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I've been thinking recently about the movies I saw growing in up Great Falls Montana where we didn't have an arthouse and my movie diet consisted almost entirely of mainstream Hollywood fare of the 70's and early 80's. I believe the first truly "indie" film I ever saw was in 1979 when the Montana filmed indie HEARTLAND starring Rip Torn and Conchata Ferrell played in Great Falls for three weeks. (I looked it up.) HEARTLAND is our next Rialto Recommends. My Mom and I went to see HEARTLAND because it was filmed in Montana. I was 14 at the time. Disarmingly realistic in its depiction of the realities of frontier life, HEARTLAND is a strong antidote to the cliches of traditional Westerns. This semi-documentary slice of life is based on the diaries of Elmore Randall Stewart about her days on the Wyoming frontier in the early 20th century. It's a strongly feminist statement about a woman raising her small daughter alone and scrapping for a living by working for a shy Scottish rancher. Director Richard Pearce brings an endearing touch to a film that is helped greatly by the dazzling cinematography of Fred Murphy. Conchata Ferrell and Rip Torn star in this small film that substitutes veracity for a high-powered plot. In his four star review Roger Ebert said "Richard Pearce's HEARTLAND is a big, robust, joyous movie about people who make other movie heroes look tentative. Everything in this movie affirms life. Perhaps that is why Heartland can also be so unblinking in its consideration of death. The American West was not settled by people who spent all their time baking peach cobbler and knitting samplers, and this movie contains several scenes that will shock some audiences because of their forthright realism. We see a pig slaughtered, a calf birthed, cattle skinned, and a half-dead horse left out in the blizzard because there is simply nothing to feed it. All of HEARTLAND is stunningly photographed on and around a Montana ranch." The New York Time said "HEARTLAND is firm and realistic in its appreciation of its people and the quality of their lives. One feels they are so stubbornly independent that they would have little patience with prefabricated pep talks about the American character. In Mr. Torn and Miss Ferrell the film also has two actors who look and behave as if they were quite capable of coping with nature's worst and smiling about it afterward." HEARTLAND is streaming on Fandor which is available by direct subscription or through Amazon. Director Richard Pearce would go on to direct Country starring Jessica Lange (one of the year of three farm movies), No Mercy, Leap of Faith and a wonderful film that we will feature soon called The Long Walk Home.

Film Facts
Running Time
MPAA Rating
Conchata Ferrell
Rip Torn
Lilia Skala
Barry Primus
Directed by
Richard Pearce
Written by
Beth Ferris
William Kittredge
Admission & Prices
Virtual Cinema prices vary by film