After nearly 40 years as a working filmmaker in Maine and elsewhere around the country, Richard Kane has seen a lot of films — especially ones made in Maine.
As recently as 2014, however, there was no event solely devoted to showcasing a broad array of Maine-made films. The Maine International Film Festival, Camden International Film Festival and Emerge Film Festival have Maine-specific programming in addition to films from all over the world, but there was nothing just for Maine filmmakers. But Kane, working with the Maine Film & Video Association, has changed that by starting the Maine Short Film Festival, the 2017 edition of which premiered at the Strand Theatre in Rockland in December and begins touring around the state next week.
“I knew there were great Maine-made films out there, but they just were not finding their way into festivals and in front of audiences,” said Kane, who lives in Sedgwick with his wife, fellow filmmaker Melody Kane-Lewis. “With this, we want to raise the bar for filmmaking in Maine and to generate audiences for Maine-made film.”
The 2017 Maine Short Film Festival, which had its premiere in December in Rockland, features 14 short films in narrative and documentary forms and spans topics from horror and romance to explorations of Maine’s wilderness, working waterfronts and artistic communities.
One of those films, “Outrunning Parkinson’s,” details Great Cranberry Island native Michael Westphal’s return to marathon running despite his increasingly difficult battle with Parkinson’s disease. Peter Logue, the film’s director, is a Southwest Harbor native and a 2010 graduate of Mount Desert Island High School.
Logue’s father, Owen, is a lifelong friend of Westphal’s and a fellow runner and hoped his documentary could help Westphal raise more money for the Michael J. Fox Foundation but also inspire others around the world, with and without Parkinson’s.
“His story had already reached many people, but we were both optimistic that a documentary about his marathon journey could help further his campaign in addition to inspiring people,” Logue, who was named the 2016 Maine Arts Commission Multimedia and Film Fellow, said. “He is such a massively inspiring person, and I felt honored to be able to help more people witness his epic performance on Great Cranberry Island that day. We have both received emails from people throughout the world who have been moved by his story.”
Other films include debut efforts from young filmmakers such as Portland-based Daniel Kayamba, whose short film, “The First Kiss,” is a charming, visually experimental telling of a decadeslong love story.
There are also new works from established filmmakers such as longtime experimentalist Walter Ungerer, whose film “Curiously” will be featured, and Bridget Besaw, director of the “Growing Local” film series, whose gentle, meditative film “Guided,” shows registered Maine guide Ray Reitze in the woods and waters of Maine.
Maine life is reflected in the films chosen for this year’s festival — in particular with a film such as “Long Haul” by Chloe White, detailing a Maine woman’s often solitary life on the ocean, as a lobster fisherman.
“I think in Maine in particular, you see films that are reflective of the state and things we have here. You see films about the wilderness, about the ocean, about our immigrant communities,” Kane said. “It reflects who we are.”
Not all the films featured are documentaries, however. “This Time It’s Shopping” is a hilarious comedy short from Blue Hill-based filmmaker Chek Wingo, starring Jim Picariello (who also wrote the script) and ImprovAcadia co-founder Jen Shepard.
Maine has been home to a small but strong film community for many years, with the Maine International Film Festival in Waterville now in its 20th year, and the Maine Media Workshops and the Camden International Film Festival both going strong on the midcoast for a number of years. But Kane and Logue agree that more energy appears to be coalescing around filmmakers working specifically in Maine — both for young filmmakers such as Logue and stalwarts of the community such as Kane. The Maine Short Film Festival aims to harness that energy.
“There is something happening in Maine right now, particularly in regard to the film and artistic communities that are being fostered throughout the state, and it is really exciting to be a part of it,” Logue said. “The festival has given me the opportunity to connect with a range of Maine filmmakers, which is something that I have been wanting to do since I began making films here several years ago.”
Kane also believes that huge leaps in the past five years of the affordability of technology available to filmmakers has made a big impact on how many people are making movies and how good they are. Filmmakers now don’t necessarily have to acquire tens of thousands of dollars of equipment in order to make a movie; a couple of DSLR cameras and microphones and a laptop with editing software are enough to make a movie these days.
“I think you’re seeing a lot more films made in Maine generally, because it’s become much more affordable to be able to make films — period. The technology is much more affordable now,” Kane said. “This year is a huge leap ahead for us, in terms of the overall quality of the films.”
“It is a great time to be filmmaker in Maine,” Logue said.
The Maine Short Film Festival will screen at Reel Pizza Cinerama, Bar Harbor, at 7:45 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 12; Space Gallery, Portland, 7 p.m. Jan. 21 and 2 p.m. Jan. 22; Frontier Cafe, Brunswick, 7 p.m. Jan. 27; Emery Arts Center, Farmington, 7 p.m. Feb. 2; Freeport Community Library, Freeport, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 22; Schoodic Arts for All, Winter Harbor, 7 p.m. April 7; River City Cinema at COESPACE, Bangor, 5:30 and 8 p.m. May 5; The Alamo Theatre, Bucksport, 7 p.m. May 11; Stonington Opera House, 7 p.m. May 20; and the Olin Arts Center, Bates College, Lewiston, 5 p.m. May 21. The program runs 90 minutes.