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10/10
Truly Moving Picture
8 March 2010
Warning: Spoilers
I saw this film in early March, of 2010 in Indianapolis. I am one of the judges for the Heartland Truly Moving Picture Award. A Truly Moving Picture "…explores the human journey by artistically expressing hope and respect for the positive values of life." Heartland gave that award to this film.

It's in 3-D and it's gorgeous animation. But what really matters is the story. And it's a good one. At first it seems the main story is about a Viking colony equally distant from nowhere, which is being constantly attacked by a wide variety of marauding dragons. It's a full time job trying to keep the dragons at bay and the Viking warriors are often out on their boats hunting their wily and ferocious opponents.

But really the story is about a father and chief of the Vikings who has a young son, Hiccup, who is small and who is a slick, sarcastic talker and who doesn't take orders well, but still seeks respect from his impressive father. At first, his Father will not let his son be a warrior Viking, but later relents to have Hiccup train with the other youngsters. But the young boy gets sidetracked and instead of wanting to kill dragons, the boy befriends them and seeks to understand them.

A young and inexperienced son seeking approval of a strong father is an often-told tale. Sons often act foolishly trying to impress their fathers. And fathers often ignore the strivings of their sons. In this case, there is honor and courage on all sides and it is inspiring to watch the father and son wrestle with their relationship.

And yes, about the dragons – they ARE ferocious and talented and aggressive warriors. But their motivations are a mystery that unfolds slowly. And that's the fun of this film.

FYI – There is a Truly Moving Pictures web site where there is a listing of past Truly Moving Picture Award winners that are now either at the theater or available on video.
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10/10
Truly Moving Picture
5 January 2010
I saw this film in December, of 2009 in Indianapolis. I am one of the judges for the Heartland Truly Moving Picture Award. A Truly Moving Picture "…explores the human journey by artistically expressing hope and respect for the positive values of life." Heartland gave that award to this film.

Tomas is a young boy that is bullied and unhappy at an orphanage. He is suddenly and mysteriously adopted by a childless couple, who live simply and modestly on a very remote Irish island. The Mother, although in ill health, is a woman of astounding positive energy and beauty and sets herself to healing the mental and physical scars of the boy's unfortunate upbringing. The Father meanwhile loves his wife dearly, but is far less excited by the recovering, damaged boy.

Intertwined with this awkward triangle relationship is light fantasy and legend and mystery of the gorgeous Irish coast. The Irish coast is so beautifully rendered that it is like a fourth character.

There is suddenly a great change in circumstances and two parts of the triangle have to come to terms with this tragedy. It takes courage and resolve and change and love.

The three actors of the triangle are vivid and hold your attention and each ultimately moves you emotionally in three different ways.

FYI – There is a Truly Moving Pictures web site where there is a listing of past Truly Moving Picture Award winners that are now either at the theater or available on video.
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Welcome (I) (2009)
10/10
Heartland Truly moving Picture
22 October 2009
I am a judge for the Indianapolis-based Heartland Film Festival. This feature film is a Crystal Heart Award Winner and is eligible to be the Grand Prize Winner in October of 2009. The Heartland Film Festival is a non-profit that honors Truly Moving Pictures. A Truly Moving Picture "…explores the human journey by artistically expressing hope and respect for the positive values of life."

Bilal is a 17 year-old Kurdish boy from Iraq, who has just taken an arduous, three-month journey to Calais in France desperately trying to get to his girlfriend/fiancée in London. But in Calais he becomes stuck with many other clan-destines or illegal immigrants. These are people without a country. The French won't send them back to the Mid-East because there is a war going on. But they are not welcomed in France because they are clearly illegals. Even the local French people will violate French law if they help these clan-destines.

With this backdrop, Bilal comes up with the idea that he can swim the English Channel to get to his girlfriend. There is only one problem. He can't swim. He goes to a middle-aged French swim instructor, Simon, who not only teaches him how to swim, but also befriends him. Simon has his own problems. He is divorcing his wife and is terribly lonely. Bilal and Simon need each other and form a strangely beautiful symbiotic relationship.

This is a quiet and powerful statement on the individual courage and sacrifice of normal human beings. Bilal and Simon are single-minded in trying to do the right thing and will not be put off their objective. This is a very moving film that haunts you afterwords. It does not take a stand on legal or illegal immigration. It merely shows that these clan-destines are human like the rest of us and have their own stories.

FYI – There is a Truly Moving Pictures web site where there is a listing of past Truly Moving Picture Award winners that are now either at the theater or available on video.
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Entre nos (2009)
10/10
Heartland Truly Moving Picture
22 October 2009
I am a judge for the Indianapolis-based Heartland Film Festival. This feature film is a Crystal Heart Award Winner and is eligible to be the Grand Prize Winner in October of 2009. The Heartland Film Festival is a non-profit that honors Truly Moving Pictures. A Truly Moving Picture "…explores the human journey by artistically expressing hope and respect for the positive values of life."

