Late-summer is the time for many of us to slow down and catch a breath after the whirlwind that is the high season in Bar Harbor. FIRST LIGHT FILM SOCIETY, the non-profit arm of Bar Harbor’s Reel Pizza Cinerama, has the perfect solution – come be surprised and delighted by a unique film (or two) this weekend! For a fifth year – from September 13 to 16 – they are presenting “MIFF By-the-Sea”, a best-of collection of films especially selected from this past summer’s Maine International Film Festival. This increasingly renowned festival, just finishing its 16th year, is curated by the Maine Film Center and held every mid-July at their venue, the venerable Railroad Square in Waterville.
The festival contains both feature-length and short subject films, from, as the name of the festival suggests, both Maine-based and international locales. Several filmmakers are expected to attend this year’s Bar Harbor event. These filmmakers bring their knowledge, background, and motivation to a discussion of their work. An opening catered reception for the filmmakers and local sponsors with regionally sourced treats by Sassafrass Catering, MDI brews and wine from Atlantic Brewing Company and musical accompaniment by guitarist Bob Bowman will be held from 4 – 6pm on Friday afternoon under the tent in the Reel Pizza parking lot.
This year’s slate seems a well-balanced tasting buffet. There are five documentaries, six fiction features and two programs of short films; each will screen twice. There are animated, live-action, blends, and experimental films. Genres include fantasy, mystery, drama, music, comedy, and histories – both recent and from a century ago; there are films made by College of the Atlantic students and films by Oscar-winners, films made by Mainers and films from directors in Uruguay, Argentina, Rwanda, Netherlands and Belgium, films about older men who have made their mark, and about young women who have yet to. Most certainly, unless you follow these things closely (and perhaps even if you do), you won’t have heard of any of these films. But that doesn’t mean they are any less worthy; their producers just don’t have deep pockets, or marketing schemes that lend themselves to massive broadcast promotion (and, likely, many of these filmmakers have no desire for such things).
There are also two special programs, both on Friday evening. At 6pm is a Rock&Reel presentation. A trio of local jazz- and classically-influenced musicians led by Joe Cough Jr. will provide accompany two classic and family-friendly Buster Keaton silent short films. Later that evening, at 11pm, Bar Harbor’s fabulous ImprovAcadia troupe will present a special edition of their occasional wacky collaboration with Reel Pizza, ImproVision, where a grade B movie is screened with the sound off, and on the fly – having never seen the film before – the comedians make up dialog, sound effects and musical numbers in a randomly selected genre. It’s a new show everytime and always a lot of fun.
A recent news story, touting the record-breaking summer movie admissions, bemoaned the recent spate of blockbuster failures while praising the success of recent independent cinematic offerings. These less-promoted films are the strength of a festival like MIFF By-the-Sea, which offers a collection of smaller, independently-made, interesting films that haven’t yet received national attention and distribution. This week, a review of a terrific film that played at last year’s festival, TOKYO WAKA, was published, as this film is just opening on theater screens in New York City this week. This weekend you could see next year’s TOKYO WAKA. Come take a chance on something new; you’ll be glad you did! For more information, schedule of events, film descriptions and links to trailers, see reelpizza.com/miff. Individual tickets for all shows and discount passes for multiple films are available now at the boxoffice or by calling 288-3828.