Heartland International Film Festival 2020 Jimmy Stewart Tribute

There is nothing quite like seeing a movie on the big screen–let alone a double feature that celebrates one of the greatest actors of all time in a venue that is particularly special and appealing. In the case of Heartland International Film Festival (HIFF), Jimmy Stewart is a a staple in their lineup, as HIFF’s team also doles out the coveted Jimmy Stewart Legacy Award. According to their website:

“Since 2015 in partnership with the Stewart Family, the Heartland International Film Festival has presented the annual Jimmy Stewart Legacy Award and $5,000 cash prize to a single winner, selected from the Festival’s feature-length narrative and documentary titles. The winning film will best embody the ongoing legacy of actor and national hero Jimmy Stewart and will demonstrate the triumph of the human spirit through determination and the defiance of odds, humble vulnerability, and courage in the face of adversity.”

While they had terrific events planned for 2020, HIFF’s staff had to be quickly and cleverly reimagined in order to abide by COVID-19 safety standards.

Enter the drive-in movie. Prior to attending HIFF, I had never gone to a drive-in movie before. Among their impressive lineup of films was a double feature of Rear Window (1954) and Vertigo (1958)–both of which I hadn’t seen on the big screen before–playing at the Tibb’s Drive-In in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Eager to experience the films and the drive-in venue, the creativity behind coordinating the event and making it extra special blew me away. I drove to Tibb’s and received some goodies for attending and also participated in their drive-in red carpet–quite literally a huge red carpet to drive over and park on for a quick photo.

Once parked and snacking, I tuned in to the radio station to get my audio and waited for the show to start, beginning with Rear Window. I had seen Rear Window many times before but seeing Grace Kelly’s entrance projected high on a screen was highly memorable.

Moreover, watching the stories unfold in the small apartments across from those of Stewart’s character was also something wonderful to behold. Seeing them minimized on a television gets the story across, but seeing them the way they were meant to be seen on the big screen allows for viewers to capture the smallest of details in the scenes that also move the plot along.

The following film was Vertigo, sporting a breathtaking palate of symbolic colors and beautiful cinematography. A love letter to San Francisco, both Stewart and Kim Novak are nothing short of iconic in these roles, each portraying complicated characters in their own right. Without a doubt, the most hauntingly beautiful scene features Novak’s character climactically reemerging in a guise familiar to viewers.

Overall, it was a delight to be able to experience these films projected outdoors and enjoyed with an audience during these strange times. Indulging in Stewart’s collaborations with Alfred Hitchcock was the perfect way to spend a fall evening and I look forward to enjoying future Stewart tributes at HIFF.

About Annette Bochenek

Dr. Annette Bochenek of Chicago, Illinois, is an avid scholar of Hollywood’s Golden Age. She manages the Hometowns to Hollywood blog, in which she writes about her trips exploring the legacies and hometowns of Golden Age stars. Annette also hosts the “Hometowns to Hollywood” film series throughout the Chicago area. She has been featured on Turner Classic Movies and is the president of TCM Backlot’s Chicago chapter. In addition to writing for TCM Backlot, she also writes for Classic Movie Hub, Silent Film Quarterly, Nostalgia Digest, and Chicago Art Deco Society Magazine.
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