Some of the best selections from the Heartland Film Festival mined emotional bonds and incredible journeys.

Audiences traversed a rugged 500-mile pilgrimage in Spain with a pair of lifelong friends — one of which is in a wheelchair, and the other who agrees to push him. They met Peter Ertel, an anti-Nazi German who was forced to fight in World War II, survived Russia and the Normandy invasion and eventually worked for the U.S. government after the war.

In “The Storyteller,” they met a young girl whose compassion sparks emotional chain reactions in a grieving family.

The Heartland International Film Festival closed in October. But even if you missed the festival itself, some of the most popular selections will be coming to Franklin for a special showing.

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The Historic Artcraft Theatre will again become an extension of the film festival, at least for one weekend. The theater will feature dramatic features and moving documentaries. A collection of family-friendly short movies designed to make the audience laugh, tear up and better consider their place in the world.

“Our mission is to inspire filmmakers and audiences through the transformative power of film, and we mostly do that through the Heartland International Film Festival. But we do other events such as this,” said Greg Sorvig, director of film programming for Heartland Film. “We feel like this has been a really successful partnership over the years. There’s a special feeling you get with the Artcraft.”

The Artcraft was been working with Heartland Film since 2014. Since then, the model has been used in communities such as Bedford, Nashville and Kokomo as part of Heartland’s Roadshow program.

The idea was to bring a selection of the best films to movie-goers around the state, maintaining a year-round presence branching off the main film festival conducted each October.

Thousands of people come to the 10-day Heartland International Film Festival, Sorvig said. But building on the connections made during the festival and keeping that momentum going can be difficult without some visibility throughout the year, he said.

Audiences can once again expect to see a collection of moving and emotional films this year.

“It’s a neat opportunity for both organizations to come together and show some content that many people don’t know about,” Sorvig said. “We can grow the Heartland name, and the Artcraft can offer alternative content that will still play well in Johnson County.”

“The Unimaginable Journey of Peter Ertel” tells the story of a former World War II soldier who lived an incredible life before, during and after the war. “The Storyteller” is more whimsical and magical, qualities which helped it earn an Audience Choice award during the 2017 festival.

“I’ll Push You” is a documentary focusing on two friends and their bond strong enough to tackle the 500-mile El Camino de Santiago in northern Spain. The film was one of the most popular in 2017, Sorvig said.

“This one is really special that resonated with the audiences. A lot of people are drawn to the journey, and this is a really unique thing,” he said.

But organizers have come up with a new attraction for families. The Saturday matinee will showcase seven short films, as opposed to one full-length feature. The session will include titles such as “Wishing Box,” an animated story about a pirate who finds a magical treasure chest, and “Margaret and the Moon,” a narrative focused on an unpopular little girl who uses her imagination to empower herself.

At about 10 to 15 minutes each, the bite-sized films pack a powerful emotional punch that can still keep kids from getting bored.

Admission to the matinee will be one canned good, which will go to support the Interchurch Food Pantry. The benefit is modeled after the theater’s popular Cartoons for Cans event conducted in December.

Breaking Down Best of the Fest

This weekend, the Historic Artcraft Theatre, 57 N. Main St., Franklin, will host its Best of the Fest event. Here’s a rundown of the selections featured in this year’s event.

“The Storyteller”

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

Type of film: Narrative feature

What’s it about? The love of an enchanted young girl brings wonder and healing to a broken family. On the run from her mysterious past and guided by a fairy only she can see, Abby sparks a daisy chain of compassion. Closed hearts open as she brings joy and music back into the family.

Admission: $6.50

Kids Shorts Series

When: 2:30 p.m. Saturday

Type of film: Short features

Titles and summaries:

  • “Wishing Box”: A pirate named Derek and his sidekick monkey, after years of sailing, finally discover a magic treasure chest that can make wishes come true.
  • “Waabooz”: Insecure and shy, Rabbit dreads dancing in the upcoming powwow and begins to draw Waabooz, a superhero that embodies his desired self: bold and unafraid.
  • “Spring Jam”: A young stag, lacking impressive antlers, knows he needs to improvise sweet music if he’s to have any chance during the mating season.
  • “Margaret and the Moon”: An unpopular little girl falls in love with her imagination, teaching her the value in being yourself.
  • “Curpidgeon”: As six park pigeons meet with their old men pals for their daily feed time, they realize one of them is an odd bird out.
  • “Amelia’s Closet”: When pushed to the edge by the bullies in her class, 11-year-old Amelia retaliates by secretly stealing from her classmates
  • “Frolic ‘n Mae”: Outcast from her cousin’s party, 10-year-old Mae creates Frolic from ink and cardboard, then Frolic creates mayhem.

Admission: One canned food good

“The Unimaginable Journey of Peter Ertel”

When: 5 p.m. Saturday

Type of film: Feature documentary

What’s it about? Ertel, an introspective, anti-Nazi music student is drafted into Hitler’s army and becomes an unlikely platoon leader. He survives both the Russian Front and the Normandy Invasion, and is recruited by his American captors to be a U.S. government agent in postwar Germany. He then immigrates to America, where he forges a 25-year career working for a small company owned by Orthodox Jews.

Admission: $6.50

“I’ll Push You”

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Type of film: Documentary feature

What’s it about? Patrick agrees to a crazy proposition: to push his lifelong best friend, Justin, in a wheelchair across the historical 500-mile pilgrimage of northern Spain—El Camino de Santiago. The real-life story that explores the true meaning of friendship and two of its qualities: generosity and vulnerability.

Admission: $6.50

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Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at or 317-736-2727.