from where my own real life father grew up and the film really capitalizes on the area's beauty and economic challenges. 

Hard to Place is a memorable, ultimately hopeful film based upon a true story and, as is obvious from its award win, it's a film that resonated with Indy Shorts audiences. For more information on the film, visit its official website linked to in the credits. 

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic