Happy day, Portland film fans – we’re getting a new film festival!
Of course, we had to steal it.
Well, maybe that’s not technically accurate, but Bangor’s inability/unwillingness to support the now 5-year-old KahBang Music, Art & Film Festival is Portland’s gain, as KahBang recently announced its plan to relocate the young festival to our fair city. A four-day event taking place Aug. 7-10, the festival brings a wide variety of artists together, with, as KahBang Film Fest executive director Meg Shorette explains, “a focus on emerging talent.” For the full schedule of music and art events, check out the festival website, kahbang.com.
But we’re here to talk about movies, and the 2014 KahBang Film Festival offers an intriguing-looking roster of features, shorts, and Maine-made films – plus some promising weirdness. And for Portland film lovers, seeing all of KahBang’s offerings is particularly easy this year, with the entire program screening at the venue One Longfellow Square, and a very affordable $20 pass that covers all 30 films. (Single events can be seen for $5, on a first come, first serve basis.)
So how did we get so lucky?
“It was a really heartbreaking decision,” says Shorette, now in her second year heading the film side of KahBang. “We all grew up in Bangor, the festival was built around Bangor, and we didn’t think we’d ever relocate, but we’ve built it up for five years, and we want it to survive.” Well, why Portland?
“We all love Portland. We come down frequently, so when we started thinking about moving the whole festival, everyone in Portland was so easy to work with. The film festival was the most complicated, but One Longfellow shuffled their whole weekend around for us. It’s an absolutely beautiful venue. It seats 185, there’s a balcony with a bar – you can grab a drink and just watch the film.”
Speaking of films, Shorette waxes enthusiastic about the whole lineup, but shared some thoughts about some standouts.
Aug. 7th’s opening-night film, “Play The Movie,” is the first feature from director Alec Toller, who won KahBang’s Audience Choice Award last year for his short “The Closet Monster.” The behind-the-scenes story of a theatrical production gone comically awry, Shorette says “Play the Movie” was a natural for the first spot. “We looked at each other and thought this was perfect for opening night – it’s fun and hilarious.”
Similarly, Shorette says that Aug. 10th’s “Beach Pillows,” an indie comedy about a young writer’s painfully funny summer had just the right feel to close out 2014’s festival.
Each film will feature appearances by the directors and some of the stars as well.
Sandwiched in between these two films, KahBang features a program of Maine-made shorts (Aug. 10), the experimental John Lennon documentary “Rubber Soul” (Aug. 9), and Aug. 9th’s “Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind”-esque “We Grew Up Here,” about a musician who finds the evidence of his existence gradually disappearing after a breakup, and others. In addition, there are a pair of the sort of fun, oddball choices KahBang is known for.
On Aug. 8th, it’s perennial comedy favorite “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” with Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter traveling through time in order to pass their history report. Suited to the film’s retro charms, the film will be projected from an original VHS cassette, original previews, tracking glitches and all.
And on Aug. 9th, KahBang tries to bestow cult status on another film, the nouveau summer comedy classic “Wet Hot American Summer” (easily one of the funniest films in decades). In order to kick the film’s already stellar fun quotient into overdrive, the 11 p.m. showing will be an interactive “Rocky Horror Picture Show”-type experience – costumes, props and all. “We were brainstorming in the office one day,” explains Shorette, “And we just thought why not? People love it, they know it so well – we’re hoping they come and just get down with it.”
All in all, this year’s KahBang is bringing some 30 films, most by new filmmakers, to its new home. Says Shorette, “We just really want to get them new audiences and new fans.” So head out to One Longfellow Square next weekend and show KahBang it’s come to the right place.
Dennis Perkins is a Portland freelance writer.
Friday: “The Grand Seduction.” When a desperately broke fishing village discovers they need a resident doctor to secure a life-saving factory, the eccentric residents (led by Brendan Gleeson) set out to make a hunky doc (Taylor Kitsch) think the town is the place of his dreams. Your mom will love it.
Thursday-Sunday: “Obvious Child.” SNL’s Jenny Slate is receiving early Oscar buzz as the star of this acclaimed (and controversial to certain people) romantic comedy about an independent woman who finds herself pregnant – and makes the choice to have an abortion. Much better and more thoughtful than some would have you believe.