Flashbacks: Indianapolis International Film Festival's Big Moments

Its most controversial film, biggest surprise, and greatest lesson learned—they’re all right here.
Small Town Murder Songs

The IIFF turns 10 this year, and it’s renewing its passport with a couple of innovations. A few films will be screened at locations that fit the genre—a horror movie at a drive-in, for example. And at several showings, the audience will be encouraged to tweet their reactions, which will instantly make their way to a “tweet wall” in the theater. As you can tell, the event’s president and COO Craig Mince likes to keep things moving forward. But to celebrate the history of the festival (July 18–28), he agreed to reflect on lessons from past years.

Most controversial film:The Tiger Next Door, a documentary that’s centered around an Indiana man who raises Bengal tigers and explores whether that should be legal. The theater was packed with people both for and against. Two days before, the guy called and said, ‘I’m going to bring a tiger to the screening.’ I was like, ‘Whoa, we’re going to have to pump the brakes on this one.’ It was polarizing, but that’s what good movies do—they’re supposed to incite conversation.”

Biggest surprise: “Flying in big-name directors or actors is out of our scope. So we started Skyping. And we found that directors actually enjoy sitting at home in their pajamas in L.A. and interacting with a crowd in Indianapolis.”

Greatest lesson learned: “Trust the audience. We always wonder: Is Indy ready for this? But you can’t let that affect you as a programmer. We showed Small Town Murder Songs, a Canadian film that had graphic rape scenes. It’s hard to put something like that out there and hope people understand. But audiences loved it.”

Film Credit: Started in 2004 as a small, three-day event, the indianapolis International Film Festival now spans 10 days and attracts almost 4,500 people.

Film photos courtesy the IIFF

This article appeared in the July 2013 issue.