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Dennis Perkins

Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Auburn with his lovely wife, the writer Emily L. Stephens, and their cat, Cooper. When not watching all the movies ever made or digging up stories about the Maine film scene, he can be found writing for the AV Club and elsewhere. The rest of the time, he's worrying about the Red Sox.

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Posted: January 28, 2015

An eclectic mix of locally made films: Maine Short Film Festival at SPACE Gallery

Written by: Dennis Perkins

The Maine-made short film “In These Times” from director Richard Kane shows a varied group of people in the Blue Hill area, volunteering at the local food pantry and explaining their commitment to helping fellow Mainers. The film is part of the first Maine Short Film Festival, sponsored by the Maine Film and Video Association, a new addition to the Maine film scene – an event with more than a passing resemblance to the spirit of Maine generosity on display in the film, according to Kane.

“Blue Hill is a relatively affluent area,” said Kane, the current chair of the association. “But people are falling through the cracks, in a hidden way. People don’t announce their hunger or their poverty. The food pantry is a place where people can get the food they need and walk away with a meal they wouldn’t otherwise have.” Kane explained that the Maine Short Film Festival – currently touring the state, with the next showing at 7 p.m. Wednesday at SPACE Gallery – was begun with a similar community spirit in mind. “A lot of the films (in the festival) are ones that give back,” he said. “We love the Maine community so much, we want to nurture it.”

The festival, consisting of nine locally made films that all together run about 90 minutes, is an eclectic mix of documentaries and short features culled from some 25 entries from around the state. And while films like Kane’s “In These Times,” Seth Campbell Brown’s “A Story of Opportunities” (about the challenges facing Ugandan refugees) and Geoffrey Leighton’s “ARRT!” (about a group of Maine artists who make unique protest signs) are among the festival’s entries that highlight various types of community spirit, Kane says the festival itself is intended as a form of community-building for the Maine film scene as a whole.

“Maine films don’t come around every week,” Kane said. “There are a lot of great film festivals in Maine, and we at the MFVA encourage people to both submit films and attend festivals. Our hope is that we can help develop an audience in Maine’s art cinemas. It’s important for the Maine film scene to stay alive and healthy.”

“A lot of Maine filmmakers – and I’m not sure why not – don’t get publicity,” Kane said. “We’re trying to unearth current films and not only get them seen on tour but also to encourage the directors to submit their films to other film festivals.”

To that end, the Maine Short Film Festival will be exhibiting these nine films at nine small Maine theaters (see www.mainefilm.org for the complete schedule), not only bringing new Maine movies and moviemakers to the public, but also giving Maine’s filmmakers yet another avenue to the next step in their careers. “It’s like what we do at the MFVA,” Kane said. “We’re all volunteer – the MFVA is for people who feel the importance of giving back to their community. Each of us has someone in the business to thank for getting where we’ve gotten. Young or old – we all need models, and the MFVA provides a forum for young filmmakers to meet with experienced professionals.”

Which isn’t to say that the Maine Short Film Festival is all good intentions and no entertainment. The nine films making up this year’s roster are an eclectic, thoughtful, often surprising group and were selected by a distinguished panel of local film experts, including Ben Fowlie (director of the Camden International Film Festival), Louise Rosen (director of the Maine Jewish Film Festival) and the Press Herald’s own art critic Daniel Kany. Kane says the festival (which is now accepting submissions for the 2016 edition), has something for everyone – and that the short film format is especially potent in the right creative hands.

“(A short film) teaches you the skills to boil it down to the most important message in a way that’s entertaining and fun (or tragic, or sad). Something that touches the soul of a viewer. If you can do that, you’re going to be a successful filmmaker.”

COMING TO LOCAL SCREENS

PORTLAND PUBLIC LIBRARY

(portlandlibrary.com)

Thursday: “The Strange Demise Of Jim Crow.” The library’s Civil Rights Film Series concludes with this documentary about the long struggle by activists, students and regular folks to rid the South of the overt segregation of public facilities.

SPACE GALLERY

(space.538.org)

Thursday-Saturday: “Oscar Nominated Shorts.” SPACE brings in both the animated and live-action Oscar-nominated short films to get you up to speed for your Oscar night gambling pool edification. The animated films are on Thursday and Friday, the live-action in two shows on Saturday.

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