Three board members of the brand new Lewiston/Auburn-based film festival Emerge concede that its name may have been partly inspired by the circumstances of its inception. After the shocking implosion of the once-influential Lewiston Auburn Film Festival in March of this year, the name Emerge does suggest the phrase “from the rubble.” But Emerge Film Festival board president Laura Davis and board members Ramsey Tripp and Katie Greenlaw say that the birth of this new Maine film festival is more about the future of the Maine film scene and the resilience of the people of Lewiston-Auburn.
“When the news came out, we felt like it was a state of emergency,” says Davis. “Lewiston-Auburn has worked really hard to polish our reputation. We’re a mill town – we’ve had a chip on our shoulder for a long time. LAFF was a big part of us. Emerge comes from that emergency, the opportunity we found in the crisis.” Seizing an opportunity is one thing, but putting together an entire film festival from the ground up in just ten weeks? How does that happen?
“The short answer is blind optimism,” laughs Davis, before extolling the energy and generosity of essentially everyone in the Lewiston-Auburn area. “When we found out LAFF was going to crumble, that nothing could be done to save it, within hours, Ramsey and I got together and called the Franco Center [Performance Hall]. Three hours later we had this amazing board assembled. Then three hours later, one of our board members, a lawyer, had filed paperwork for Emerge to become a nonprofit. Go big or go home.”
That snowballing of support continued in the community, according to Davis. “The Franco Center gave us the space and other venues started saying they wanted to be a part of it. Filmmakers who’d had their films cancelled at LAFF and had already bought their plane tickets came back. Honestly, we never got a ‘no’ from any sponsor – we had people calling us. It’s clear that Lewiston/Auburn as a community cares about film and about keeping film alive here.”
That’s inspirational and all, but a film festival is measured by its movies – and Emerge is charging out of the gate with over 40 films for attendees to choose from. The festival kicks of on Friday (the 13th) with a suitably spooky double feature of Maine horrors from Portland filmmaker Corey Norman (the short “Natal” followed by his feature “The Hanover House”). Then on Saturday, in several venues spread within walking distance in downtown Lewiston/Auburn, the bulk of the festival continues. Shorts and features, Maine-made and from abroad, it’s an impressive roster, offering plenty to choose from. (For the complete lineup, check out the Emerge website.)
I asked each board member for their number one pick from the slate. Tripp speaks highly of the animated Hungarian film “Rabbit and Deer.” “It’s about the relationship between a rabbit and deer, and the animation goes from 2D to 3D when they discover the third dimension,” Tripp says. “It’s cool the way the story’s told and it’s just a great film.” Greenlaw’s choice is “The Magic Bracelet,” a moving, inspiration story inspired by a terminally ill girl who came up with the story. “I love a good feel-good story,” she says, “and after the girl died, her mother worked to complete it.”
As for Davis, one film in particular was so good, it served as part of her inspiration for getting Emerge off the ground in the first place. “I’m so torn, but “Richard3” [pronounced “Richard Cubed”] is the one I’m most excited about,” she says. “[Director and star] Michael Miclon was all set to have his premiere at LAFF, and it was taken away from him. Talk about an ambitious film – there are over 200 Maine extras, amazing costumes. It’s like a Monty Python twist on Shakespeare’s “Richard III” – I think it’s really going to do big things on the festival circuit.”
The Emerge Film Festival may have sprung up in response to catastrophe, but Davis, Tripp, and Greenlaw insist that the festival is in it for the long haul. “We have just driven this over the last 10 weeks on passion, the inability to say no, and that blind optimism,” says Davis. “Sometimes I can’t believe we’re pulling this off. [She laughs.] I mean, we haven’t yet, but it’s looking great.”
COMING TO LOCAL SCREENS
BAYSIDE BOWL | www.baysidebowl.com
Wednesday: “Raising Arizona.” SPACE Gallery does Portland a favor by presenting the Coen Brothers’ legendary 1987 screwball comedy as part of Bayside Bowl’s Summer Patio Film Series. Nicholas Cage and Holly Hunter steal a rich guy’s baby and have to contend with escaped psycho convicts, cops, and the lone biker of the apocalypse.
NICKELODEON CINEMA | patriotcinemas.com
Friday: “The Immigrant.” People are already talking Oscar for James Gray’s meticulously recreated take of a Polish immigrant (Marion Cotillard) seduced by a charmingly evil pimp (Joaquin Phoenix) in 1921 New York City.