From left: Christi Davenport, documentary subject; Cindy Johnston, documentary subject; Paul Rasmussen, lead pastor at Highland Park United Methodist; Thaddeus Matula, director of Into The Spotlight. Photo by Simon Pruitt.

“This documentary was the hardest thing I have ever done and the best thing I have ever done,” says Thaddeus Matula, director of Into The Spotlight.

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Into The Spotlight follows the Spotlight Academy of Arts during their 2021-22 season. Spotlight is an annual program sponsored by Highland Park United Methodist Church that brings together adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities to write, design and perform an original musical.

The documentary premiered in the Dallas International Film Festival last Saturday, April 29, to a sold out audience at the Texas Theatre in Oak Cliff. It screened again to another sold out crowd at Violet Crown Cinema on Monday, May 1. Yesterday, the festival announced that the film took home the Grand Jury Prize for Best Texas Feature, the festival’s most prestigious award.

“When going the festival route you want to have a great showing at your first fest,” says Matula. “Two sold out shows and the award for best Texas feature, what a great way to start!”

Audiences waiting in line for the film’s world premiere. Photo by Simon Pruitt.

The subjects of Into The Spotlight charmed viewers with their unabashed creativity and contagious enthusiasm in the face of difficult circumstances. Matula’s direction paints a heartfelt portrait of each

“It’s their passion and wisdom shining through that makes this film special,” Matula says. “The win is a testament to them.”

Into The Spotlight‘s next screening is slated for June at Ignite Film Festival in Marlborough, UK.

“It’ll be on a yearlong festival run,” Matula explains. “With an eye towards positioning the film for awards season.”

Watch the trailer for Into The Spotlight here.