A Latino mother and her two children are stranded in Queens when their philandering, irresponsible father deserts them. There English is almost nil and now they must support themselves asap. First the wife tries selling homemade Espanadas on the street. Then she tries getting day labor by standing on Latino labor street corners. And finally ends up collecting cans for their deposits with her young son and daughter beside her. They are barely making it when they get evicted from their apartment. And then they become homeless and have to sleep outdoors.

What keeps them going under these awful circumstances? Their closeness and love for each other sees them through these difficult times. Also,they are helped by sympathetic strangers who see their heart-wrenching plight.

Through it all they never lose their dignity or morality. They always act honorably and treat others with respect. Their sacrifices and courage and desperate situation make them more appealing as time goes on. The viewer is filled with admiration for what the human spirit can endure and still not be broken.

The story is wonderfully told. It is realistic and understated and believable. You are often moved deeply as the story unfolds.

FYI – There is a Truly Moving Pictures web site where there is a listing of past Truly Moving Picture Award winners that are now either at the theater or available on video.
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Heartland Truly Moving Picture
22 October 2009
I am a judge for the Indianapolis-based Heartland Film Festival. This feature film is a Crystal Heart Award Winner and is eligible to be the Grand Prize Winner in October of 2009. The Heartland Film Festival is a non-profit that honors Truly Moving Pictures. A Truly Moving Picture "…explores the human journey by artistically expressing hope and respect for the positive values of life."

Galia is a young woman who was a victim of a terrorist attack on a bus one year ago. Her boyfriend, Oren, was on the bus also and was in a coma and then died. Galia is suffering from painful burns on her back, but even worse, is suffering psychological trauma and guilt and hallucinations. And she doesn't know why she is getting hallucinations.

This is a quiet story of her trying to start up her life again with the help of a mysterious and almost-saintly stranger named Boaz. Why is he helping her? What is in it for him? Is she being stalked or is she being merely hit on or has she met an incredible altruistic human being?

This is a quiet movie that progresses inexorably to answer these questions. It is a story of nuances. The subtle facial expressions of the two main characters reveal much.

Galia is a woman with great honesty and wants to know the truth no matter where that leads her. She shows grace and spirit on her difficult journey.

FYI – There is a Truly Moving Pictures web site where there is a listing of past Truly Moving Picture Award winners that are now either at the theater or available on video.
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10/10
Heartland Truly Moving Picture
22 October 2009
I am a judge for the Indianapolis-based Heartland Film Festival. This feature film is a Crystal Heart Award Winner and is eligible to be the Grand Prize Winner in October of 2009. The Heartland Film Festival is a non-profit that honors Truly Moving Pictures. A Truly Moving Picture "…explores the human journey by artistically expressing hope and respect for the positive values of life."

Tarek is an enigmatic and brooding young Arab man who has chosen to be a suicide bomber attacking Tel Aviv. But there has been a malfunction of his explosive equipment and he has to spend a weekend in Tel Aviv waiting until his problem is fixed.

While trying to fix his deadly gear, he makes Jewish people connections. They include an elder couple who welcome him to their home and feed him and confide in him. Tarek also meets a young attractive Jewish shopkeeper who is harassed by young conservative Jews who dislike her modern and stylish ways.

Now Tarek has a dilemma. It was easier to randomly kill via a terrorism act when you don't know your enemy well. It is another matter to know the type of people you are about to kill or injure or psychologically scar. What will Tarek ultimately decide to do?

This is a taut and compelling tale rolling to its inexorable ending that is both anticipated and unanticipated. The Jewish friends show their humanity to their enemy (?) by giving up their prejudices and acting kindly to Tarek. Tarek shows his humanity in an unusual but altruistic and compassionate and courageous way. You begin to understand why the Arab-Israeli conflict is so hard to unravel and negotiate.

FYI – There is a Truly Moving Pictures web site where there is a listing of past Truly Moving Picture Award winners that are now either at the theater or available on video.
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Amal (2007)
10/10
Truly Moving Picture
4 October 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I am a judge for the Indianapolis-based Heartland Film Festival. This feature film is a Crystal Heart Award Winner and is eligible to be the Grand Prize Winner in October of 2008. The Heartland Film Festival is a non-profit that honors Truly Moving Pictures. A Truly Moving Picture "…explores the human journey by artistically expressing hope and respect for the positive values of life."

Amal is a 30ish autorickshawdriver in New Delhi. He appears to be simple and quiet and even naïve. He dutifully lives with and supports his Mother, and works long hours to make ends meet.

He is so out of place with the rest of the huge city of New Delhi. His fellow autorickshawdrivers seem to be hustlers and cheats. And his passengers and Delhi citizens are even worse. They include conniving lawyers, loan sharks, thieves, bribers, and spoiled adult children.

One day Amal chases a little girl who has stolen a purse from a regular passenger. Amal accidentally causes her to be hit by a car and seriously hurt. Amal, out of the goodness of his heart, takes on the welfare of the child in a hospital. We begin to see Amal's incredibly generous and giving nature.

Amal also has another chance, life-altering encounter when he picks up a surly old man who hates the world and tries to negotiate hard. Amal won't play his game, and cheerfully acquiesces to the old man's wishes. Unbeknownst to Amal, the man is rich and is so moved by their brief encounter that he leaves Amal in his will.

