|July 21 – 27, 2017||Vol. 19, No. 7|
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by Gregor Smith
Although there are only three days to go, there is still a lot to see at this year's 20th annual Maine International Film Festival. The final weekend will bring the visit of a leading independent film director, screenings of several worthy but neglected vintage films, a competition for Maine's youngest filmmakers, a compilation of shorts by older Mainers, an interactive audiovisual exhibit, and a closing night documentary about the influence of American Indians on American popular music. All screenings will take place either at the Waterville Opera House or at Railroad Square Cinema.
This year, the festival salutes indie director Tom DiCillo. DiCillo soared into the cinematic stratosphere with his directorial debut in Johnny Suede in 1991 and rose even higher with his next outing, Living in Oblivion (1995), which was shown at MIFF earlier this week. Two of his later films will be shown this weekend: Box of Moonlight, his 1997 comedy about an anal retentive electrical engineer who learns to unwind when he gets stuck in a small town that time has passed by, and Down in Shadowland, his newest oeuvre, a 71-minute meditation on New York City's literal underworld, its subway system, and the denizens thereof.
The festival's last three days will also give you a first (or second) chance to see many of MIFF's "re-discoveries." Each year the festival presents at least half a dozen undeservedly overlooked masterworks, many of which have been newly restored. This year's selection includes Dekalog (Poland & West Germany, 1989), a series of ten, one-hour films by Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski. Set in the same housing complex and each focusing on one of the Ten Commandments, the segments are inter-related, but each stands on its own. The segments are being shown throughout the festival, two at a time. Screenings remain for Parts 7 & 8 and Parts 9 & 10.
The other "re-discoveries" with screenings yet to come are Trouble in Paradise (1932), Ernst Lubitsch's romantic comedy about Gaston and Lily, partners in crime and in life, whose plot to rob a female perfume company executive unravels when Gaston falls for the intended victim; Stalker (USSR, 1979), Andrei Tarkovsky's fable about The Zone, a forbidden area that was created by the impact of a object from outer space and that can be entered only with the aid of a "stalker," but where wishes come true; Le Cercle Rouge ("The Red Circle") (France & Italy, 1970), a diamond heist thriller from director Jean-Pierre Melville; He Walked by Night (1949), a film noir where Los Angeles police track an electronics expert who has killed a cop, and Deep Waters (1948), the Maine-shot drama about a lobsterman, his fiancée, and an orphan boy.
Saturday is Making It In Maine Day, the centerpiece of which is the 40th Annual Maine Student Film and Video Festival at 12:30 in the Opera House. This student competition accepts short films, 10 minutes or less, in three age divisions (Grades K-6, Grades 7-8, and Grades 9-12) and in three categories: Narrative, Documentary, and Creative. This last category includes music videos, art films, stop-motion animation, and experimental works. At each year's MIFF, the top submissions are shown, the winners announced, and the prizes awarded.
At 3:30 on both Saturday and Sunday, one can also view shorts by older Maine filmmakers in Railroad Square's Cinema 1. Lasting just over an hour, Maine Shorts comprises five films, lasting from 4 to 37 minutes each. They are "What My Friends Do on a Saturday Night," where complications ensue after a young man invites his ex-girlfriend to a party; "Bobby and Sonny," which introduces us to two lobstermen on Vinalhaven; "Gleaners," which follows the Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program as it picks, or "gleans," fruits and vegetables left in the field after the harvest; "Road Kill," in which a boy on his bike "gleans" and then buries road kill; and "Are You Really My Friend?," in which the filmmaker visits all 626 of her worldwide Facebook friends to photograph them.
At some point during the festival, be sure to check out the fifth annual MIFFONEDGE at Common Street Arts, just around the corner from the Opera House. According to the MIFF website, MIFFONEDGE presents "audiovisual works that challenge how we look at, listen to, and think about
This year's exhibit honors Harry Smith, a filmmaker, painter, and ethnomusicologist. In his Early Abstractions film series, Smith experimented with direct animation, in which the artist draws or paints directly on the celluloid, with each successive image slightly different from the previous one. Exhibit visitors can then try direct animation for themselves, as part of the Community Cameraless Film Project.
All good things must come to an end, and this year's festival will end with a bang, or rather with loud guitar chords, as MIFF presents Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World. This new documentary about the hidden history of American Indian performers and their role in the development of blues, jazz, folk, rock, and heavy metal features archival footage of and new interviews with many icons, Indian and non-Indian alike, of American popular music of the late 20th century, including Jimi Hendrix, Quincy Jones, George Clinton, Tony Bennett, Taj Mahal, Slash, Jackson Browne, Iggy Pop, Buffy Sainte-Marie, and many more. Rumble will screen Sunday at 7:00 in the Waterville Opera House.
For fuller descriptions of any of the films, visit the MIFF website, www.miff.org, or pick up a copy of MIFF's free, 64-page program guide at Railroad Square Cinema or the Waterville Opera House. Tickets cost $10 per person, except for the Closing Night Ceremony ($12) and the Maine Student Film & Video Festival (free). As screenings can sell out, especially those that are held in either of Railroad Square's smaller theaters, Cinema 2 (90 seats) and Cinema 3 (50 seats), it's best to arrive at least 15 minutes early.
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