‘King Richard’ earns Heartland Film Overall Audience Choice Award


“King Richard,” starring Will Smith, won the Heartland International Film Festival Overall Audience Choice Award, earning the top score across this year’s entire film lineup.

HIFF also honored 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” Oct. 16 at Newfields in Indianapolis. The festival concluded Oct. 17.

The festival, which began Oct. 7, showcased 143 films that included 14 event titles, 11 world premieres and eight U.S. premieres. HIFF’s hybrid festival hosted 162 in-person screenings and streamed 11,000 films during the course of the 11-day festival. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, HIFF had the highest number of attendees in its 30-year history. 

“The Addict’s Wake” received the Indiana Spotlight Audience Choice Award. The film centers on Brown County residents’ mission to deal with the opioid epidemic. The director was Zionsville resident Michael Husain. The documentary was produced by Geist resident Amy Pauszek and Lisa Hall, a former Fishers resident who lives in Brown County.

Besides the previously announced FIPRESCI Award (International Film Critics) for Best U.S. Narrative Directorial Debut, “Mass” (Bleecker Street) also was voted the winner of the Narrative Special Presentation Audience Choice Award and was selected by the Indiana Film Journalists Association as winner of the IFJA Award for Best Special Presentation, selected across the HIFF slate of studio event and special presentation titles.

During the festival, 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,” stated HIFF Artistic Director Greg Sorvig, a Carmel resident. “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.”