There is a painful irony between Amal needing money to help the hospitalized girl and almost being wealthy by a kindness of a curmudgeon. This irony drives the story, and keeps your interest high.

Amal is unaffected by worldly matters that consume everyone else. He is centered by his goodness and honesty and integrity. Sacrifice is all he knows – except for his rich life in the help of others.

FYI – There is a Truly Moving Pictures web site where there is a listing of past Truly Moving Picture Award winners that are now either at the theater or available on video.
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10/10
Truly Moving Picture
4 October 2008
I am a judge for the Indianapolis-based Heartland Film Festival. This feature film is a Crystal Heart Award Winner and is eligible to be the Grand Prize Winner in October of 2008. The Heartland Film Festival is a non-profit that honors Truly Moving Pictures. A Truly Moving Picture "…explores the human journey by artistically expressing hope and respect for the positive values of life."

Jill Rose is both at the same time a middle-age wonderful mother and wife and an awkward embarrassment. The latter is due to her penchant for continuously going to garage sales and second hand shops looking for bargains and then bringing them home and never giving them up. The house is filled with these bargains that her husband tolerates and her daughter Cheryl abhors.

Cheryl becomes engaged and is so afraid that her mother will take over and arrange a used or bargain or second hand wedding that she can't bring herself to tell her the good news. Unfortunately, everyone else knows including Cheryl's father. Jill finds out from an unfriendly co-worker and the mother and daughter and husband become estranged.

In all other aspects of her life, Jill is normal and useful. She is the Assistant Superintendent of her local New Zeeland school and is respected and has lots of friends. And her obsessive collecting and bargain hunting is funny. She can laugh at herself and at her hobby and can make others laugh along with her.

This is a story of how a faithful and loving and tolerant family handles an important situation in their lives. Their core values are more important than their quirks and peculiarities.

This appears to be a low budget film, but it looks good on the screen with the beautiful New Zeeland coastline as a backdrop. And the actors, while unfamiliar to me, uniformly were believable from the main actors to the townspeople actors.

FYI – There is a Truly Moving Pictures web site where there is a listing of past Truly Moving Picture Award winners that are now either at the theater or available on video.
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10/10
Truly Moving Picture
4 October 2008
I am a judge for the Indianapolis-based Heartland Film Festival. This feature film is a Crystal Heart Award Winner and is eligible to be the Grand Prize Winner in October of 2008. The Heartland Film Festival is a non-profit that honors Truly Moving Pictures. A Truly Moving Picture "…explores the human journey by artistically expressing hope and respect for the positive values of life." Raed is an elderly, Jordanian man who seems to be a simple janitor at an airport. But things change for him when he finds a discarded Captain's hat that he wears home. The neighborhood children promote him to a world savy pilot and he promotes himself to being an excellent and imaginative storyteller.

But Raed is not a simple man. We slowly find out that he is wise and well read. And, he has suffered tragedies in his life that would break most men and make them bitter. Raed resists being morose and adds positively to the world around him. He is kind to strangers, he mentors children with exploitive parents, and he makes other's lives easier and more fun.

But this wouldn't be much of a story if there weren't a strong conflict. Next door to Raed there is a family dominated by a husband and father who is a wife-beater, child-beater, and drunk. What can an old man do to help? It reminds one of the quote – "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing." Raed is a good man of courage and sacrifice. He does something.

FYI – There is a Truly Moving Pictures web site where there is a listing of past Truly Moving Picture Award winners that are now either at the theater or available on video.
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Karlas kabale (2007)
10/10
Truly Moving Picture
4 October 2008
I am a judge for the Indianapolis-based Heartland Film Festival. This feature film is a Crystal Heart Award Winner and is eligible to be the Grand Prize Winner in October of 2008. The Heartland Film Festival is a non-profit that honors Truly Moving Pictures. A Truly Moving Picture "…explores the human journey by artistically expressing hope and respect for the positive values of life."

Karla is a 10 year-old Danish girl that faces an all too common problem around Christmas-time. She wants to have a traditional, old-fashioned holiday season, but is part of an extended family. She has a father with a drinking problem who lives alone. She lives with her Mother and Stepfather and brother and step-brother. The logistics are hard and everybody is so busy.

She finally concludes, "…grown-ups don't care about Christmas." And this will be "… (her) worst Christmas ever."

Karla finds a respite with an eccentric older man called Buster. It's hard to tell whether Karla is watching over Buster or Buster is watching over Karla. But at least they have each other.

Karla's despair and quest for holiday joy might make her family re-examine their lives … or maybe it won't. Karla has a lot to teach all of us if we will only stop being busy and listen and watch.

FYI – There is a Truly Moving Pictures web site where there is a listing of past Truly Moving Picture Award winners that are now either at the theater or available on video.
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10/10
Truly Moving Picture
20 September 2007
I am a judge for the Indianapolis-based Heartland Film Festival. This feature film is a Crystal Heart Award Winner and is eligible to be the Grand Prize Winner in October of 2007. The Heartland Film Festival is a non-profit organization that honors Truly Moving Pictures. A Truly Moving Picture "…explores the human journey by artistically expressing hope and respect for the positive values of life."

