Still from St. Louis Superman, co-directed by alumni Smriti Mundhra ’09 and Sami Khan ’09

Numerous Filmmakers Screened Films at Heartland Film Festival

BY Gina Hackett, October 28, 2019

Several Columbia filmmakers screened films at the 2019 Heartland Film Festival earlier this month.


girl walking in market

Still from House of Hummingbird, written, directed, and co-produced by alumna Bora Kim '11


Beol-sae (House of Hummingbird), written & directed by Bora Kim11, was among the narrative features selected to screen in the festival. In addition to screening, House of Hummingbird won the festival’s Grand Prize for Best Narrative Feature, which is accompanied by a cash prize of $15,000.


The film, which was also co-produced by Kim, is a coming-of-age story about Eun-hee, an otherwise unexceptional Korean eighth grader who faces a turbulent home life and struggles to succeed at cram school. When Eun-hee forges an unlikely friendship with her Chinese language teacher, she begins to think that life is worth living.


Previous to Heartland Film Festival, House of Hummingbird took home the Grand Prix for best film at the 2019 Berlin Film Festival's Generation 14plus sidebar for youth-oriented films. It has also screened at the Tribeca Film Festival, Jerusalem Film Festival, and Seattle Film Festival, among others.


The film received the Pitch & Catch Megabox Grand Award from Seoul International Women's Film Festival and was selected for the IFP Narrative Lab, also receiving post-production support from the Sundance Film Festival. 


While at Columbia, Kim directed The Recorder Exam, a short film that turned heads upon its release in 2011 and won the student film award for the Director’s Guild of America, as well as earning Kim a spot at Berlinale Talents.


woman touching a face

Still from South Mountain, written and directed by Associate Professor Hilary Brougher


Associate Professor and Film Chair Hilary Brougher also brought her feature film, South Mountain, to Heartland Film Festival this year. 


Written & directed by Brougher on a microbudget, the film has screened at the Mill Valley Film Festival, Woodstock Film Festival, South by Southwest, BAMcinemafest, the Nantucket Film Festival, the Maryland International Film Festival, and the Maine International Film Festival, where Brougher won the festival's Mid-Life Achievement Award.


South Mountain, hailed by The New York Times as “Ingmar Bergman-esque,” brings to the screen the story of a troubled matriarch facing a crisis as her children leave for school and her husband leaves for good.


Also screened at the festival was St. Louis Superman, a documentary short film co-directed by alumni Smriti Mundhra ’09 and Sami Khan09. The film depicts the true story of Bruce Franks Jr., a 34-year-old Ferguson activist and battle rapper who was elected to the overwhelmingly white and Republican Missouri House of Representatives despite the personal and systemic forces working against him.


The film, which premiered at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival, was picked up by documentary producing powerhouse Sheila Nevins in August of this year. St. Louis Superman will also screen at the DOC NYC festival this November.


Prior to St. Louis Superman, Mundhra premiered his feature, A Suitable Girl, at Tribeca Film Festival in 2017, winning the Albert Maysles Award for Best New Documentary Director


Khoya, Khan's feature debut, was selected for the Tribeca Film Institute’s Tribeca All Access fellowship in 2013.


men in group

Still from Mafak (Screwdriver), written & directed by alumnus Bassam Jarbawi ’10 and produced by professor and alumnus Shrihari Sathe ’09


Also showing at the Heartland Festival was Mafak (Screwdriver), written & directed by alumnus Bassam Jarbawi ’10 and produced by professor and alumnus Shrihari Sathe ’09. 


Screwdriver depicts a Palestinian prisoner who, after spending 15 years in an Israeli prison, is released to a homeland that praises him as a hero despite his feelings otherwise.


Screwdriver premiered at the 2018 Venice Film Festival in addition to screening at the 2018 Toronto Film Festival and the 2019 Human Rights Watch Film Festival.


Sathe was the subject of a recent interview for the Columbia School of the Arts’ column “On a Global Scale,” a bi-weekly series about international co-productions by Columbia filmmakers. 


The Heartland Film Festival is an annual festival held in Indianapolis since 1992. It celebrates the achievements of filmmakers across the world.