July 20 – 26, 2018Vol. 20, No. 7

MIFF Makes it in Maine

Vanessa Opitz as Soleil in "Empath," one of the Maine Shorts.

by Gregor Smith

As is MIFF's tradition, the second Saturday at this year's Maine International Film Festival is Making It In Maine Day. The day gives film goers a first (or second) chance to see all the features and shorts that are either set in Maine, shot in Maine, or made by Maine filmmakers.

The first public event of the day is the Maine Student Film & Video Festival at 12:30. For 41 years, the Maine Student Film & Video Festival has allowed Maine's budding filmmakers, aged 19 and younger, to submit short films, 10 minutes or less, to a juried, statewide competition, with the winning films to be shown and prizes to be awarded during a public ceremony, which is now held at the Waterville Opera House. MIFF has hosted the student festival since MIFF began in 1998.

The shorts are grouped according to the age of their makers (Grades K-6, Grades 7-8, and Grades 9-12), and within each age division are judged in three categories: Narrative, Documentary, and Creative. (This last category is for animated and experimental films.) Prizes vary from one year to the next, but typically include free admission to summer filmmaking workshops, cash awards, and subscriptions to online film-editing software.

Those who would like to see short films by older Mainers may stroll back to the Opera House for a program on Maine Shorts at 3:30. This year, Maine Shorts comprises nine short films ranging from 5 to 24 minutes long and totaling nearly two hours. The selection is a mixture of dramas, fantasies, and documentaries, but including three documentaries with a Central Maine connection, dealing with the art of handling delicate works of art at the Colby College Museum of Art, what it means to be an Asian student at Colby, and the infamous "ten-mile yard sale" held each summer on lawns along the road from Skowhegan to Cornville.

For those who prefer longer films, this year's festival has three Maine-connected feature films as well. The first, The Reprogramming of Jeremy, will have its world premiere at the festival. (See related article.) The film is based on a play by Dover-Foxcroft resident Bobby Keniston, who later wrote the screenplay and will introduce the screening. The title character is a sweet, shy, sensitive teen with a secret — he's gay. The film deals with the consequences of the revelation of that secret through documentary-style interviews and flashbacks with Jeremy and his friends, relatives, and acquaintances in his small, close-minded town. The screening is at 12:30 in Railroad Square's Cinema 1. (Yes, unfortunately it conflicts with the Maine Student Film & Video Festival.)

That evening, the Opera House will screen two Maine-related documentaries: Modified at 6:30 and Picture of Light at 9:30. Shot in Maine and Eastern Canada, Modified asks why the U.S. and Canada to not require foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMO) to be labeled as such, even though 64 other countries do. Blending advocacy and memory, Modified centers on the director's relationship to her mother, a gardener and anti-GMO activist who was fighting cancer as the film was being made.

The second film, Picture of Light is a meditation on the aurora borealis, the Northern Lights, which occasionally grace Maine skies, but can be seen more reliably in the Canadian arctic, where the film was shot. According to the MIFF website, "While combining glimpses of the characters who live in this remote environment with the film crew's comic and absurd attempts to deal with the extreme cold, the film reveals the paradoxes involved in trying to capture the spectacular light show of the Northern Lights on celluloid. But, non-spoiler alert: they do!" Originally released in 1994, the film has been digitally restored.

Admission to the Maine Shorts program or to any of three feature films costs $10 per person. To buy tickets or get more information, visit www.miff.org or call 866-811-4111.