This is a story of two unusual and non-conformist people. The first is a curmudgeon or surly old man, played by Christopher Plummer, and the second is a troubled high school junior. What they have in common is that they live in the same neighborhood in L.A. and they love movies, especially old classics.

The old man used to be a gaffer or electrician and made many movies at Hollywood studios, but now he is alone in the Motion Picture Residence of the Elderly. He is scruffy, a drunk, cynical, sarcastic and loudly and proudly acts badly. After he gets into an argument with patrons at a movie theater proclaiming, "I made more movies than you've been to", the junior follows him to his old age home.

The junior wants to submit a short film to a contest that hopefully can get him a college scholarship. So he begins his quest to get help from the old man. The junior has serious adjustment problems. He challenges a high school gang leader and continually gets in trouble with the law for fighting and stealing. At home, he has a terrible relationship with his stepfather.

However, there is a goodness and decency in these two people and they slowly and painfully bring out the best in each other. For them, the journey is more important than a successful outcome. They simply both need a purpose to their lives.

The acting is remarkable and not just from Christopher Plummer, who dominates the movie. M. Emmet Walsh and Robert Wagner are particularly convincing. There are unusual, funky visuals and a hip sound track throughout the movie. They really work to hold your attention because they are such a contrast to the many elderly characters. This is a very different and very good movie.

FYI – There is a Truly Moving Pictures web site where there is a listing of past Truly Moving Picture Award winners that are now either at the theater or available on video.
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Mia Sarah (2006)
10/10
Truly Moving Picture
16 September 2007
I am a judge for the Indianapolis-based Heartland Film Festival. This feature film is a Crystal Heart Award Winner and is eligible to be the Grand Prize Winner in October of 2007. The Heartland Film Festival is a non-profit organization that honors Truly Moving Pictures. A Truly Moving Picture "…explores the human journey by artistically expressing hope and respect for the positive values of life."

This is a charming story of romance, comedy, tragedy, mystery and fantasy set in Spain. A young girl in her twenties, Marina, and her teenage brother, Samuel, have lost their parents in an accident three years ago. Samuel has taken it hard. He hasn't left their apartment in these last three years and has created a bizarre world for himself and his once-famous literary grandfather. And his eccentricity and cleverness scares off his tutors who try to educate him. The very attractive Marina has no life as she is consumed with taking care of Samuel and working across the street as a waitress.

Marina accidentally meets up with a psychologist, Gabriel, and asks him to be her brother's tutor. Almost immediately, Gabriel has a powerful positive effect on Samuel. And Gabriel becomes smitten with Marina. The student Samuel reverses roles and begins to teach the shy Gabriel how to attract women.

Gabriel and Marina are very attractive people to the audience. We root for them and we want them to emotionally find each other. But it's not certain or easy. Marina has financial and work problems and she focuses her life on Samuel. Gabriel is just wonderfully innocent and inept.

This film is beautifully made. The cinematography, settings, direction, music and acting are incredibly appealing. And the characters ring of honesty and decency and sincerity. This feels like a Frank Capra-directed classic – but set in today's world.

FYI – There is a Truly Moving Pictures web site where there is a listing of past Truly Moving Picture Award winners that are now either at the theater or available on video.
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10/10
Truly Moving Picture
10 September 2007
I am a judge for the Indianapolis-based Heartland Film Festival. This feature film is a Crystal Heart Award Winner and is eligible to be the Grand Prize Winner in October of 2007. The Heartland Film Festival is a non-profit organization that honors Truly Moving Pictures. A Truly Moving Picture "…explores the human journey by artistically expressing hope and respect for the positive values of life."

This story takes place over the course of a week in today's Saigon. Saigon is a teaming, energetic, cold, on-the-make city of 8 million. It can be a very lonely place for people without family and friends.

Three of these people include a ten year-old girl who has no parents. She has run away from her child factory labor duties and was living with an unloving, uncle tyrant. Now she lives and sleeps in the streets of Saigon selling single rose flowers for a living. The second person is a young, poor, hardworking animal keeper for the zoo. He has no family and has lived at the zoo his whole life. The third person is a 26 year-old stewardess who seems to have everything; that is, a good job and beauty. But she is unhappy because she lacks direction and meaningful relations.

They come together as a threesome via the determination and pluck of the ten year-old. Will they find meaning to their lives leaning on each other? … or not? Life is just too difficult for each of them, but for different reasons. And, they are very different from each other.

But, there is a common trait among the three. They are all decent people. They are honest and direct and they treat each other with uncommon respect and dignity.

And by the way, the ten year-old girl steals the show.

FYI – There is a Truly Moving Pictures web site where there is a listing of past Truly Moving Picture Award winners that are now either at the theater or available on video.
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Bella (2006)
10/10
Truly Moving Picture
6 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I am a judge for the Indianapolis-based Heartland Film Festival. This feature film is a Crystal Heart Award Winner and is eligible to be the Grand Prize Winner in October of 2007. The Heartland Film Festival is a non-profit organization that honors Truly Moving Pictures. A Truly Moving Picture "…explores the human journey by artistically expressing hope and respect for the positive values of life."

