Film for Thought
- Railroad Square Cinema hosts Maine Film Center Premier Weekend
- Students Produce Film Festival at Colby
- American Studies Department explores filmic perspectives
The 12th annual Maine International Film Festival (MIFF) took place this July, drawing film connoisseurs to Waterville for a 10-day event, screening 100 hand-selected movies. Over 10,000 people traveled from across Maine, New England and even from other parts of the world to see the year's best new American independent and international cinema. The works of 50 filmmakers were showcased and directors, producers, writers and musicians alike came to the festival to meet and speak with the audiences to personally share their experiences with their project and craft.
The MIFF is the result of Railroad Square's initiative to provide Waterville and its neighboring areas with alternative films that are both mainstream and independent, foreign and specialized. This has been Railroad Square's mission since opening in 1978. The theater seeks to provide an enriching cultural experience to inhabitants of Central Maine. They brought their goal to fruition in 1998 when the cinema organized the very first MIFF. Railroad Square is widely considered one of Maine's leading cultural centers and not surprisingly so as the attendance to the festival has risen from 3,500 people the first year to over 10,000 this past summer.
Guests made their way to the two venues on Main Street: Railroad Square Cinema and the Waterville Opera House. The festival brought swarms of people to the downtown area and the influx was noticeable as restaurants reached full capacity and people were in constant flux between the two locations all day. Waterville benefits greatly from all of the visitors as it boosts the local economy and draws in newcomers to the area. Given the current economic state, festival directors were concerned about the success this year would bring relative to past years, but movie junkies proved that events like MIFF are recession-proof and the directors' expectations were exceeded. This year's festival was so well-attended, in fact, that satellite showings were held at the Portsmouth Music Hall in New Hampshire and at the Drive-In in Skowhegan.
A locally filmed movie, Kirk Wolfinder's The Rivals, premiered on opening night, July 10 and drew a large crowd. It is written, directed and performed entirely by people who currently live in Maine. Wolfinder illustrates a story about two towns, a small mill town in the north and an affluent suburb in southern Maine, both vying for the football state championship title. MIFF Founder and Programmer, Ken Eisen '73, said, "The Rivals is a hugely entertaining, remarkably perceptive and yes, downright nail-biting true story." The movies shown throughout the festival ranged from The Rivals to classic films like the 1956 Carousel, which represents an important piece of Maine's cinematic history, to Ghost Bird, a documentary chronicling the search for the elusive ivory-billed woodpecker.
Each year, the MIFF honors members of the independent film industry whose contributions to cinema deserve recognition. MIFF's special guests have included Mid-Life Achievement Award winners Jon Turturro (2008), Bud Cort (2007), Walter Hill (2006), Lili Taylor (2005), Ed Harris (2004) and Peter Fonda (2003). This year MIFF paid tribute to the great and accomplished Arthur Penn, director of Bonnie and Clyde (1976), who received a Lifetime Achievement Award.
MIFF is a project of the Maine Film Center that is made possible in part by the dedicated team of volunteers who facilitate the event and in part by the generous support of Bangor Savings Bank, Maine Public Broadcasting and Colby College.