July 27 – August 2, 2018 Vol. 20, No. 8


Summertime in the Belgrades

July 27 – August 2

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Farewell to MIFF: A Look Back And A Look Ahead

Emma Thompson portrays family court judge Fiona Maye in The Children Act, winner of this year's Audience Favorite Award. The film is expected to return to Railroad Square Cinema for a weeklong run this fall.

by Gregor Smith

The twenty-first annual Maine International Film Festival has ended. The projectors have been shut off; the screens have gone dark; and the theaters are empty, save perhaps for a few discarded bubble gum wrappers and half-filled bags of popcorn. Ah, but the memories linger.

Looking back at this year's MIFF, here are a few of the highlights:

  • Watching the luminous Dominique Sanda in the 1971 classic, The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, and then seeing her in person as she accepted MIFF's 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Viewing the festival's oldest movie, 1927 silent romance 7th Heaven, with a brand new, jazz score performed live — its world premiere — with its composer, midcoast Maine trumpeter Mark Tipton and his quartet, Les Sorciers Perdus.
  • Seeing two films that are even more timely than when late director Hal Ashby made them in the 1970s: Bound for Glory, about the early, "hard travelin'" days of Woody Guthrie in during the Great Depression; and Being There, about an illiterate gardener whose knowledge of the world comes solely from watching television, whose pronouncements about gardening are mistaken for wise metaphor, and who, by chance, becomes confidant to a wealthy, but ailing, businessman and political kingmaker.
  • Strolling through an animated, 3D forest and interacting with its inhabitants at the MIFFONEDGE exhibit at Common Street Arts — a trip that before the invention of virtual reality headsets would only have been possible with the use of psychedelic drugs.
  • Enjoying the innovative work of the three Latin American filmmakers who comprised this year's World Filmmakers' Forum, including the film Good Manners, the title which gives no clue as to its content as the weirdest, and probably the only, Brazilian, lesbian, werewolf, horror musical ever to be shown at MIFF — and which was the runner up for this year's Audience Favorite Award.

At the festival's closing ceremony at 7:00 at the Waterville Opera House, festival organizers announced The Children Act as the winner of this year's Audience Favorite Award. In the film, Emma Thompson portrays a British family court judge, who always takes her cases personally and who decide whether a 17-year-old Jehovah's Witness may reject a blood transfusion that will save his life but contravene his faith.

Any audience member who has seen at least three new movies may vote for his or her favorite by submitting a paper ballot. (A "new" movie is a recently completed film that has not yet been commercially released in the United States, although it may have been released in another country or been shown at other film festivals in the U.S.) The movie with the most votes wins, and the winner is always announced just prior to the screening of the festival's final film, which this year was Support the Girls, a workplace drama/comedy set in a Hooters-like sports bar.

Looking ahead, MIFF may have a new home two or three years from now. Colby College and Waterville Creates! are hoping to renovate The Center, i.e. the building at the corner of Main Street and Castonguay Square in downtown Waterville, into a new arts center, which will include a three-screen cinema.

Long the home of the Stern's Department Store, the building has, for the past quarter century, housed various businesses, nonprofit institutions, and governmental offices, including, most notably, the Common Street Arts gallery, classroom, and clay studio; the Waterville Opera House's dance studio and studio theater; Waterville's city council chambers; and, until a few months ago, the Maine Made Shop.

Panorama of the exterior of the proposed arts center, looking from Main Street toward the Kennebec. For additional artist's renderings, go to www.downtownartscenter.org.

In its new incarnation, the building will continue to house the Common Street Arts gallery, classroom, and clay studio, but also a modern art gallery for the Colby Museum of Art, rehearsal space for the Waterville Opera House, a new media and film-editing classroom, and the three movie theaters to replace the ones at Railroad Square Cinema. The renovation will include removing the building's fourth floor and part of the southern brick wall along Castonguay Square. The latter will be replaced by wall of glass that will extend all the way to Waterville City Hall. The space between The Center and City Hall will be enclosed in a two-story, glass atrium.

The project is expected to cost $18 to $20 million, $8 million of which had been raised before the project was publicly announced in early March. There is no set time frame for completion. Construction will not begin until fundraising is nearly complete, but is expected to take about 18 months. For more information about the project, visit www.downtownartscenter.org.