In writing “Indie Film” for the last decade or so, I’ve been struck by how strong and committed the Maine film community is. For one thing, there’s a dedicated film community in Maine, itself a surprise to a lot of people. For another, there’s a ruggedness to those moviemakers who’ve decided that pursuing their art and their careers here in Maine that, while perhaps stereotypically “Maine,” is also routinely heartening. People in the film industry here in Maine help each other out. They network, they cross-pollinate, and they are always quick to give credit to their peers.
But no community is perfect, and there are always cinematic voices who are forgotten, or overlooked, and thus have to work harder to get noticed and to lift up others in the same boat. Enter aspiring Maine filmmakers Daniel Kayamba, Claude Kirongozi and Henry Spritz, who have founded the first ever Rolling Tapes Short Film and Art Festival. Taking place Thursday at 8 p.m. in Portland’s Congress Square Park, the free event will showcase films from the three young directors and others, and kick off with live music and poetry from other young Maine artists attracted to the trio’s call for others looking for a way to exhibit their work in an artistic landscape that often slights the young.
“It’s tougher for younger kids to have somewhere to put their work out,” said Claude Kirongozi, 19, adding that Rolling Tapes is their attempt to “engage with other young artists and help each other out.” He and fellow Democratic Republic of the Congo native Daniel Kayamba, also 19, grew up together in the same Portland neighborhood and bonded over their passion for film, but finding a way to share it with others hasn’t been easy.
“When you’re a young filmmaker, people don’t take you as seriously, or think we don’t take it as seriously,” Kayamba said. “We want people to know that we are taking this art form very seriously, and that we envision our work as part of a bigger community.”
Being young filmmakers, unsurprisingly Kayamba and Kirongozi connected with Waynflete student Henry Spritz, 17, through social media. “I was getting into film and saw what Daniel and Claude were doing, and thought it was so cool,” Spritz said. “I saw that they were collaborating with other artists, and I respected what they were doing and just wanted to be a part of it.” Along with the help of social media (check out the group’s Facebook page), Kayamba said, “Portland is a small city, so we knew some people already, but, through Facebook, we’ve met a lot of kids outside of Portland in Westbrook and Cape Elizabeth as well. Plus, there were kids we knew, but didn’t know they were doing film.”
In addition to their fledgling filmmaker status, all three filmmakers face the added challenge of finding an audience for their chosen genre of more experimental film. “What we do as experimental filmmakers, there’s not a big mainstream audience or platform,” said Kayamba, who is currently home for the summer from studying film at Chicago’s Columbia College. “What we do doesn’t have a traditional narrative, and there really isn’t a place for us to show our work.”
So the three made one. And, sure, they did have assistance from some older local types who saw the value and need of such a showcase, including Space Gallery’s Jon Courtney, Friends of Congress Square Park Executive Director Dela Murphy and Portland City Councilor Pious Ali. But, as Kirongozi says, Rolling Tapes is very much about creating and nurturing Maine’s next generation of filmmakers. “Everybody has their own style, their own genre, their own flow,” he explained, “and this is a way for everybody to come together and collaborate on films and on art in general.”
That community-building spirit is something the three founders hope Rolling Tapes will foster for years to come. Said Spritz, “We’re creating a platform that, hopefully, other kids will maybe take on the roles we have now and take it over, keep it going and create something that will last in Portland.” Added Kayamba, “We want to inspire the young. Claude and I, coming from the Congo, nobody expected us to be interested in film. We want to inspire people in our neighborhoods, to inspire them to something greater.”
The first ever Rolling Tapes Short Film and Art Festival will take place on Thursday at 8 p.m. in Congress Square Park. The event is free and will give Maine movie fans the opportunity to see the new, exciting work going on in the city that often gets overlooked.
COMING TO LOCAL SCREENS
Starts Friday: “Generation Wealth.” Director Lauren Greenfield continues her unsparing dissection of America’s luxury culture (begun in her scathing “The Queen of Versailles”) with this documentary about “the pathologies that have created the richest society the world has ever seen.” For a few, anyway.
Wednesday, Aug. 29: “Shut Up and Play the Hits.” The Bayside Summer Rooftop Film Series gets exuberantly loud as Bayside and Space Gallery present this raucous concert film of the farewell show of groundbreaking alt-rockers LCD Soundsystem.