Indianapolis fest pushes the positive

The Heartland Film Festival has grown from being the event equivalent of the Hallmark Hall of Fame (nice people presenting nice films to nice people) to an organization with growing national influence.

In 2004, the Indianapolis-based fest adapted the tagline “Truly Moving Pictures.” Now that phrase has taken over, becoming the name of a newly created parent organization.

There’s still a nine-day October event in Indianapolis, attracting some 18,000 people to uplifting films boosting the human spirit both in competition (recent winners include “Shooting Dogs” — now known as “Beyond the Gates” — and “End of the Spear”) and out (2006’s bookending out-of-competition highlights were “Amazing Grace” and “The Queen”). But now the Hoosier group focuses much of its attention encouraging positive messages from Hollywood via Truly Moving Picture’s seal-of-approval award. You can see the “Truly Moving Pictures” imprint on the DVD cases of “Bridge to Terabithia,” “Happy Feet,” “Miss Potter” and about a dozen other pics each year. For a shopping list, go to trulymovingpictures.org.

“We celebrate what a film can do that has a positive effect on the culture,” says Jeff Sparks, topper since the fest’s founding. “That’s the heart of what a truly moving picture is.”

To that end, Heartland’s Pioneering Spirit Award for this year will go to the makers of “Invisible Children,” the 2003 doc about child soldiers in Uganda.

This year’s Heartland Film Festival offers a truly moving prize pool of $200,000, including $100,000 for dramatic feature. A $10,000 Vision Award goes to best short.

The orphan-fantasy movie “August Rush,” starring Keri Russell and Robin Williams, plays the fest this year. And on Oct. 20, the Crystal Heart Awards Ceremony will once again be held on the floor of Conseco Fieldhouse, appropriate for this basketball-crazy part of the country. About 1,200 will attend, including “Extra” correspondent — and former Indy resident — Carlos Diaz, who returns as host.

FEST INFO

When: Oct. 18-26

Web: heartlandfilmfestival.org

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more