HIFF2018 Preview: “Tre Maison Dasan,” “Seeing is Believing: Women Direct,” “Howard”


Heartland Film is happy to partner with students from Anderson University during the Festival on several projects. Students recently interviewed filmmakers to give you a closer look at these three films.

Tiller’s Newest Film: Tre Maison Dasan

Through the eyes of a child, life could look vastly different. Generally, children display naivety, happiness and a glass half full mindset despite the difficult circumstance that life brings. These characteristics intrigued Filmmaker Denali Tiller when she began her journey a few years ago. If life looks different from the eyes of a child, what could life look like through the eyes of a child whose parents are incarcerated? Tiller began to investigate.


Rutgers University reported the following stats:

  • In 2014, roughly 2.7 million (one in 28) children in the U.S. have an incarcerated parent.
  • Approximately 10 million children have experienced parental incarceration at some point in their lives.
  • About one in nine African American children in the U.S. have an incarcerated parent (view more stats from Rutgers University).
  • Like Tiller, some may wonder why nothing is being done to help these children and why the world lacks a call to action. Through the making of the film, “Tre Maison Dasan,” Tiller was able to grow closer to her three subjects. Although these boys are different ages and have different experiences, they each have a story to tell, and Tiller was determined to let the world hear it. Her film is told through the experiences of the three boys to allow a greater level of intimacy between the audience and the characters, less intervention of a narrator and lasting relevance.

    By viewing the film through the boys’ perspectives, the audience can know who the boys are and learn more about the children affected by parental incarceration. Tiller hopes the boys’ resiliency and ability to look at the world through a different lens will impact people and cause them to look within themselves and change their perceptions. While the film has many strengths, perhaps one of the main strengths is the multiple impacts it can leave on a person. Since the film, lacks a narrator, the audience has more control interpreting the message.

    The message a person needs to take away from this film could help improve this unfortunate phenomenon, and Tiller is hoping it will make a difference. Throughout the 94-minute run time of the film, viewers will be experiencing a range of emotions; however, most of all, viewers will be experiencing vulnerable and true moments given by transparent and honest young people. While the film may run for only 94 minutes, Tiller hopes the impact of the film (whatever it may be) will run for much longer.

    Blakelee Steeb is a junior from Eminence, Indiana, majoring in public relations and minoring in management. Blakelee is an associate with Fifth Street Communications®, a student-run public relations agency at Anderson University.

    Women Direct – She Proved it!

    “Girl power.” A slogan that goes much deeper than being printed on hot pink t-shirts in the ‘90s. It is a testament to the war society has been fighting for centuries. Women have faced discrimination in every single area of life, including the world of art and film. One producer is seeking to shatter the glass ceiling in her industry by sharing the stories of women who share the same passion for storytelling.

    Cady McClain is an artist in the purest sense of the term. She is not a stranger to performance art, writing, fine art, music and film. Though her love for directing began early in her life, McClain was undeniably hooked on filmmaking more than six years ago. During a time when she was working on a lot of writing, she had an idea for a short film. She wrote it, shared it and was encouraged by her husband to bring it to life. Through the process of directing this project, McClain realized that it is what she was meant to do.

    Seeing is Believing: Women Direct

    An actress herself, McClain understands the needs of those in front of and behind the camera. She has a passion for working with actors and assuring they are esteemed through the entire production process. One of her favorite parts of filmmaking is the process of creating a new world and new perspectives of seeing that world. McClain is passionate about working with others who are also adrenalized by the creation process.

    “Seeing is Believing: Women Direct” is a documentary about women sharing their stories and the importance of voices and stories in art, society and the battle for equality. Through the process of production, McClain sought to celebrate the creativity, narrative and wisdom of the women she interviewed. She wanted to provide insight to the inspiration and perspiration poured out by these artists on a daily basis.

    McClain loves the ending of this film. She also appreciates the rawness of the project and that you feel like you have been given a gift by being invited into the homes, hearts and minds of these women. She hopes those who view the film will be inspired to embrace opportunities to work with people who are different from them. McClain also hopes viewers will learn different tools and perspectives to adopt and be energized to accomplish the things they believe in, comforted by the knowledge that they are never alone.

    McClain and “Seeing is Believing: Women Direct” are paving a path of liberation for women in creative industries, especially film. Storytelling and supporting one another through the process of production and the process of life are changing the way people live and understand the world around them. Every person has a lifetime of stories to tell and the world has a need for each of those words.

    Erin Smith is a junior from Anderson, Indiana, majoring in public relations and minoring in writing. Erin is an associate with Fifth Street Communications®, a student-run public relations agency at Anderson University.

    The Untold Story of Lyricist Howard Ashman

    The 2018 Heartland International Film Festival will feature the film “Howard.” This film is inspired by the life of lyricist Howard Ashman who is best known for his work in Disney classics such as “Aladdin,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Little Mermaid.”

    Howard Ashman grew up in a Jewish household in Baltimore, Maryland. Even as a child, Ashman had a profound love for musical theater. Upon graduating college, he opened his own theater in a rundown part of New York.


    Howard’s shows quickly gained lots of attraction and his career took off. He thought his success was cut short when a collaborative effort of his and Oscar-and Tony-winner Marvin Hamlisch did not receive the praise they had hoped for. After moving to Los Angeles, Howard wrote songs for the hugely successful film “The Little Mermaid.”

    After working on songs for Disney’s “Aladdin,” Howard’s health rapidly declined. From his hospital bed, he wrote songs for “Beauty and the Beast” before passing away due to AIDS. Although he never got the chance to watch his final Disney film, his remarkable story is still impacting lives today.

    This film was directed by Don Hahn who had produced “Beauty and the Beast” and worked closely with Howard on the film. Alongside Hahn was Lori Korngiebel, who had worked with Hahn on multiple Disney classics. Both Hahn and Korngiebel are passionate about sharing the untold story of the life of Howard Ashman. Howard was extraordinarily talented and lived a vibrant life. This film is a way of honoring his memory and work through storytelling and film.

    Charis Grubbs is a senior from Eaton, Ohio, majoring in public relations and political science Charis is an associate with Fifth Street Communications®, a student-run public relations agency at Anderson University.


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