The Hoosier Films Annual Festival will be held online Sept. 3-6, 2020. For schedules and more information on the other films playing, visit the official festival site.


Midwest quickly recalls E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial as it opens with mysterious blue lights flashing through a forest. The film then kicks into full Stranger Things swing when it focuses on two teenage boys tracking down the otherworldly lights.

While Zane (Alex Coniaris) is a dreamer, Dom (Calvin Prenkert) is a skeptic. He obsesses over the future and college while Zane goes wherever the wind blows. Writer-director Robbie Gonyea avoids leaning on the typical locker-room talk that’s so prevalent in coming-of-age dramas, giving the film a Spielbergian warmth and PG-rated charm instead.

The film’s most touching monologue arrives when the boys bump into another adolescent (Tamara Brown) searching for aliens. She talks about how believers like them keep the magic in the world alive.

Midwest isn’t terribly different from the films to which it pays homage but it’s also not a mere nostalgia fest. And like the best films in this genre, it’s ultimately about the adventure of sailing into the wide blue yonder of adulthood.


Writer-director Demetrius Witherspoon’s Submerge series is growing into quite an impressive cinematic universe, complete with four films, an animated series pilot, comic books, trading cards, custom Funko Pop figures and even a custom perfume!

The ambitious size and scope of the series is evident within the first few frames of Submerge: Echo 51, which opens with a riveting alien invasion on the planet Echo. (The forest scenes were filmed in a campground in Monrovia, Indiana.)

The film then jumps forward 100 years to follow an alien woman named Lyte (Shonna Bedford), who believes she is the sole survivor of the attack. But she ends up facing off against some formidable foes.

You don’t need to be familiar with the Submerge series to enjoy this entry. The film works better as a spectacle than a drama, but it’s exciting to see the quaint Hoosier heartland transform into a futuristic sci-fi landscape.


In this age of instant — and often insolent — communication, The Tides That Bind provides a refreshing reminder of a time when we searched far and wide for meaningful connections.

The documentary follows a good-hearted adventurer named Clint Buffington, who has discovered more than 90 messages in bottles since 2007, when he found a sea scroll washed ashore during a trip to the Caribbean with his dad. That revelatory experience hooked Clint for life.

Over the course of the film, Clint reunites with a few of the people behind his favorite finds. Some are couples who wanted to commemorate their love with a letter, others are simply curious seafarers tempted to spark a connection.

“I tossed the message overboard into the night just to see what would happen. I guess something happened,” a young man says with a smile as he talks to Clint years later.

What ties the message senders together are the pure-hearted intentions behind their efforts, which feel all too quaint at the moment.