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Dennis Perkins

Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Auburn with his lovely wife, the writer Emily L. Stephens, and their cat, Cooper. When not watching all the movies ever made or 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: April 8, 2015

4 days, over 40 films: Emerge Film Festival returns to Lewiston and Auburn this weekend

Written by: Dennis Perkins

The Emerge Film Festival was born out of the chaos of the sudden collapse of the Lewiston Auburn Film Festival last spring. Considering that the festival’s first season was put together by a team of dedicated volunteers in a matter of a few months, its success with audiences and the Lewiston-Auburn community was undeniably impressive.

But, according to 2015 festival director Katie Greenlaw, Emerge, which takes place from Thursday to Sunday in the twin cities, is no one-year wonder.

“Last year went really well,” Greenlaw said. “Two days, 40 films, hundreds of attendees, and the filmmakers, sponsors and the community were all so supportive. After (LAFF) ended, there was the sense from the community that (Emerge) is the underdog, and we can’t let it go. But this year, we want people to understand that Emerge is about continuing that support and not just surviving, but thriving.”

To that end, the Emerge team has spent the last year refining its festival-programming skills and its mission, establishing contacts with other festivals, setting up 501(c)(3) tax exempt status and adding new advisers from all over the Maine film and business communities.

For Greenlaw, the time was well spent preparing for Emerge’s future as a main player in the Maine film scene for years to come.

After the relief of pulling off Emerge’s inaugural season in so little time, Greenlaw said, “This year was about going back to square one. Not being in a rush, but doing things right, taking a step back and curating the festival based on quality, not just quantity – even so, we ended up with more films than last year. We’re really excited – there’s truly something in the mix for everybody.”

Asked to pick out a few of her personal favorites from this year’s roster, Greenlaw demurred at first, citing the difficulty of “choosing between your babies.”

Then she excitedly recommended the following:

The documentaries “Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine” (about the hate crime murder of a gay man) and “Lessons of Basketball and War” (about the unique challenges facing Somali teens adjusting to life in America) are, according to Greenlaw, not only great films in their own rights, but were chosen to appeal to different segments of Emerge’s audience.

“We wanted to find (films) that would speak to our community specifically,” she said.

“Child of Grace,” about a young girl who comes to suspect that the man she thinks is her father may have actually kidnapped her as a baby, is a homecoming for filmmaker/leading man Tom Hildreth (“Islander”), and a world premiere for Emerge.

“The film was shot here in Maine, so there was no way we couldn’t ask them to premiere with us,” Greenlaw said. “It’s an amazing film, one of those you get really emotional over.”

Speaking of emotional, Greenlaw urges everyone to check out the documentary “Honor Flight,” about a group organizing free trips for World War II veterans to see the war’s memorial in Washington D.C. “My dad is a veteran, and he was a guardian on the first Maine honor flight. We watched the film together – and went through a lot of tissues that night.”

Looking over the complete lineup of this year’s films (emergefilmfestival.org) backs up Greenlaw’s contention that Emerge is positioning itself to remain yet another main destination for Maine film fans.

As Greenlaw says of Emerge’s continuing mission, “I hope people come to show our filmmakers how much the community wants to pursue independent film. When it comes down to it, (Emerge) is about quality, about resonating with audiences, and about getting people excited about coming out.”

 

COMING TO LOCAL SCREENS

NICKELODEON CINEMA, Portland (patriotcinemas.com)

Friday: “While We’re Young.” The newest indie comedy from always-interesting director Noah Baumbach (“The Squid and The Whale,” “Frances Ha”) sees middle-aged marrieds Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts breaking out of their rut by befriending a young, eccentric couple played by Amanda Seyfried and Adam Driver.

SPACE GALLERY, Portland (space538.org)

Monday: “The Stuart Hall Project.” The USM Philosophy Symposium presents this documentary about the titular thinker, one of the most important cultural theorists of the 20th century. Featuring a jazz score by Miles Davis, and a Q&A with USM philosophy professor Jason Read.

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