This is a complex tale that takes all your attention to understand. In a series of now moments and flashback moments, we learn about two main characters. Jose is a handsome and empathetic Chef, who had a lucrative professional soccer career thrown away because of a careless automobile accident. Nina is a waitress at the same restaurant and has an unwanted pregnancy.

Nina wants to have an abortion. Jose, only a casual co-worker, wants her to keep the child, and takes off a day of his life to try to convince her.

The backdrop of this full day is NYC. And we see lots of New York moments; that is, rudeness, kindness, emotion, ethnic behavior, subways, trains, beggars, dancing, street people and much more.

The film beautifully shows the power of a good family. Jose has a caring and loving Mother, Father, older brother and younger brother. With these relationships, it is easier for Jose to try to do the "right" thing than it is for Nina, who comes from a dysfunctional and tragic family.

FYI – There is a Truly Moving Pictures web site where there is a listing of past Truly Moving Picture Award winners that are now either at the theater or available on video.
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Ratatouille (2007)
10/10
Truly Moving Picture
25 June 2007
I saw this film on June 15th, 2007 in Indianapolis. I am one of the judges for the Heartland Film Festival's Truly Moving Picture Award. A Truly Moving Picture "…explores the human journey by artistically expressing hope and respect for the positive values of life." Heartland gave that award to this film.

Pixar has an incredible streak of commercial and artistic animation successes. This is their 8th in a row, and their riskiest. Toys and cars and bugs and fish and monsters and superheroes are easier to make endearing than a RAT. But, PIXAR pulls it off.

This is a story of a French rat, Remy, who dreams to be more. Instead of eating garbage like his family and friends, he aspires to create great food like his hero Gusteau. Gusteau is a famous chef and cooking writer and television cooking star and restaurant owner. Gusteau's motto is "Anyone Can Cook." The bad news is Gusteau dies, but the good news is he comes back as a ghost or a figment of the rat's imagination to aid our rat in his dreams.

The rat arrives at Gusteau's restaurant and uses the body of a lowly garbage boy to follow the rat's instructions and to create great food. The rat even moves in with the garbage boy.

The animation is stunningly good. PIXAR has made the animation more detailed and more nuanced for every one of their succeeding films and this tradition continues. You learn about cooking and your mouth waters throughout the film. The Ratatouille, a French vegetable stew, can be tasted and smelled in the theater. By the way, the "Rat" in Ratatouille has nothing to do with a "rat."

Remy is inspiring. Here is a character that will not settle on his expected life, but strives for greatness and to add to the world. And he will not give up or be discouraged. The ugly(?) rat becomes beautiful.

FYI – There is a Truly Moving Pictures web site where there is a listing of past Truly Moving Picture Award winners that are now either at the theater or available on video.
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Becoming Jane (2007)
10/10
Truly Moving Picture
8 June 2007
I saw this film on March 28th, 2007 in Indianapolis. I am one of the judges for the Heartland Film Festival's Truly Moving Picture Award. A Truly Moving Picture "…explores the human journey by artistically expressing hope and respect for the positive values of life." Heartland gave that award to this film.

The "Jane" is Jane Austen and this is a fictional depiction of her young adult life before her novel writing career. I suppose half of the tale is based on fact such as she rejected a marriage proposal, and half the tale is made up to create engaging story-telling. But that's not important.

The essence of the story is the mores of proper English society around 1800. Woman had their place. And that place was to give oneself to an arranged marriage and become a dutiful wife and mother. It was even more important to be in these roles if you were a daughter of a minister of modest means who had lots of children to care for. Jane was one of those children.

But Jane has spunk and smarts and a stubbornness to live her own life as she sees fit. Anne Hathaway plays young Jane convincingly and Anne's good looks are played down as much as possible. It's Jane's inner self that makes her attractive and not her exterior appearance.

And she is so attractive that she has three suitors; the rich and dull one, the poor and roguish one, and a secret and nefarious one. This circumstance allows us to see England from the various social strata, which is fun and informative.

Jane, 200 years ahead of her time, shows beauty and grace and charm and spirit, and will not buckle to her day's lot in life. We should all have such courage "… to follow our bliss" knowing we have but one life to live.

FYI – There is a Truly Moving Pictures web site where there is a listing of past Truly Moving Picture Award winners that are now either at the theater or available on video.
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Gracie (2007)
10/10
Truly Moving Picture
14 May 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I saw this film on May 9th, 2007 in Indianapolis. I am one of the judges for the Heartland Film Festival's Truly Moving Picture Award. A Truly Moving Picture "…explores the human journey by artistically expressing hope and respect for the positive values of life." Heartland gave that award to this film.

This is a story of a loving, close-knit family in the 1970s. The father is obsessed with his love of soccer and for his children, which include two grade school sons, his high school son and soccer star, and high school daughter, Gracie. All of his children share his passion for the game. A tragedy occurs and the high school daughter is determined to play with the high school boys' soccer team.

This is before title IX and the road to her joining the team is virtually impossible. Everyone is against her; that is, the male soccer-team players, the male soccer-team coaches, and her father. And everything is against her. Girls aren't allowed to use the weightlifting room at school and the Board of Education is worried about her safety.

