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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: June 29, 2015

PBS’s ‘POV’ film series at Portland Library is free and offers wide range of high-quality documentaries

Written by: Dennis Perkins

Libraries and movie fans seem like a mismatch, but the Portland Public Library continues to open its doors to the city’s film fanatics with increasingly varied entertainment options.

Apart form the library’s fine selection of films on DVD (public service announcement: do not touch the shiny side), the PPL keeps on programming free screenings of fascinating features and documentaries for the public.

Last week, the library started showing the 28th season of the acclaimed “POV” series, a roster of great, challenging documentaries on a dizzying array of topics. It’s a program that PPL Programming Manager Rachael Harkness is especially proud of.

“‘POV’ is a great fit for the library,” says Harkness. “It’s a series of high-quality documentaries about a wide range of topics… This series is great for people who want to feed their curiosity and learn about relevant and timely issues all over the world, and equally great for someone who is interested in a particular topic and comes for just one film.”

The films, which screen every Thursday at 6:30 p.m. from July 2 until September 17, are, indeed, an eclectic, challenging bunch, with each film boasting great critical attention and multiple awards, and exploring topics as varied as the struggles of “unfit parents” to retain their kids (“Tough Love,” showing on July 9), to the ongoing violence in Syria (“Return To Homs,” July 23), to modern-day slavery in Cambodia (“The Storm Makers,” August 3), to internet addiction in China (“Web Junkie,” August 27), and more.

Asked to pick out a few favorites, Harkness highly recommends Portlanders check out tonight’s “Cutie And The Boxer,” enthusing, “It’s the story of the relationship between the famed Japanese “boxing” painter Ushio Shinohara and his wife, Noriko, also an artist, and the sacrifices they have made for his work. It looks like a beautiful film – their art serves as a backdrop – and a really interesting portrayal of the struggles in their relationship but also in their creative work.” In addition, she’s very excited for people to see “Tea Time” (July 30), saying, “It’s about a group of Chilean ladies who have met for tea every week for 60 years and how this ritual of tea and cake has seen them through most of the trials and tribulations in their lives. It’s a great line-up this season!” (I’d suggest “Art And Craft” on July 16, a fascinating, cagy portrait of an unstable art forger, which I reviewed in this column last November.)


As for the PPL’s growing influence as a film venue, Harkness is nothing but optimistic. “The role of film screenings has been a work in progress at the Library,” she explains. “We are not a traditional venue people think of to watch films and have worked really hard to try to find ways to offer quality films to our patrons and build our audience. We program our own films about half the year and then offer our space to partnering organizations who want to show a film.” Harkness notes that organizations as diverse as Portland Greenfest, Natural Resources Council of Maine, Maine AllCare, Pride Portland, and more have all sponsored screenings in the past, and concludes with some praise for a colleague. “Patti Delois, our audiovisual specialist, has been great at matching films to some of our focus areas such as Civil Rights, Pride/TGTBQ, our Choose Civility initiative, and National Novel Writing Month. We had a great turnout for the California Newsreel films we showed as part of our Civil Rights Film Series in January.”

So buck up, Portland film fans—while we still, inexplicably, might not have a dedicated art cinema in town, the Portland Public Library is picking up the slack once again this summer.

For the full “POV” schedule, check online at:


Bayside Bowl, Portland |
Wednesday: “The Harder They Come.” Reggae and revolution come to Bayside Bowl with this outdoor screening of the cult classic 1973 film starring reggae legend Jimmy Cliff as an aspiring musician-turned-outlaw on the hard streets of Kingston, Jamaica.

Frontier, Brunswick |
Starting Tuesday: “Iris.” One of the last films from recently-deceased documentarian Albert Maysles was this portrait of 93-year-old fashion and design legend Iris Apfel, where the New York fixture still passionately holds forth about art and life.

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