Waffle Street premieres to a sold out crowd at 2015 Heartland Film Festival

If you didn't purchase tickets to the Heartland Film Festival premiere screening of Waffle Street in advance, chances are you weren't able to get a seat. There is always something magical about a sold out screening; this particular theater also had the promise of a hearing from the film's star James Lafferty afterwards.
The film is an adaptation of James Adams' 2010 memoir of the same name. It is a rag-to-riches tale that chronicles a financier's foray into the food industry. After being laid off, Jimmy decides to work at a popular 24-hour diner in an effort to get as far away from his previous occupation as possible.

Jimmy has no prior serving experience. Lots of laughs and life lessons ensue.

Waffle Street offers a fresh take on the fallout of corporate greed, and turned out to be an unexpected tale of redemption. It was really fun to watch Jimmy learn the ropes of the food industry through hard work and determination. He never quit, no matter how in the weeds he felt, and it kept the audience rooting for him.

Danny Glover is charming and endearing as short order cook Edward; Jimmy wouldn't recommend calling out an order if you aren't on the mat, though.

Image credit:  http://www.wafflestreetmovie.com/

Sunny in the Dark shines during 2015 Heartland Film Festival

The AMC Castleton Square 14 premiere screening of Sunny in the Dark was packed. There were lots of attending filmmakers there, too, which added to the excitement and overall buzz of the anticipating crowd. Lots of festival goers were talking about this film; it's taken home several awards already.
Sunny in the Dark follows therapist Jonah Bock settling into a new loft that he's been waiting to rent for two years. What Jonah doesn't realize comes with the rent is Sunny, a homeless women that lives in the dark crawl space above his place. She sleeps in the crawlspace at night, and when Jonah leaves for his family counseling practice each day, she drops down and makes herself at home. Sunny is always careful to leave no trace of her existence before returning to the crawlspace each evening.

It is interesting to watch two people who have never met vis a vis become close, intimate even, over the course of the film. Both Jonah and Sunny barricade themselves from the pain of the world in different ways, and at times their loneliness is palpable. The story is not all heavy, though. There are plenty of laughs and two cute animal co-stars for balance.

Kudos to Jay Huguley (Jonah Brock) and Hannah Ward (Sunny) on their performances. Fun fact: Following the screening, the audience learned from director Courtney Ware that the location originally scouted for Jonah's apartment fell through at the last minute and the one in the film was pulled together very quickly. Never would have guessed!

Autism in Love premieres at 2015 Heartland Film Festival

I joined a crowd of moviegoers for the first screening of Autism in Love at AMC Castleton Square 14.

The documentary film explores how adults with autism find and manage romantic relationships. The film focuses on four different adults with autism from across the country. Lenny is a young man living with his single mom, hopeless for a girlfriend. Stephen is as middle-aged man whose wife, Gita, is battling cancer. Lindsey and Dave are working through what it means to take their eight-year relationship to the next level.

Love and romance are tricky and difficult for everyone, and this film depicts the additional complexity of the emotion for people on the autism spectrum. It's also about the journey of not only accepting others, but in accepting ourselves.
Director and producer Matt Fuller told Vanity Fair that he and fellow producer Carolina Groppa hope that audiences walk out of the film with a specific idea in mind. "First is empathy," Fuller said. "This is about really spending time with them and seeing them as individuals, and not their disabilities."
The second idea, added Groppa, is to "increase the awareness for adults on the spectrum. There's so much focus out there in the media on the children. No one is talking about what's going to happen to these kids when they grow up."
You can purchase tickets for Autism in Love online, as well as by phone and at Heartland Film Festival theater box offices.

Photo credit: http://www.autisminlove.com/