First she gives up and behaves badly. Then her love for the game and competition takes over. The only questions that remain are whether she will be given a chance, and whether given a chance, she is tough enough and good enough.

Gracie eventually becomes a role model for young people and especially for girls. She displays courage and spirit and even heroism, and she never gives up hope in trying to reach her goals.

Gracie's parents are very compelling. Dermot Mulroney and Elizabeth Shue show being good parents is not about money. It is about being good role models and instilling positive values in their children.

FYI – There is a Truly Moving Pictures web site where there is a listing of past Truly Moving Picture Award winners that are now either at the theater or available on video.
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10/10
Truly Moving Picture
24 January 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I saw this film on January 23rd, 2007 in Indianapolis. I am one of the judges for the Heartland Film Festival's Truly Moving Picture Award. A Truly Moving Picture "…explores the human journey by artistically expressing hope and respect for the positive values of life." Heartland gave that award to this film.

This is a story of a poor 10-year old boy who wants to be the fastest boy in his class at school. To his surprise, the new girl who moves in next door to him beats him out fair and square and wins the race. This is no way to start a relationship or friendship.

However, they have something in common. They are both being bullied at school. And they each react differently. The boy, Jesse, is passive and tries to stay out of harm's way. The girl, Leslie, is aggressive and challenges her tormentors. Who knows what the right way is to fight bullying, but they find their defense in friendship with each other. And, they find a wonderful way to experience this trying time in life via their vivid imagination and the creation of a magical and enchanting kingdom that is very real to them.

They are both creative people. He is an artist and she is a writer. These creative people are able to close their eyes, picture another world, and keep their minds open to fantastic visions.

But the bullying persists and they attempt to come to grips with their pain in various ways. They try to out smart their tormentors and do, but they don't enjoy being bullies and becoming like their enemies.

This story is based on a Newbery-winning novel. It is a child's story. But, it is also a story for adults. It will bring you emotionally to your knees. It is lovingly and professionally told, and the fantasy part of the story – the magical kingdom – is wonderfully and briefly shown on the screen. This keeps the story grounded and believable.

Jesse and Leslie are beautiful people regardless of their ages. They show us how to enjoy life, how to do the right things, how to be faithful to one's friends, and have hope for the future. We learn a lot from these ten year old children.

FYI – There is a Truly Moving Pictures web site where there is a listing of past Truly Moving Picture Award winners that are now either at the theater or available on video.
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Miss Potter (2006)
10/10
Truly Moving Picture
20 December 2006
I saw this film on December 17th, 2006 in Indianapolis. I am one of the judges for the Heartland Film Festival's Truly Moving Picture Award. A Truly Moving Picture "…explores the human journey by artistically expressing hope and respect for the positive values of life." Heartland gave that award to this film.

This is the story of Beatrix Potter, the author of many classic illustrated children's stories such as "Peter Rabbit." She was raised in the latter part of the 19th Century in an upper middle class, stuffy family. And worked in the early part of the 20th Century.

It is a story of rebellion, and one woman's liberation from knowing one's place, settling on an arranged marriage, and quietly raising a family in the shadow of a man. Beatrix (Renee Zellweger) would have none of that. She had a dreamy artist's imagination and talent and temperament from an early age and simply rebelled and lived in her own created world. When the world recognized her talent, she slowly became a part of the commercial world via the book publishing industry and a mentor/love interest (Ewan McGregor) and the mentor's sister (Emily Watson).

The cast is brilliant. You go back in time with them a 100 years and live with and understand their stilted social mores. The art direction and cinematography are stunning and are worthy of Academy Award nominations.

There is one neat trick of animation that appears throughout this film. The drawn animal characters occasionally become animated, but only to Beatrix. It sounds hokey, but it is a clever way to demonstrate how real these characters were to their author. And, it's why they have rung true to children and to adults for many generations.

Beatrix is a model for determination and pluck and steadfastness. This is a beautiful story beautifully told. Undoubtedly, this film will be compared to "Finding Neverland." "Miss Potter" is of the same high quality.

FYI – There is a Truly Moving Pictures web site where there is a listing of past Truly Moving Picture Award winners that are now either at the theater or available on video.
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Truly Moving Picture
15 December 2006
I saw this film on December 13th, 2006 in Indianapolis. I am one of the judges for the Heartland Film Festival's Truly Moving Picture Award. A Truly Moving Picture "…explores the human journey by artistically expressing hope and respect for the positive values of life." Heartland gave that award to this film.

Woodrow Wilson High School is located in Long Beach, California. The school is voluntarily integrated, and it isn't working. The Asians, the Blacks, the Latinos, and a very few whites not only don't get along, but also stay with their own and are part of protective and violent gangs. There isn't much teaching or learning going on at the school. It is a warehouse for young teenagers until they can drop out or are kicked out.

With this background, an idealistic teacher (Hilary Swank) arrives to teach Freshmen English. She is very educated, pretty, middle class, non-ethnic, well-dressed, and smart. From day one, she doesn't fit in the classroom with these tough kids, and she doesn't fit in with the faculty, who have all but given up and resigned themselves to being the keepers of the student warehouse.

