Another month, another great Maine film festival, as the Sanford International Film Festival runs from Wednesday to Sunday. The young festival, going into its third season, has blown right past the chaotic circumstances of its birth (dedicated filmmakers scrambled to replace the abruptly cancelled Lewiston Auburn Film Festival in 2014) to become a sought-out destination for filmmakers from Maine and around the world.
“At first, we just wanted a place for filmmakers to show their films, but that first year was so successful, we just wanted to blow things up—and we pulled it off.” That’s SIFF festival director James Harmon who, along with his team, is putting the finishing touches on the festival that’s become another of Maine’s eclectic and challenging movie events—and a valued part of the Sanford community. Along with the enthusiastic support SIFF continues to receive from local businesses, and the steadily growing attendance, the festival continues to feature Maine- and Sanford-specific films. In addition to the Sanford documentary “The Town That Refused To Die” and others, Harmon cites Portland filmmaker Corey Norman’s adaptation of Stephen King’s story “Suffer The Little Children” — which was shot largely at Sanford High School.
As ever, SIFF’s varied roster of films has been sorted into themes, including a day of student-made films on Wednesday, documentaries on Thursday, Horror Friday, Saturday’s all-around showcase, and Sunday’s screening of the festival’s award-winning movies. Harmon stresses that the Sunday screenings are free to anyone who’s bought a ticket to any of this year’s films — and that, as ever, the SIFF screening pass, that gets you into any film at any time, is only 15 bucks. Says Harmon of SIFF’s continued evolution, “As we’ve come along, we’ve focused on the details. Every screening this year is at a great venue, with high quality projection and sound — nice and dark and truly a theatrical experience.”
Speaking of experiences, SIFF offers unique rewards for attendees, with events like a brunch, an ice cream social, and the final night awards celebration, complete with adult beverages from local businesses. For a complete rundown of all the events and films, check out the festival website sanfordfilmfest.com.
A film festival is where you go to discover new films, so I asked Harmon to pick out a handful of this year’s movies that — out of the hundreds of submissions to this year’s SIFF — he’s eager to share with attendees.
First up is “Fiddlesticks,” a German feature about a gaggle of adorably mischievous moppets who knock out their parents and head out for a series of adventures. Says Harmon, “I’m not the kind of guy who’d usually be recommending a German family movie, but this is just the most fun, whimsical film I think I’ve ever seen.”
Then, Harmon urges everyone to seek out the Italian short “Grosjean Strikes Back,” about a translator whose work on a forgotten writer’s manuscript has unexpected consequences. “This is the kind of movie you expect and hope to see at a film festival,” says Harmon, “It really puts you on your head, asking ‘What did I just watch?,’ but it’s amazing — and you’d never see it anywhere besides a film festival.”
Finally, Harmon is full of praise for a college filmmaker from the University of North Carolina. Richard Rogers’ student film “Cottonmouth” is about a jealous high school basketball player whose decision to frame a teammate for his misdeed backfires. “This is a heck of a student film,” says Harmon, “Watching it, you’d never pick up on the fact that it’s a student film — and it’s nominated outside the student category.”
The Sanford International Film Festival runs from Wednesday to Sunday, and is yet another gift for Maine film fans. See you there.
COMING TO LOCAL SCREENS
Friday, May 27 through Sunday May 29 : “Hockney.” Taking place as it does at the Portland Museum of Art, this documentary about famed, multi-faceted artist David Hockney should appeal to art and movie lovers alike.
Tuesday, May 31: “Trapped.” Wrenching documentary examines the ways that medical professionals who work at women’s health clinics continue to fight against so-called TRAP (targeted regulation of abortion providers) state laws intended to circumvent Roe V. Wade by placing medically unnecessary and burdensome requirements on facilities.