For four days each fall, Camden becomes a temporary hub for documentary filmmaking, as the Camden International Film Festival takes over venues throughout the area to screen thought-provoking new movies. More than 50 feature-length and short films will be shown this year, beginning Sept. 30 and running through Oct. 3, as well as discussions, parties and the second annual Points North Film Forum, set for Friday and Saturday.
Where last year the festival brought a new level of film industry buzz and attendance levels, the 2010 CIFF, the sixth so far, is poised to take its place as an internationally recognized film festival.
“This is going to be the year of years,” said Ben Fowlie, founder and executive director of the festival. “What we had hoped for last year was the kind of credibility and buzz that we needed to attract film industry people from all over. I think we got that for this year. We had 40 guest filmmakers last year; this year we have 65.”
The Points North Film Forum at CIFF will welcome filmmakers from countries such as Iceland, Denmark and Germany, and from companies such as the BBC, Sundance and PBS. The forum brings film industry leaders into direct contact with Maine filmmakers, offering advice and opportunities for people just starting out.
“We try to give Maine and New England filmmakers the opportunity to meet people that they might not ever get the chance to, like people that worked on ‘Man on Wire’ and the latest Werner Herzog film,” Fowlie said, referring to the Academy Award-winning documentary and the German filmmaker, respectively. “And it’s a 25 dollar ticket price. It might be the last year we can offer that low of a price, considering how well it’s going and the kinds of talent we’re attracting.”
But the meat of the festival, of course, are the films, which bring cinema lovers from coastal Maine and beyond to Camden to enjoy a unique selection of movies. The films span a wide array of topics and cultures, from Maine-made documentaries, such as “Canvas Man” and “The Eventful Life of Al Hawkes,” to a number of higher profile films, such as “Circo,” about a Mexican circus family, and “David Wants to Fly,” about filmmaker David Lynch and his practice of transcendental meditation. “Do It Again,” which also screened at the Maine International Film Festival in Waterville last July, is about one man’s attempt to reunite classic 1960s British band the Kinks, while “On Coal River” details the issues surrounding mountaintop removal coal mining in West Virginia.
Maine films, such as “Hawkes” and “Canvasman,” both of which screened at the KahBang Film Festival held in August in Bangor, will include Northeast Historic Film’s presentation of a new work, “Millinocket, Rockland and Portland: A Snapshot Of Life In Three Distinct Maine Communities,” showing the history of those three municipalities from 1910 to the present day. “Bearwalker of the North Woods” is about biologist Dr. Lynn Rogers and her work with black bears.
“I really like all our Maine films this year,” said Fowlie. “I think it used to be that the filmmakers in Maine were established people that moved to the state to get away from a city. Now, you see some young, motivated newcomers that are from Maine and have always lived here, and want very badly to have a real, viable film scene in Maine. There are some very vibrant people here, doing funky, cool, unique films.”
The opening night film, “Budrus,” details the work of Palestinian activist Ayed Morrar, and his young daughter, Iltezam, to save their home village. Award-winning filmmaker and director of “Budrus,” Julia Bacha, will be on hand to lead a discussion after the 7 p.m. screening at the Camden Opera House.
“It’s really important to have a really wide variety of topics,” said Fowlie. “This year, we’re also trying something new, in that we’re having a Shorts Brunch at 10:30 [a.m.] on both Saturday and Sunday, where you can come and watch short films for free, and enjoy some coffee. I think it’ll be nice for people to just pop in and check out some of what we have to offer.”
And then, of course, there are the special events, such as the opening night party, the Saturday night party and a boat cruise for VIP pass holders. The festival will close out with a “secret” screening of a new, untitled film about light pollution and the disappearing dark, set for 7 p.m. Sunday at Cellardoor Vineyards in Lincolnville.
“It’ll be outside, in a tent if it’s raining, and we’ll have telescopes afterwards to watch the stars, and a band,” said Fowlie. “We haven’t had a closing night party yet, so this is something new and really fun.”
VIP passes for the Camden International Film Festival are $100, and get you into all events. The film-only pass is $65, and a pass to the Points North Film Forum is $25. Individual tickets to films are $8.50. For information and a full schedule of events and venues, visit www.camdenfilmfest.org.