Nearly two weeks of local, international and vintage films, all lovingly and challengingly curated to please even the most discerning Maine cinephile.
Maine can boast a lot of quality film festivals for a state 3,000 miles from Hollywood. Heck, we saw the birth of two new local film festivals (the Sanford International Film Festival and the Emerge Film Festival) this year alone.
But MIFF is the biggie.
The Maine International Film Festival in Waterville started in 1998, and since that time it has grown to encompass nearly two weeks of local, international and vintage films, all lovingly and challengingly curated to please even the most discerning Maine cinephile.
Kicking off on Friday, this year’s festival can boast dozens of films, plenty of interesting, movie-related events, and the bestowal of its coveted Mid-Life Achievement Award to visiting Hollywood royalty. As ever, there’s more going on at MIFF than I could hope to cover in one measly column, so I spoke with festival director Shannon Haines about some of the highlights.
GLENN CLOSE: The screen legend is receiving this year’s Mid-Life Achievement Award, and Haines couldn’t be more excited to have her. “She was just a natural fit for us,” explains Haines. “We look for people with Maine connections and we’re just thrilled she accepted.”
MIFF will be showing a number of Close’s films, some chosen by the actress herself. Says Haines, “(Close) really wanted two films: ‘Albert Nobbs’ was a real labor of love for her. She co-wrote it, stars and even wrote songs for it. And she was excited for us to show this year’s ‘Low Down.’ To her, it demonstrates her commitment to independent film.”
MASTERPIECES OF POLISH CINEMA: MIFF is featuring a collection of some of the greatest films from the Polish film industry. Haines explains, “Martin Scorsese curated a collection and made them available to select film festivals. We’re showing 16 in all, and are very excited to present to audiences movies they usually wouldn’t see.” They all look fascinating, but this author especially recommends Andrzej Wajda’s 1958 drama “Ashes and Diamonds,” set among Resistance fighters on the last day of World War II.
FILMS BY SARA DRIVER: A mainstay of the 1980s New York independent scene, director/producer Driver will be in attendance at MIFF for a retrospective of her own work and her collaborations with the likes of Jim Jarmusch and rock legend Joe Strummer. “We’re incredibly excited to have her,” enthuses Haines. “On a personal level, I love showcasing a pioneering female filmmaker like Sara.” Included is Driver’s 1981 drama about a young woman’s escape from an insane asylum, “You Are Not I,” which, long thought lost in a warehouse disaster, has been restored from a single print rediscovered in 2009.
PERSONAL PICKS: Haines suggests checking out the documentary “Take Me to the River,” a celebration of the Memphis music scene reminiscent of recent docs like “20 Feet from Stardom” and “Muscle Shoals,” especially since producer and former Talking Heads member Jerry Harrison will be in attendance alongside director Martin Shore.
As for me, I can’t think of a better time than “The Trip to Italy,” Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon’s sequel to director Michael Winterbottom’s hilarious 2010 feature “The Trip,” this time with the two British comedians and friends taking a comic culinary tour of all Italy’s finest restaurants.
Of course, MIFF’s bountiful roster of movies has something for everyone. Check out the full schedule at miff.org.
COMING TO LOCAL SCREENS
PORTLAND MUSEUM OF ART, Portland | www.portlandmuseum.org
Sunday: PORTOpera Film Festival. The short films in this year’s festival sponsored by PORTOpera are all inspired by music from “Rigoletto” (which will be performed by PORTOpera July 23 and 24). The winning filmmaking teams, each of which included at least one Maine student, got cash prizes for the best interpretation of Verdi’s music, so come get primed for the full opera.
FRONTIER, Brunswick | www.explorefrontier.com
Wednesday: “Brasslands.” Half a million people, a tiny Serbian village and all the best trumpeters in the world come together in this riotous musical documentary about the world’s largest brass band competition. For movie and music fans everywhere.