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Dennis Perkins

Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives on the West End with his lovely wife Emily, where they watch all the movies ever made. When not 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: November 22, 2017

Thankful for the Maine film scene (for making it easy to file this column)

Written by: Dennis Perkins
The Nickelodeon in Portland has popcorn, of course, and plenty of mainstream movies, but also, to its credit, regularly screens smaller indie fare. Staff photo by Ben McCanna

The Nickelodeon in Portland has popcorn, of course, and plenty of mainstream movies, but also, to its credit, regularly screens smaller indie fare.
Staff photo by Ben McCanna

Since taking over this column in 2010, I’ve been asked on occasion if coming up with a Maine-centric movie topic every week is a tough job. After all, we’re not Hollywood, Bollywood (India’s Hollywood), Nollywood (Nigeria’s Hollywood) or even Dollywood (which is a theme park, and therefore not strictly relevant, but it fits the rhyme scheme).

My answer is always a gratefully surprised, “No.”

Maine makes movies. Far from the supposed centers of cinema, hundreds if not thousands of Mainers are engaged in making, distributing, exhibiting and promoting films – both homegrown and from away – that make this job both a breeze and a constant source of delight and discovery. So, with Thanksgiving upon us, here is one Maine movie fan’s list of things to be thankful for in the local film scene. And some thanks from creative and tireless folks working to make that scene so rewarding (Page M31).

First up is a thank-you, both heartfelt and selfish, to Jon Courtney of Space Gallery and PMA Films. Not only is Courtney dedicated to programming two of the most vital, exciting and deeply necessary film venues in Portland, he’s also my contact for movie screeners from the big (and small) studios. So, if you’ve ever thrilled to read my prescreening reviews for the latest Ethiopian art house sci-fi film or soul-wrenching documentary, you should thank Courtney, too.

Not to be overlooked is Portland’s Nickelodeon Cinema. Now part of the Patriot Cinemas minichain, the Nick has been a lot of things in its history. (Anyone remember when it was a dank, rain-dripping dollar theater? Good times.)

But nowadays, the tidy, scrappy downtown theater not only brings us the big guns, but also continues to show a dedication to programming the smaller indie films Portland movie freaks simply need. (Currently, we’re excited about art house darling “Lady Bird,” opening Wednesday.) Portland still hasn’t found anyone to take up the cinematic slack left by the closing of the beloved Movies on Exchange Street, but absent a true single-screen art house theater, the Nick gets the job done, in addition to providing reasonable terms for local filmmakers looking to book their films on a big screen.

Speaking of overlooked, here’s to Rachael Harkness and her team at the good ol’ Portland Public Library, which not only holds free movie screenings every Thursday but also gets creative in programming eclectic themed movie months. (Up next: “Dancing in December” with toe-tapping flicks like “Saturday Night Fever” and “Strictly Ballroom.”) Like Space, the library also routinely partners with local groups to present issue-oriented fare (civil rights films, movies based on banned books), complete with experts and advocates on hand for post-film Q&As. And did I mention it’s always free?

Not free, but well and truly worth the reasonable price of admission are Maine’s thriving film festivals. Maine’s got the large and established events, like July’s Maine International Film Festival, September’s documentary showcase Camden International Film Festival and March’s Maine Jewish Film Festival. We’ve also got the energized up-and-comers all over the state, like the Emerge Film Festival in April, Sanford International Film Festival in October, the Maine Outdoor Film Festival and more. All year round, Maine’s film festivals exemplify the thriving Maine movie scene – and, thankfully, provide me with plenty to write about.

Thanks always to the hard-working, hard-scaring men and women behind Damnationland, the annual all-Maine, short horror film anthology, for consistently freaking me out by bringing together the Maine film scene’s best and brightest to keep Maine spooky at Halloween.

And huge thanks to the dedicated dreamers at Jet Video and Brunswick’s Bart & Greg’s DVD Explosion!, two of the last remaining video stores, well, anywhere.

As someone still mourning the loss of Portland’s Videoport, I know the unique rewards of a great neighborhood video store firsthand. Thank these stores by helping them survive.

And, finally, thanks to all of you – filmmakers, movie enthusiasts, the idly curious looking for bathroom reading – for keeping this column alive as I continue to discover just how multifaceted, exciting and fun the Maine movie community truly is.

So thanks, everyone. Now let’s go to the movies.

THANKFUL LOCAL FILMMAKER: Jason R. Knightly

(Lucky Hand Studio, facebook.com/luckyhandstudio)
UPCOMING PROJECT: “Storyteller: A Short Film”
“As someone who came from out of state and landed into the Maine film community, I am thankful for all the help from all the communities, the locals and even all the filmmakers I’ve gotten to work with over the past six years. Everyone is truly great and amazing.”

THANKFUL LOCAL FILMMAKER: Ty Gowen of Maine’s own paranormal investigator webseries, “Haunt ME” (haunt-me.com)
UPCOMING PROJECT: “Haunt ME” Season 5
“I’m thankful for Maine filmmakers being accepting and supportive of creativity when it lands a bit left of center. Always ready to lift people up so we can climb together.”


COMING TO LOCAL SCREENS
FRONTIER
Friday: “Neither Wolf Nor Dog.” When a white writer on Native America is summoned to the home of a 95-year-old Lakota elder’s northern Minnesota reservation home, the pair (and the old man’s family and faithful dog) bond in a thought-provoking, life-transforming conversation. Presented by members of the Midcoast Indigenous Awareness Group. See story, Page M9.

SPACE GALLERY
Tuesday: “Welcome to Leith.” In the “now more than ever” documentary category, this intense film examines how, in 2012, a neo-Nazi started buying up land in and around a tiny North Dakota town, intending to create a bigot utopia. Presented as part of USM’s Gloria S. Duclos Convocation, with a post-film discussion led by Ron Schmidt, associate professor of political science at USM.

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