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AUNJANUE ELLIS as Oracene “Brandy” Williams, MIKAYLA BARTHOLOMEW as Tunde Price, WILL SMITH as Richard Williams, SANIYYA SIDNEY as Venus Williams, DEMI SINGLETON as Serena Williams and DANIELE LAWSON as Isha Price in Warner Bros. Pictures’ inspiring drama KING RICHARD
King Richard. Photo by Chiabella James

King Richard starred and produced by Will Smith, won the Overall Audience Choice Award, earning the top score across this year’s entire film lineup at the 30th Heartland International Film Festival. HIFF also honored Will Smith with the Pioneering Spirit Award in celebration of Smith’s portrayal of Richard Williams, which he accepted via surprise video message before the Anniversary Gala Event screening of “King Richard” on October 16 at Newfields.

In addition to the already announced FIPRESCI Award for Best US Narrative Directorial Debut, “Mass” (Bleecker Street) was also voted the winner of the Narrative Special Presentation Audience Choice Award and was selected by the Indiana Film Journalists Association (IFJA) as winner of the IFJA Award for Best Special Presentation (selected across the HIFF slate of studio event and special presentation titles). Last week, HIFF also honored “Mass” actress Ann Dowd with the Pioneering Spirit: Lifetime Achievement Award.

“Returning to theaters with enthusiastic audiences for our 30th anniversary was a transformative experience,” said Artistic Director Greg Sorvig. “Prior to last year’s mostly virtual pivot, I had been able to predict the Festival’s top audience winners by listening to crowd reactions, and I had a strong feeling that ‘King Richard’ would go on to be the top winner after many rounds of applause, laughs, and tears. It was the perfect return to the cinema for so many of our attendees!

Additionally, I have to give my highest praise to ‘Mass’ for its unprecedented awards from three key groups: our audience with the Narrative Special Presentation Audience Choice Award, international critics for the FIPRESCI Award, and local critics for the IFJA Award. The film is transcendent, timely, and clearly made a resounding impact on every person who has seen the film. Congratulations to all the Audience Choice Award-winning films!”


Overall Audience Choice Award Winner

“King Richard” | Director: Reinaldo Marcus Green | Warner Bros. Pictures
Armed with a clear vision and a brazen 78-page plan, Richard Williams is determined to write his daughters, Venus and Serena, into history. Training on Compton, California’s abandoned tennis courts – rain or shine – the girls are shaped by their father’s unyielding commitment and their mother’s balanced perspective and keen intuition, defying the seemingly insurmountable odds and prevailing expectations laid before them. Based on the true story that will inspire the world, “King Richard” follows the journey of a family whose unwavering resolve and unconditional belief ultimately delivers two of the world’s greatest sports legends.

Narrative Special Presentation Audience Choice Award Winner

“Mass” | Director: Fran Kranz | Bleecker Street
Years after an unspeakable tragedy tore their lives apart, two sets of parents (Jason Isaacs and Martha Plimpton, Reed Birney and Ann Dowd) agree to talk privately in an attempt to move forward. In Fran Kranz’ writing and directing debut, he thoughtfully examines their journey of grief, anger and acceptance by coming face-to-face with the ones who have been left behind.

Documentary Special Presentation Audience Choice Award Winner

“The Rescue” | Directors: E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin | National Geographic Documentary Films
“The Rescue” chronicles the dramatic 2018 rescue of 12 Thai boys and their soccer coach, trapped deep inside a flooded cave. Academy Award-winning directors and producers E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin reveal the perilous world of cave diving, the bravery of the rescuers, and the dedication of an entire community that made great sacrifices to save these young boys.

Narrative Official Selection Audience Choice Award Winner

“Peace by Chocolate” | Jonathan Keijser | Canada
After the bombing of his father’s chocolate factory, a charming young Syrian refugee struggles to settle into his new Canadian small-town life, caught between following his dream to become a doctor and preserving his family’s chocolate-making legacy. Based on the internationally recognized true story.

Documentary Official Selection Audience Choice Award Winner

“For the Left Hand” | Gordon Quinn, Leslie Simmer | United States
At age 10, aspiring pianist Norman Malone is paralyzed on his right side after being attacked by his father. Over the next several decades he masters the left-hand repertoire in secret before a chance discovery of his talent leads him towards making his concert debut. Aged 78, he will perform the greatest work in the canon: Ravel’s Piano Concerto for the Left Hand.

Indiana Spotlight Audience Choice Award Winner

“The Addict’s Wake” | Director: Michael Husain | World Premiere | United States
After a crippling series of overdose deaths, rural Brown County, Indiana decides to “Do Something” differently to fight addiction. The film is a powerful story of hope and recovery for individuals in use, their families, and the community as a whole.

Heartland Horror Audience Choice Award Winner

“What Josiah Saw” | Director: Vincent Grashaw | United States
A family with buried secrets reunite at a farmhouse after two decades to pay for their past sins. Starring Robert Patrick, Nick Stahl, Scott Haze, Kelli Garner, and Tony Hale.

IFJA (Indiana Film Journalists Association) Award for Best Special Presentation

“Mass” | Director: Fran Kranz | Bleecker Street”
‘Mass’ is a revelation — a film both intimate and profound. Four actors give world-class performances in this drama from writer/director Fran Kranz about two couples attempting to bridge the widest of divides: the tragic encounter between their sons. It is a story of tragedy and hope, enduring pain and the incorruptible power of forgiveness. The IFJA applauds Kranz and the cast and crew for their compelling achievement.”

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