Currently in full screening of a carefully curated selection of the best films in the world, until Sunday, the venerable Maine International Film Festival is officially back. Of course, the hard-working folks at MIFF made sure the Maine film institution never really left, despite the world’s most relentless efforts and a pernicious pandemic.
âWe spend the whole year planning, with a dedicated team watching films all fall and winter,â said General Manager Mike Perreault of a particularly busy mission over the past two hectic and eventful years. . Noting how last year’s 23rd annual festival was quickly narrowed down from the usual list of consistently impressive films, in-person events, and filmmaker appearances at a more modest and socially distanced outdoor festival at Skowhegan Drive -In, Perreault is cautiously delighted (if that’s a thing) that Maine International is welcoming people to the movies.
âIn the beginning, we were planning screenings with strict participation limits and mandatory masking,â he said of the always vigilant and adaptive planning process. âBut when the governor lifted the COVID emergency order in May, it allowed us to open the festival. “Responsibly noting that MIFF follows all CDC guidelines Regarding COVID security, Perreault said, âThere are a lot of moving parts in the calculation of a global pandemic, but we are committed to providing a safe and enjoyable movie experience for everyoneâ¦ We wouldn’t run things if This was not the case. t sure.
Of course, just stating that things are back to normal isn’t the same as doing it, and Perreault admits that the process of ramping up this year’s 24th annual MIFF to be something akin to its old one. dazzling splendor for moviegoers is still going on. While this year’s list of over 50 movies (with even more generous help from Maine-made movies than usual) easily exceeds last year’s stripped-down movie list, that’s still only half of it. the size of the traditional Maine International film. Festival. Said Perreault of his colleagues’ heroic efforts to whip up another pandemic-hampered fly movie party, âIt was the opposite of last year when we had to scramble to keep the festival down. Turns out it’s easier to cut back than back up.
Still, MIFF is MIFF, and the film offerings for this 24th iteration of what has become the gem of Maine’s film calendar are generally diverse, ambitious, and eclectic. (See the MIFF website, miff.org, be suitably dazzled.) I am particularly excited to see Maine Features âThe Catchâ and âThe Bride In The Box,â alongside the festival’s continued dedication to the works of the late author Robert Altman in a revival of Altman’s often overlooked jazz-age gangster tale âKansas Cityâ. (Former MIFF Mid-Life Achievement Award winner and frequent Altman star Michael Murphy will be in attendance to present the film, for fans’ enjoyment.) The inclusion of two separate, entirely Maine-based short film programs is another fun, as is MIFF’s decision. offer a limited number of virtual movies streaming for moviegoers who are not yet ready to come out of quarantine.
âMaine International never really has a theme, as such,â Perreault explained of this year’s film list, âWe’re always looking to schedule something for everyone. It’s something we’re proud of, and that’s really the point of film festivals. And while, for the second season in a row, MIFF will not present its brazenly titled Mid-Life Achievement Award to another of its illustrious film winners (like Sissy Spacek, Gabriel Byrne and Glenn Close, among others), Perreault is thrilled. that MIFF’s live element include an artistic and sound experience throughout the festival titled “The Kneeling Art Photography Project,” which features a multimedia portrait of “the stories of our neighbors in Waterville and beyond who kneel down to advance anti-racist social networks. action in their communities.
Citing the tireless efforts of the MIFF Programming Director Ken eisen and the team, Perreault says the unexpected change in the distribution landscape over the past two years has meant this year’s MIFF represents the tentative but unequivocal reopening of the film festival season.
âWe are one of the first film festivals of the season, nationally, and we were, out of necessity, one of the first to move to a drive-in format. Now we’re one of the first to open up – we’re always the first to strike, it seems, âPerreault said with a laugh. Praising the long-running MIFF Railroad Square Cinema venue in Waterville (which will happily reopen for its regular schedule of in-person screenings on July 23), Perreault said of this year’s MIFF: âWe’re cautious, but we are prepared to show people the films as they are meant to be seen.
The 24th Maine International Film Festival started Friday and continues through Sunday, with in-person screenings at Railroad Square Cinema, Waterville Opera House and Skowhegan Drive-In. Virtual projections are also available through the MIF website, where the movie-hungry of us can get directions, purchase festival tickets and passes, and view the impressive roster of films from Maine and around the world this year.
Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Auburn with his wife and cat.
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