Maine International Film Festival to Celebrate 20th Anniversary

WATERVILLE, Maine. (WABI) - The Maine International Film Festival, now in its 20th year, gets underway this week in Waterville.

The program's director says the event now draws 10,000 moviegoers to the city's downtown to celebrate films and those who make them.

"You don't find a film festival like this in a town the size of Waterville darn close to anywhere."

Ken Eisen, Programming Director of the Maine Film Center and Maine International Film Festival, finds it hard to believe the event he started decades ago attracts the audiences and industry guests that it does.

"20th anniversary - that's kind of shocking. I don't know how that happened," said Eisen.

Beginning on Friday, July 14th and running until Sunday, July 23rd, more than 100 films will be screened at Railroad Square Cinema and the Waterville Opera House.

From restored classics, to short films, to brand new features - organizers curate an impressive selection of original movies that tend to stray from the typical mainstream fare.

"Our opening night film is called 'The Sounding' and it was shot on Monhegan Island - fantastic film about a woman who is mute until she suddenly starts to talk in Shakespearean language alone."

Those traveling to Waterville for the festival will be greeted by its symbol, a giant chickadee sculpture, that now hangs in Castonguay Square.

Successful model and actress Lauren Hutton will pass by it when she's awarded the Mid-Lifetime Achievement Award...Legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins will receive a high honor for his work behind the camera.

"13 Oscar nominations for this guy, each one of them certainly deserved. Director of photography of films from the Coen Brothers movies to some James Bond movies and so on and so forth."

Screenings of some of his best work will be showcased during the festival, including 'Prisoners,' 'No Country for Old Men,' 'Skyfall,' and 'The Shawshank Redemption.'

The festival's centerpiece film will be an archival original 35mm print of Disney's classic 'Bambi.' The country's foremost expert on Disney animation will be introducing the film with fascinating trivia about the history of the movie and its connection to Maine.

"The deer who the animators used as the models were trained from Maine to California and put into the Disney studios for the animators to draw. The music is by Frank Churchill who's a Rumford native. And The scenery - Disney dispatched a guy named Maurice Day, one of their regulars, to Katahdin in the North Woods to make sketches. So it's really Maine that it was set in. It's like a bit of film history that I think almost nobody knew."

To buy tickets and for information on showtimes, go to www.miff.org.