Indy Film Fest opens with 'I Origins'


An eyeball from I Origins.
  • An eyeball from I Origins.

Readers might remember that, in the early days of the Indianapolis International Film Festival, filmgoers could be found at the now-shuttered Hollywood Bar and Filmworks downtown eating cheese fries, watching movies, and talking to filmmakers from Indiana and abroad over the course of a few days.

In recent years, the festival has expanded to 10 days and now occupies two theaters at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Add to that downtown's IMAX, which is hosting Friday night screenings this year. But some things remain the same: More filmmakers than ever will attend the fest this year, and Board President Craig Mince encourages intrepid filmgoers to track them down for a few questions during post-screening Q&As or parties.

Prior to the screening of I Origins Thursday night, the festival’s opening movie, Mince gave a shout out to sponsors, volunteers, and Kickstarter supporters who helped pay to get those filmmakers here. In fact, the festival program includes a clapboard icon for the programs that will have filmmakers handy to answer questions, and there will be a filmmakers panel on July 19 at 1:30 p.m.

I Origins, which won’t be screening again at this festival but opened in New York and L.A. on July 18 and will open here in a few weeks, asks challenging questions about science and spirituality and the afterlife. Is it possible that eyes really are the window to the sou, even if that soul was previously in another body?

Following the film, director Mike Cahill took a break from promoting the film in L.A. for a Q&A via Skype. Cahill shared that the idea for the story came from a visit to an island in the Adriatic Sea where there were Roman ruins next to dinosaur footprints. He remarked that in Ancient Rome, citizens wouldn’t have known what the dinosaur footprints were even though they saw them on a daily basis. This caused him to wonder what would be the equivalent to that in today’s culture, and maybe that would be how future generations understand biometrics compared to what we know today. The film focuses on iris scans, which are supposedly unique to each human being. Yet, in the film, there are a few statistically impossible matches that the scientist main characters try to investigate.

Cahill also offered an inside look into his screenplay-writing process. For this film, he said, he wrote the entire script in first-person, stream-of-consciousness writing from the point of view of the main character.

The audience members also asked a few tough questions. For instance, more than a few filmgoers were creeped out by a scene that had overtones of sex trafficking. Cahill said the scene was meant to include that tension of seemingly inappropriate interaction between a child and an adult — even though nothing inappropriate is expected to happen based on the rest of the movie. He said this was partially to catch viewers off-guard ahead of a pivotal scene.

For those wanting a behind-the-scenes story, Cahill told a tale of a challenge he had getting a perfect shot in Delhi using a camera that was different from the high-tech one he used for a similar shot in New York. Chaos with thousands of extras, difficulty in getting the right depth of field, and a majestic shot involving a can of diet soda almost prevented him from getting the look he wanted, but in the end he said that a goat, of all things, was good luck. He ultimately got it as close to perfect as possible after a full day of shooting and “something like” 28 takes later.

Following the film, a group of festival rookies and vets gathered at The Hall for drinks, hors d’oeuvres, and conversations about what festivalgoers hope to see at this year’s event. While everyone is encouraged to check out any of the films and shorts programs, upcoming highlights include Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter, about a Japanese woman obsessed with Fargo, and the awards program on July 19; and the closing night film, a “zomromcom” — a zombie romantic comedy — Life After Beth, starring Aubrey Plaza, and party on July 26.


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