Below are my top picks for narrative features; there are a handful that I was not able to see but so many great films in this year’s festival. Get ready for a great festival celebrating 25 years of independent film.

Year by the Sea

Hoping to reclaim who she was before becoming a wife and mother, an empty nester retreats to Cape Cod where she embarks upon a quest to set herself free.

Talent Scheduled to Attend:
Karen Allen, Actor
Laura Goodenow, Producer
Alexander Janko, Writer/Director/Composer

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Service to Man

It’s 1967, and both Eli Rosenberg and Michael Dubois have a problem. For Eli, only one medical school in the country will accept him: Meharry Medical College, an all-black medical school in Tennessee, a considerable distance from his life in Brooklyn, New York. For Michael, only one medical school in the country will accept him: Meharry Medical College, his successful father’s alma mater, and therefore his, whether he likes it or not. Both Eli and Michael are outsiders from radically different backgrounds forced to work together inside the pressure cooker of medical school in the turbulent 1960s. At odds from the very moment they meet, Eli and Michael not only clash with each other, they battle the indecipherable mysteries of medicine, two warring professors, and a student body warily distrustful of both of them.

Talent Scheduled to Attend:
Seth Panitch, Director/Producer/Screenwriter

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Wild Prairie Rose

In 1952, Rose Miller returns to her rural hometown of Beresford, South Dakota to care for her ailing mother. Once there, she falls in love with a deaf man and must decide if she has the courage to follow her heart. Wild Prairie Rose is an examination of the changing roles of women in 1950s America and the ways we can learn to communicate with one another. It is a film that focuses on one woman’s story, and yet challenges the audience to examine their own assumptions about what makes a good life.

This film stars Troy Kotsur who attended the festival in 2013 with No Ordinary Hero: The SuperDeafy Movie.

Talent Scheduled to Attend:
Deborah LaVine-Nordman, Director

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Occupy, Texas

Beau Baker (Gene Gallerano), a washed out ‘Occupy, Wall Street’ protester, is woken up on the streets of NYC with news that his parents died and that he must return home to Texas where his parents have left him in charge of his two teenage sisters (Lorelei Linklater and Catherine Elvir) and their estate. This sets Beau off on a journey to search for and find the strength to reunite with his sisters, his past and himself. Lorelei Linklater’s follow up film to ‘Boyhood’ also stars Peri Gilpin (Fraiser), Janine Turner (Northern Exposure, Friday Night Lights, Cliffhanger), Paul Benjamin (The Station Agent, Do the Right Thing), and Reed Birney (House of Cards).

Talent Scheduled to Attend:
Jeff Barry, Director

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To Keep the Light

Inspired by true stories, a lighthouse keeper’s wife struggles with her work – and her sanity – as she cares for her sick husband in 19th century Maine. When a mysterious stranger washes up on shore, secrets hidden in deep waters come to light, and she is forced to confront both her past and her future. Shot on an island off the coast of northern Maine, To Keep the Light paints a landscape of stark, aching beauty, and reveals the inner life of a woman who is, literally and figuratively, at the edge of society.

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I have to admit, it was really tough for me to pick my top five because there were others I loved (New Life, The Healer, The Tiger Hunter, The Adventure Club, Blanka) and some that I am excited to see that I have yet to see (Girl Flu, It’s Not My Fault and I Don’t Care Anyway, and more!). Returning to the film festival for the premiere of It’s Not My Fault and I Don’t Care Anyway is Quinton Aaron who starred in the Blindside.

For ticket information, visit heartlandfilm.org/festival.