Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Summer movies at MIFF

Like most Mainers, I’m growing tired of waking up each morning to forecasts of rain, and one day of sun out of seven. While it’s a truism that “a little rain must fall,” I think 25 out of the last 37 (or some approximation) is enough!

If it must rain, and Maine’s coastline and sun isn’t an option, then maybe it’s time to focus on movies.

Waterville is set to commence hosting the 12th annual Maine Independent Film Festival (MIFF), which begins Friday, July 10. This yearly film festival has become a Mecca for Maine’s movie lovers, as well as people who travel up to the Mid-Maine area just to take in some or all of the ten days of independent and international cinema.

MIFF is hosted at two unique Waterville venues. The historic Waterville Opera House is a 940 seat theater, built at the turn of the 20th century. If you’ve never visited, you’ll be impressed by its beautiful gold-leaf proscenium, as well as amenities geared to your comfort, like air conditioning, and modern projection equipment to enhance your viewing pleasure. The Opera House will be hosting films and events throughout the festival, including both Opening and Closing Ceremonies.

[Waterville City Hall, circa 1902, home of the city's historic Opera House]

The Railroad Square Cinema, a haven to Mainers who love intelligent, cutting-edge cinema fare, will also be a prime venue for many of the 100 films that will be showing over the 10 days of the festival.

Every year, Waterville becomes Movietown, USA, with its rich variety and diversity of films, as well as Q&A sessions with key figures in the independent film industry. Prior special guests read like veritable who’s who of Hollywood, including John Turturro (2008), Bud Cort (2007), Walter Hill (2006) Ed Harris (2004), and Sissy Spacek (2001).

This year, MIFF will present a Lifetime Achievement Award to Arthur Penn, best known as the director of the iconic Bonnie and Clyde (1967). Penn also has been nominated for both Tony and Oscar awards for masterpieces like Alice’s Restaurant (1970) and The Miracle Worker (1962).

This year’s opening night features the much talked about movie with a Maine gridiron flavor, award-winning filmmaker, Kirk Wolfinger’s The Rivals. This “Friday Night Lights set in Maine” features the epic high school football playoff battle between two very different Maine communities—the gritty mill town of Rumford, pitted against affluent southern coastal burb of Cape Elizabeth.

While this is an all American story, featuring Friday night high school football, a staple of many Maine communities, it’s also a film about Maine and by Mainers. Every cameraman, soundman, the edit team, as well as the mixing for the sound, was done by people living in Maine.

Another highlight at this year’s MIFF is the scheduled unveiling of the highly-anticipated romantic comedy, (500) Days of Summer, which garnered a 2009 Sundance selection.
I saw a preview last weekend and this seems like a winner.

MIFF is a project of the Maine Film Center and is made possible in part by generous support of Bangor Savings Bank, Colby College, and Maine Public Broadcasting.

FMI about the festival, contact Festival Directors Ken Eisen at (207)872-5111, or Shannon Haines at (207)680-2055.

I’m forced to miss the opening weekend to attend a wedding, but I plan to hit one of the weeknights next week, and take in a day’s worth next weekend, on Saturday. I encourage others to visit downtown Waterville.

Additional information about the city can be found at the Waterville Main Street website, as well as the Mid-Maine Chamber’s site. If you want to experience a unique dining treat that you won’t find anywhere else in the Pine Tree State, check out the authentic Southern cuisine of the Freedom Café. Check their website for the nights they're open for business.

You can also read my take on last year's MIFF, here.

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