Thanksgiving has taken a poignant turn in recent years. A holiday focused on friendliness has us trying to pretend that family group Zoom calls are as good as the real thing. A vacation of being grateful for what you have has, for many of us, become a heartbreaking annual reminder of what we’ve lost and what we still miss after nearly two full years of a devastating pandemic. .
Well, Thanksgiving is still approaching, and damn it, we here at the Independent Film Bureau are determined and determined not to let the lingering disruption of a global pandemic rob us of our annual tradition of publicly appreciating these hardy. (but not reckless) Maine films people who weathered this unprecedented storm with ingenuity, courage and even a little grace in the face of a deadly and dangerous pandemic.
First in this hunt for silver liners is the resilience and sheer Maine stubbornness of film festival organizers. Of Maine International Film Festival, to the Maine Jewish Film Festival, Camden International Film Festival, Maine Outdoor Film Festival, the Mid-Coast Film Festival, and the student presentation of SMCC Maine Mayhem festival, the already hard-working (and overworked) staff at these vital Maine annual film events have now faced nearly two full seasons of unthinkable disruption. And while all of these cinematic celebrations have been hit hard by the need to suddenly factor a potentially fatal infectious disease into their already complex planning, each of them has found ways not only to persevere, but also to thrive.
Speaking to the organizers, the past two years have been truly inspiring. In-person events are impossible? Organizers have set up smooth online screening centers and put even more filmmakers in touch with Maine audiences online. (At the same time, find new audiences attracted by the accessibility of virtual screenings.) Damn, the Points Nord Institute (which brings us the annual Camden International Film Festival, based on non-fiction) has even built his own drive-in from scratch as a way to preserve some semblance of that sense of in-person community. As the famous phrase from a movie once said, “Life finds a way.” The same goes for the people of Maine who really love the movies and care about making Maine a true destination for moviegoers.
Speaking of the Maine moviegoers who had to scramble to survive in filmmaking in this new freak, I am extremely grateful to Maine’s independent theater and screening space operators and programmers. As we all know too well, movies have become, for many of us, not just a hobby or hobby, but an essential part of our mental health strategy. Portland venues like The Apohadion Theater, Space, and PMA Films (edited by local film programmers like The Apohadion’s Greg Jamie and PMA Jon courtney) not only continued to deliver some of the most engaging and entertaining films they could get their hands on, but completely transformed their business model. Setting up virtual video stores of current releases, often available, and rare repeats for online screening has given us – in our self-imposed individual isolation modules – a continuity of art film experiences. and trial to choose from. It wasn’t easy, and I can’t stress enough how important their efforts to keep Portland weird are to me. While most theaters reopen carefully and responsibly to in-person presentation, these virtual screenings for the most part are receding, their job well done is reliably entertaining and, for many Mainers, deeply essential.
And, finally, let’s hear it for the filmmakers. After all, none of us, exhibitors, spectators, organizers or (most importantly) local writers would have anything to do without them. At the start of this pandemic (which appears to be around 40 years ago now), I was concerned that the resulting stops, freezes and slowdowns would prevent a humble film columnist from finding a Maine film story every week. I didn’t need to sweat this because, as is their Mainer’s way, the filmmakers in Maine have proven once again that making a Maine indie film is the perfect training for when everything is shockingly going. and completely derailed.
I have found filmmakers doing economical and opportunistic use of suddenly emptied public places to shoot in places previously unavailable. Filmmakers Using Their Enforced Idleness To Come Up With An Entire State-Wide Film Series COVID Safety Guidelines for filming in the state. The directors dusted their hands and honed their skills, producing finished against all odds personal projects and innovative independent films it proved how isolation, necessity and a little bit of fear can be motivating and creative. Talking to these Maine filmmakers – who always fight an uphill battle at the best of times – are practicing their art and proving to be exciting and challenging work in this, worst time, was inspiring. And I thank each of them for the inadvertent pep talk.
So as the pandemic continues to progress (largely at this point due to the selfish irresponsibility of not taking a free, life-saving, societal vaccine), don’t forget to spare a little gratitude – and learning – from all of those movies – from the obsessed people in your communities. As the days grow shorter and our Seasonal Affective Disorder teams tackle us with our pandemic blues, be thankful that nothing – and I’m saying nothing – can stop Maine’s independent film community from lighting up the dark.
Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Auburn with his wife and cat.
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