Moviegoers rejoice: Indy Film Fest is set to return to theaters this month for its 19th showcase.
The 10-day festival, which runs from June 15-26, will host over 100 feature films, shorts and documentaries at the Kan-Kan Cinema.
Additionally, the festival features special premieres of two films with large-scale casts – “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” on opening night and “I Love My Dad” on June 19.
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After being forced to go online for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Indy Film Fest assistant manager Neale Johantgen said he can’t wait to bring it back to the movies.
“I feel like our bread and butter is in person,” Johantgen said. “Our mission is to create a shared experience around cinema.”
For Carmel-based filmmaker Eric Pascarelli, whose debut feature “Chasing Rabbits” premiered last November in the same theater where it will play at the festival, COVID-19 has catalyzed his desire to make a feature film.
Inspired by true-crime docuseries like “Tiger King” and “Heaven’s Gate,” Pascarelli said he wanted to mix a “coming-of-age in his 30s” story with a cult story.
In the summer of 2021, after a few rounds of rewrites, Pascarelli and his cast and crew — all based in Indiana, next to one — toured the state, filming in Bloomington, Carmel, Fishers, Greenfield and the downtown Indianapolis over the course of nine days.
The film follows Penny, a thirty-year-old who has a job she doesn’t like. When she was young, her mother left their family to join a cult. So when Penny’s father goes missing, she immediately suspects the cult and goes undercover to infiltrate it.
“Chasing Rabbits” competes in the Hoosier Lens category, which Johantgen says includes films that have very strong ties to Indiana, whether they were filmed in the state or have a large cast or crew of Hoosiers.
The four feature films that win their respective categories – Hoosier Lens, American Spectrum, World Cinema and Documentary – will move on to grand jury deliberation, where a single winner will be selected.
Another film in the Hoosier Lens category, “Static Space” is about a woman living in isolation in rural Indiana who unwittingly comes into contact with an astronaut orbiting Earth.
The screenplay was adapted from “Can You Hear Me Now?” by Geonn Cannon, who dedicated the book’s title character to writer, co-director and “Static Space” star Kate Black-Spence after seeing her star in a web series.
She co-directed the short with John Klein, with whom she had previously worked as an actress. It was shot in three days in October 2020, with heavy COVID-19 protocols and a crew you can count on with two hands.
In her directorial debut, Black-Spence said she viewed Indiana as her own character. She lived in Indiana until she graduated from college and moved to Chicago, and she said the state’s unique beauty and isolation inspired her while writing the screenplay. .
“It’s isolation by choice because they chose to live there, and there are so many benefits to that,” Black-Spence said. “I think it’s wonderful for so many people, but I also always felt like I was missing something when I was there.”
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Besides works of fiction, the Indy Film Fest also hosts non-fiction documentaries.
Among these films are “Instrument of Peace; the Brother Gabriel Story”, a short documentary directed by cinematographer Nolan Uebelhor.
Uebelhor said he saw a video of a skateboarding monk, Friar Gabriel, more than five years ago, but he never forgot the clip. After researching years later, he realized that Brother Gabriel resided in Bloomington, an hour’s drive from his home in Jasper.
Having a film school background but mostly working in commercials, Uebelhor said he knew he had to document the unique story. He undertook the entire project on his own, with no budget or outside funding.
“I really did it as a passion project because I was interested in it,” Uebelhor said.
Indy Film Fest: if you go
The films are screened June 15-19 at the Kan-Kan Cinema, with online screenings continuing for another week, until June 26. Kan-Kan is located at 1258 Windsor Street, Indianapolis, IN 46201.
The full list of films and information on purchasing tickets is available at indyfilmfest.org.
You can reach IndyStar scholarship winner Pulliam Griffin Wiles at [email protected] or on Twitter at @griffinwiles.