Independent film: the MIFF celebrates its 25th anniversary with the return of a full-fledged film event


“Sunner” is among screenings of films made in Maine at the Maine International Film Festival in Waterville. Photo courtesy of Henry Spritz

The opening film of the 25th Maine International Film Festival (Friday to July 17) is the raucous, joyful and exuberantly musical Moroccan film “Casablanca Beats”, about a musician rallying the oppressed youth of Casablanca to rid themselves of their existence. restrictive and sing .

I can’t think of a better way to kick off this first full-fledged festival after two years of Maine Internationals reduced and restricted by COVID. Neither did MIFF Director General Mike Perreault.

“It’s such a cool and perfect way to open,” Perreault said. “It’s musical, international, it’s followed by a free concert by (Talking Heads tribute outfit) Start Making Sense at Waterville Rocks right after. It’s just an awesome, fun night of movies and music, bringing downtown Waterville to life.

Maine International has the right – if not the duty – to celebrate this year. In addition to being the 25th Maine International Film Festival, it also marks a return, if not to normality, at least a more normal (meaning exceptional, exciting and eclectic) return to pre-cinema glory. -Maine pandemic.

“It’s an important step, and we’re getting to do it the right way,” Perreault said of the 10-day, 100-film festival. “There was a lot of hope that we could return to our traditional format this year. We were lucky, but we were also strategic. After two years of pivoting based on what was safe and desirable for our audience, it seems the world has decided to adapt to that.

(Just a note that while theaters at the MIFF Railroad Square Cinema and the Waterville Opera House no longer require masks or proof of vaccinations, the pandemic is not over. Use your head, people.) There’s also a healthy selection of films on demand as part of MIFF’s virtual program, while the exceptional Skowhegan Drive-In hosts outdoor screenings, including the chance to see the typically dark and trippy ‘Lost Highway’. by David Lynch this Saturday and Thursday, July 14.

Still, it’s definitely a celebratory time, especially if you’re a Maine movie fan. Maine International represents the best Maine has to offer, in terms of films from across the state and around the world, and as Maine’s premiere opportunity to meet and interact with some of the most illustrious people in film. . As noted (enthusiastic) in this column a few weeks ago, MIFF’s coveted Midlife Achievement Award goes to festival guest, the great Debra Winger. In addition to offering screenings of films featuring Winger such as “Mike’s Murder”, “A Dangerous Woman”, “The Lovers” and “The Sheltering Sky”, Winger will be the guest of a party in his honor on July 15th. (A ticket from any MIFF Winger movie gets you into Waterville’s Front & Main.)

Additionally, MIFF welcomes acclaimed Mexican filmmaker Tatiana Huezo, with a retrospective of her films (many of which deal with themes of women facing human trafficking, cartel violence and civil war), and a reception /party for Huezo at Front & Main. And, since this is the last year that MIFF will host films at the current location of Waterville’s irreplaceable movie theater, Railroad Square (relax, the Paul J. Schupf Art Center is under construction), the MIFF is hosting another party to celebrate indefatigable Railroad Square owner Alan Sanborn on July 16. As part of Sanborn’s well-deserved Lifetime Achievement Award, he got to choose a movie to screen for us. He chose “Chinatown”. No complaints there.

Of course, we’re all here primarily for the movies, and with a full 100 movies to choose from, the only downside is having to choose. (Here’s where I say festival passes — $250 for a full, $100 for a partial pass — are the way to go.) There’s something for everyone to love, just about everywhere you turn. at the MIFF. Personally, the old movie geek in me is excited about the revivals of Jean-Jacques Beineix’s gloriously cinematic 1981 crime thriller “Diva” and the resurrection of the 1984 indie drama “Vengeance Is Mine.” This film stars Brooke Adams and is directed by Michael Roemer, a visionary independent filmmaker (“The Plot Against Harry”, “Nothing But a Man”) whose career has been notoriously bitten by the absurdities of the film industry.

“Hopeful: The Story of MaineWorks” is a documentary presented at the Maine International Film Festival. Photo courtesy of Thomas Hildreth

Maine films are strongly represented, as always, with Perreault proudly stating, “It’s my personal passion, and we have some really strong Maine features this year, just really spectacular productions produced under really tough conditions.” Perreault cites the coming-of-age film “Sunner” by Henry Spritz and shot by Sanford and the documentaries “Hopeful: The Story of MaineWorks” and “Elizabeth Bishop and the Art of Losing” as Maine films that he is especially excited for MIFF attendees to see.

Additionally, Perreault praises the efforts of Patrisha McLean, founder of the Maine domestic violence nonprofit Finding Our Voices, who presents a trio of films to highlight the continuing problem of violence. domestic in Maine.

We are thrilled to partner with Finding Our Voices,” said Perreault. “They are doing such important work, especially in light of the pandemic, when domestic violence increased, and it was harder for people who were suffering from it to raise their voices and get help.” MIFF is screening the feature film ‘And So I Stayed’ (about women in prison for killing their attackers) on July 16, alongside two Maine-made short documentaries from Finding Our Voices and a post-film discussion .

A major film festival brings the world to you, seen through multiple and diverse eyes. The Maine International Film Festival is a major film festival. For a full list of this year’s films, and to purchase individual tickets, festival passes and virtual screenings, go to The festival is truly the most important event of Maine’s movie season. We’ll see each other there.

Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Auburn with his wife and cat.

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