Mahesh Pailoor is a true Maine filmmaking success story. Not that the Saco native will admit it.
Pailoor, coming back to Maine to present his first feature film, “Brahmin Bulls,” at the Portland Museum Of Art on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, started making movies when he was 10, and, like any aspiring Maine filmmaker, just kept at it.
After making films at Thornton Academy, he went to film school at NYU and then got his Masters of Fine Arts at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. His award-winning short film “Still Life” won multiple awards at festivals around the world, leading to his first feature “Brahmin Bulls,” a drama about a grown son (Sendhil Ramamurthy, “Covert Affairs”) reluctantly reconnecting with his estranged father (the great character actor Roshan Seth, “Indiana Jones and the Temple Of Doom”) over one bittersweet reunion in California.
The film also stars Oscar winner Mary Steenburgen, Michael Lerner (“Barton Fink”), Cassidy Freeman (“Longmire”), and Justin Bartha (“The Hangover”). I spoke to Pailoor from his home in L.A.
You grew up in Maine and have just completed your first Hollywood movie. What do the Maine filmmakers working toward that goal need to know?
This is all I’ve ever wanted to do. I just sort of kept at it, one foot in front of the other. When I was growing up, there was a community for people like me in Maine – places like Videoport and the Movies On Exchange Street (which is now the Movies at the Museum), but now things have changed so much. You don’t have to move to New York or L.A., you can be a filmmaker anywhere in the world. Honestly, if there were the film community there is now in Maine, maybe I wouldn’t have left. Now anyone can make movies anywhere – just work at it.
As an independent filmmaker, you can tell any story you want to tell. “Brahmin Bulls” isn’t completely autobiographical, but I’m South Asian and grew up in Maine, which was even less diverse than it is now. There are not many American films with South Asian actors in leading roles, so it was partly to tell a story I related to, that I had a connection to. In Hollywood, you can’t make a movie with a South Asian lead, but in independent films, you can. That being said, it’s a very American film, just a father and son story. Ultimately, it’s about family, about learning to deal with each other, forgive, and move on.
I lived in Maine for 18 years – every formative experience took place in Saco. Maine’s a great place to grow up and a great place to make movies. The movie has played festivals and then opened in New York, L.A., and other cities, but I love Portland and still consider Maine my home. I have so many friends there, so it’s kind of a homecoming. Portland is where I learned to make movies – I wanted to come back and show it there. I don’t know if I’ve made it, but I do know that Maine has changed so much in a great way. Making different stories in different locations – for indies, it’s about making films around the resources you have.
Mahesh Pailoor will be at each of the three “Brahmin Bulls” screenings at the Portland Museum of Art on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for a Q&A. See portlandmuseum.org/movies/brahmin-bulls for details).
COMING TO LOCAL SCREENS
PORTLAND CHILDREN’S FILM FESTIVAL (portlandchildrensfilmfestival.com)
Through Sunday: This annual Portland festival features films both about and by children, from Maine and around the world. Check the schedule for the truly impressive roster, and don’t miss the Young Filmmakers Contest screening on Sunday at 10:30 a.m. for this year’s crop of local films by next year’s Maine directors. Then head over to SPACE Gallery for a great triple feature of kid-centric movies.
SPACE GALLERY (space538.org)
Thursday: “Spring.” In this acclaimed indie horror romance, American tourist Lou Taylor Pucci meets a mysterious, beautiful genetics student (Nadia Hilker) with some icky – yet sexy – secrets. The new film from the directors of 2012’s excellent independent horror flick “Resolution.”