With its third season beginning April 28 (through May 1), the Emerge Film Festival has come into its own. Sure, Emerge emerged from the rubble of the collapse of the venerable Lewiston Auburn Film Festival in 2014 but, as impressive a feat of organization and passion as that first year was, Emerge has quickly become more than a replacement.
This year’s Emerge boasts some forty films, culled from over 2,300 submissions (a more than 1000 percent increase in submissions from last year), and coming from 42 US states and over 100 countries. In addition, Emerge has only strengthened its ties to the Lewiston-Auburn community, with local businesses and individuals and Bates College signing on to nourish the young festival’s growth.
“It’s really nice to see,” enthuses Emerge Programming Manger Katie Greenlaw, “The first year, the response was something else, but we had to pull it together really quickly. The second year was about standing on our own two legs and continuing to grow and improve. Now, in our third year, people are starting to be really wowed by what we’re doing. We’ve got films from all over the world, films that have done well at festivals like Telluride and Sundance. And with Bates coming on board in a big way and great sponsorship support, people are saying Emerge as a household name with a lot more frequency.”
As with any film festival, each year’s roster only gradually takes shape from the films submitted, but several guiding principles are always in everyone’s mind, according to Greenlaw. “Emerge is, in a real way, about emerging, about finding new directors, new filmmakers. To us, they’re royalty. We’re like no other film festival in how we celebrate filmmakers and how they share their films with our audience.” Adds Emerge’s Managing Director Jennifer Smith. “And there’s a focus on the educational part of Emerge, too. Not only do we reach out to students, offering them more opportunities via the Maine Film & Video Association workshop that’s part of the festival, but in celebrating that filmmakers learn from the community just as the community learns form the filmmakers.”
As for this year’s typically impressive and eclectic roster (culled from those thousands of entries) Greenlaw explains, “Do we try to program around a specific theme? No – but we try to get a diverse series of themes, for everyone. We program based on what we’d like to see, and what we imagine our friends and neighbors, what the Lewiston-Auburn community would want to see.” That being said, Smith adds, “Just today, a student filmmaker was going through the films to make a trailer for the festival, and I noticed a recurring theme of people – in documentaries and narrative films – figuring out who they are, and fighting against forces that try to determine that for them.”
In addition, Emerge continues to be another prestigious outlet for Maine filmmakers to show what they can do. This year’s festival sees such impressive Maine films as Derek Kimball’s visually stunning coming-of-age tale “Neptune,” Jeff Griecci’s perceptive documentary about graffiti artists “Year-Round Metal Enjoyment,” and Corey Norman’s Stephen King-adapted short “Suffer The Little Children,” among others. Smith and Greenlaw both chime in to sing the praises of Ian Clough’s “One Team: The Story of the Lewiston High School Blue Devils,” a documentary chronicling the year-long journey of the school’s boy’s soccer team to its first-ever state championship. Made up of a mix of students who immigrated from six different countries, it’s a portrait of Maine’s changing population in microcosm, all in the form of an inspirational, feel-good sports story.
In just three short years, Emerge has turned itself into yet another must-attend event for film fans from Maine and elsewhere. “Last year, we heard so often from people from outside of Maine, ‘This is amazing, we love it,'” says Smith proudly. Adds Greenlaw, “It’s an amazing weekend, and a great way to celebrate movies, and Lewiston-Auburn.” Speaking as a grateful Maine film fan, I couldn’t agree more.
The third Emerge Film Festival takes place from Thursday, April 28 to Sunday, May 1. Tickets for most screenings are $10, but the $25 Theatre Pass is the best deal, granting access to most screenings. For tickets and other deals and the full roster of films, check out the Emerge website emergefilmfestival.org.
WHEN: April 28-May 1
WHERE: Various locations in Lewiston and Auburn
HOW MUCH: $10 for most screenigs, $25 for theater pass
MORE INFO: emergefilmfestival.org
COMING TO LOCAL SCREENS
Saturday: “Bar Harbor Film Festival: To Go Menu” It’s a film festival in handy distilled form as this amazing program collects nine fascinatingly weird and varied shorts screened at the Bar Harbor Film Festival. The full program runs just 107 minutes, all travelling to you right here in Portland.
Saturday: “The Wizard of Oz,” 2 and 7 p.m. It’s “The Wizard of Oz” – there’s really no good reason not to see the 1939 classic again.