But our idealistic teacher will not give up. She slowly and painfully tries to teach by first learning about "…the pain…" the students feel. She encourages each of her students to keep a journal of their painful and difficult life, and then to share the journal with her. She also attempts to get the four ethnic groups to come together by getting them to recognize what they have in common; specifically, their music, their movies, their broken families, and their broken community surroundings.

While struggling with the students, she has to deal at the same time with two complicated and demanding male relationships. Her husband (Patrick Dempsey) is often supportive, but often jealous of her time commitments. Her father (Scott Glenn) is often disappointed of her career choice, but often proud of her courage and tenacity.

This story feels real. It is beautifully done. The acting of Swank, Dempsey and Glenn is professional and believable. More importantly the story highlights our society's challenges in schooling the children of poor and one-parent families.

The movie doesn't give miracle answers. But it does give hope. And in the end, sincere effort appears to count for something … maybe everything.

FYI – There is a Truly Moving Pictures web site where there is a listing of past Truly Moving Picture Award winners that are now either at the theater or available on video.
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10/10
Truly Moving Picture
24 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I saw this film on November 13th, 2006 in Indianapolis. I am one of the judges for the Heartland Film Festival's Truly Moving Picture Award. A Truly Moving Picture "…explores the human journey by artistically expressing hope and respect for the positive values of life." Heartland gave that award to this film.

There is a lot of responsibility to be taken on when you put an E.B. White classic book to film. There is even more responsibility when there is already a wonderful and popular animation video of the book available. But this film takes on this responsibility in spectacular fashion. Half live animal animation as in "Babe" and half live action, the film is stunningly made.

The story is about the runt of a pig litter. There are ten teats available and eleven piglets. The eleventh piglet is doomed to be destroyed until the farmer's daughter (Dakota Fanning) saves and adopts the runt who is named Wilbur.

Finally the piglet, Wilbur, gets to be too big to be a pet in the house and is sent across the road to another farm. The farm animals and Wilbur become "humanized" as we understand their animal talk. Five (5) goats, two (2) cows, two (2) geese, one (1) horse, one (1) rat and one (1) spider become a microcosm of society and Wilbur's family and friends and neighbors.

It sounds preposterous, but it is utterly believable because the special effects are so good it all seems real and your disbelief disappears so you can get lost in the story. And … what a story.

Wilbur slowly realizes that he is an animal raised for his meat and the end of his life is months away and he is disconcerted to say the least. But he has a friend determined to help him out – a spider named Charlotte (voice by Julia Roberts), who will try many things to keep Wilbur as a permanent farm animal and not just food on the table for the farm family.

The society of animals have many lessons to teach children (and adults); specifically, friendship, sacrifice, living with the death issue, hope, determination, love, duty, fairness, respect, humility, and much more.

However, this is not a heavy lesson on mature life issues. Laughter and joy permeate the film and puns and chuckles are everywhere throughout the film.

The artistry of the film is outstanding. The farms and surroundings are idyllic. The synchronizing of the words and animal movements are right on. Everything on the screen leads you to believe the story is real.

FYI – There is a Truly Moving Pictures web site where there is a listing of past Truly Moving Picture Award winners that are now either at the theater or available on video.
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10/10
Truly Moving Picture
24 November 2006
I saw this film on November 21st, 2006 in Indianapolis. I am one of the judges for the Heartland Film Festival's Truly Moving Picture Award. A Truly Moving Picture "…explores the human journey by artistically expressing hope and respect for the positive values of life." Heartland gave that award to this film.

This film is based on a true and tragic story. On November 14th, 1970, the Marshall University football team, football coaches, athletic staff, key alumni, and friends were flying home to Huntington, West Virginia after an away game against East Carolina. Their plane crashed killing all seventy five (75) aboard.

How do a University and a small town of 50,000 people respond to a massive tragedy that affected so many students and town residents? This movie is about their struggle to come to grips with that tragedy.

Without bitter rancor and with humility, some felt the University should start up a new football team and persevere through a long rebuilding process to honor the dead. Others, again without rancor and with humility, believed that starting up a football team would be too painful a reminder of the tragedy.

It was decided to start a new football team immediately and play the next season in 1971. This movie is primarily about the difficulties of the development of the team.

Matthew McConaughey plays the new Head Coach brilliantly and believably. He is a combination of country bumpkin enthusiastic huckster and a wise man. And he does it simply because he believes – "Maybe I can help." He displays courage and perseverance and makes sacrifices with a career move that could throw him out of his beloved profession, head football coaching, forever.

The town and University have to quickly break the Vince Lombardi-like notion that you play the game of football for one reason only – to win. They learn how you play the game matters, and even simply showing up is a kind of victory too.

This is a compelling story well told and very moving.

FYI – There is a Truly Moving Pictures web site where there is a listing of past Truly Moving Picture Award winners that are now either at the theater or available on video.
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Happy Feet (2006)
10/10
Truly Moving Picture
24 October 2006
I saw this film on October 2nd, 2006 in Indianapolis. I am one of the judges for the Heartland Film Festival's Truly Moving Picture Award. A Truly Moving Picture "…explores the human journey by artistically expressing hope and respect for the positive values of life." Heartland gave that award to this film.

