The 11th Indy Film Fest (note the new, refreshed name for what you may have previously known as the "Indianapolis International Film Festival") aims to delight locals with a selection of movies from near and far. From edgy documentaries to animated shorts, the screening schedule has something for almost anyone -- or at least for folks who appreciate singular stories told from intriguing points of view. There will be thrillers, comedies, puppets, ghost peppers and much more.
To prep for the diverse viewing experiences, here are my thematic picks to delight music lovers, science enthusiasts, sports fanatics and, of course, art fiends -- each a pairing of one feature-length flick and one short. After all, one of the best parts of the fest is the chance to see shorts on a surface larger than your flat screen.
Jingle Bell Rocks
A documentary that explores obsessive music collecting AND includes Santa Claus is a Black Man and John Waters? Yes. Jingle Bell Rocks dives deep, deep into the world of people who are trying to reinvent the holiday -- one track at a time.
In 1930 in Marian, Indiana, a mob lynched two young African-American men. In response to the widely published photographs from the incident, a Jewish high school teacher in New York wrote a protest song, Strange Fruit, which became a Billie Holiday signature. This film, produced by the faith-based SALT Project, recounts the events that inspired the song -- and the response and resistance embedded in its lyrics.
Silver Screen Science
A molecular biologist (Michael Pitt) wrestles with science and spirituality, as his longing for a woman and travels to validate his discoveries create conflict and confusion. I Origins will open the festival Thursday evening at the Indianapolis Museum of Art's Toby Theater.
Pepper Eating Contest of Jefferson County
Scientists try their hand at breaking the Guinness world record for consuming the most bites of the hottest kind of pepper. Essentially, it's nerds with their mouths on fire, red-faced from Scoville-scale busting chilis.
Cricket might be a topic of political debate in the Circle City, but in other communities, it's much more than a sport. This film follows three Indians who try to use cricket as a pathway to new lives -- both on and off the field.
A schoolteacher fends off a motorcycle gang at a church-basement dance in 1970s Montreal. Decades later, the teacher and the party's deejay recall the event. And then director Fraser Munden creates a stereoscopic, 3-D film with animation, puppetry, Kung Fu and a score in the style of blaxploitation soundtracks based on the interviews. Seriously.
Bonus Short: Gnarly in Pink
Three little rough-and-tumble skateboarders, who happen to be girls, show that pink helmets, tutus and glitter can pair perfectly with kick flips.
Leo Villareal set out to create an enormous public art project on San Francisco's Bay Bridge, at the cost of $8 million and using 25,000 LED lights. Jeremy Ambers documents the process, drama and struggle of creating a giant abstract work.
Short: Virtuoso Virtual
Ink pools, shifts, pours and pulses along overlapping lines in this visual representation of orchestra music, following harmonies and counterpoints in dynamic black and white. It's a part of the Shorts for Shorties program -- which seems as perfectly suited to folks in the non-school-age bracket as the little movies buffs who will certainly be there.
How To Go
The Indy Film Fest runs from July 17 to 26. Tickets can be purchased online or at screenings (as long as they don't sell out). Bargain hunters have just today to take advantage of the group's Living Social offer of two-for-one tickets. But die-hard film fans will likely want to buy the all-access pass or the ten-ticket packs.
Additional details on many more films, screening locations and even recommendations for transit options can be found on the Indy Film Fest site.