It's not easy being a young penguin when you can't sing and singing well is how you find your one true soul mate. The mating happens when young couples are attracted to each other's own rendition of their heart song. And to make matters even worse, the young penguin, Mumble, is a natural tap dancer, which is not appreciated by his parents or his teachers or the penguin colony. And to top it all off, there is a shortage of fish and no one knows why.

The unhappy young Mumble runs into 5 small Latino penguins from another penguin colony and the adventure takes off. The story line cuts back and forth between the fish shortage environmental mystery and Mumble's attempt to be attractive to Gloria, his love interest. Along the way he runs into penguin eating birds and penguin eating mammals and almost alien-like man made machines.

This is a musical comedy animation and the songs are classic rock and the dance routines are Broadway-theater clever and these songs and dances never stop throughout the film.

Mumble is a loser in the eyes of his peers, and feels a lot of pain. But he is also heroic and brave and optimistic and he never gives up. Those traits do not let him down. Mumble can pass on an important message to young people. It's your attitude that can carry you through successfully in life. It is not always about physical attributes and physical beauty.

Robin Williams voices Ramon, one of the small Latino penguins, and also Lovelace, the film-flam psychic of the Latino penguin colony. Robin Williams' two characters are over the top which is perfect for the normally over the top Robin Williams. This comedic element keeps the film from taking its adult themes too seriously.

FYI – There is a Truly Moving Pictures web site where there is a listing of past Truly Moving Picture Award winners that are now either at the theater or available on video.
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Truly Moving Picture
24 October 2006
I am a judge for the Indianapolis-based Heartland Film Festival. This feature film is a Crystal Heart Award Winner and is eligible to be the Grand Prize Winner in October of 2006. The Heartland Film Festival is a non-profit organization that honors Truly Moving Pictures. A Truly Moving Picture "…explores the human journey by artistically expressing hope and respect for the positive values of life."

This is a story of a very rich dysfunctional family. Red Stevens (James Garner) is a crusty, old billionaire who dies suddenly in an air crash. But, Red has planned for his death carefully. He has videotaped an elaborate will. His spoiled and unappealing adult children receive enough to be set for life, but the status of the bulk of the estate remains a mystery. For his grandchild, Jason (Drew Fuller) , Red has special and unknown plans. Jason, by the way, is the ultimate rich-kid, lazy, shallow brat. Through Red's lawyer, Jason is given a number of elaborate, time-consuming tasks and challenges that Red calls "gifts." There are many of these "gifts."

The viewer has the distinct impression that these will either make Jason or break Jason. While doing these tasks in order to get an anticipated pot-of-gold, Jason is mentored and guided and even loved by a Texas rancher (Brian Dennehy), a wise lawyer, a single mother (Alii Hillis), her young daughter (Abigail Breslin) who has leukemia, and an Ecuadorian guide. Jason can't make it without these true, unselfish friends.

The story plays out as a mystery. How many tasks are there? Will Jason tire of the time-consuming and dangerous tasks and quit? Why does Red choose Jason and not the many other numerous children and grandchildren? Is there a pot-of-gold at the end of these tasks? Why is everything shrouded in secrecy? It is profound and interesting storytelling. You want to know the answers to these questions.

As the film progresses, Jason begins to turn for the better, but you never know whether he will finally make it to become a fine human being; specifically, displaying traits like respect for others, sacrifice, heroism, humility, compassion, and fidelity. Or, will he go back to his playboy lifestyle? The acting in this film makes the storytelling believable.

The acting is outstanding and it is a toss-up whether the young people dominate your attention or the old people dominate your attention.

FYI – There is a Truly Moving Pictures web site where there is a listing of past Crystal Heart Award winners as well as other Truly Moving Picture Award winners that are now either at the theater or available on video.
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10/10
Truly Moving Picture
24 October 2006
I am a judge for the Indianapolis-based Heartland Film Festival. This feature film is a Crystal Heart Award Winner and is eligible to be the Grand Prize Winner in October of 2006. The Heartland Film Festival is a non-profit organization that honors Truly Moving Pictures. A Truly Moving Picture "…explores the human journey by artistically expressing hope and respect for the positive values of life."

Roy, a Seattle-raised young teenager, is dropped off or abandoned for the summer by his distant father in a small, remote, ancestral fishing village in Ireland. Even though the people of the village are warm and friendly, though eccentric, and the landscape is drop-dead gorgeous, Roy is not happy with his situation.

But quickly Roy finds a mystery to solve. The superstitious townspeople believe in ghosts, and even Roy see ghosts – or something like ghosts. Roy vows to "…figure out what's going on around here." The ghosts appear to do good things for the villagers such as dropping off food to the needy, repairing church bells, fixing fishing boats, repairing watches, and more. Who are these ghosts and why are they doing this? The answer seems to revolve around a cave on the edge of the ocean.

With courage and heroism, Roy faces his fears and begins the coming-of-age chapter in his life.

FYI – There is a Truly Moving Pictures web site where there is a listing of past Crystal Heart Award winners as well as other Truly Moving Picture Award winners that are now either at the theater or available on video.
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