Film festival tackles themes of life, death, transformation

Posted Aug. 29, 2011, at 8:46 p.m.

CAMDEN — The Camden International Film Festival will tackle the themes of life, death and transformation in its opening and closing films Thursday, Sept. 29, and Sunday, Oct. 2.

The festival opens Thursday, Sept. 29, with the New England premiere of “Hell and Back Again,” directed by Danfung Dennis. Winner of the Grand Jury Award and Cinematography Award at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, the film contrasts the intensity of the front line with the unsettling normalcy of home. From his time with U.S. Marines Echo Company in Afghanistan, photojournalist and filmmaker Dennis introduces 25-year-old Sgt. Nathan Harris and follows his life during the war and throughout his recovery after being hit by a Taliban machine-gun bullet.

The film goes from war reportage to an intimate, visceral portrait of one man’s personal struggle at home in North Carolina, where Harris confronts the physical and emotional difficulties of readjusting to civilian life. Director Dennis will be in attendance.

The festival will close with a free community screening of “Convento” sponsored by and presented at the Cellardoor Winery and Vineyard in Lincolnville. Directed by Jarred Alterman, the film tells the story of the Zwanikken family living in Sao Francisco, a 400-year-old monastery at the convergence of the rivers Oeiras and Guadiana in Portugal, an area that some believe possesses mystical energies. This family of artists embraces and enhances the surrealist storybook landscape where they live. Dutch kinetic artist Christiaan Zwanikken creates new life in this unusual space, transforming a combination of animal skulls, bones and robotics into new creatures that can walk, talk and fly. Director Alterman will be in attendance.

“We are more than thrilled to be book-ending the 2011 festival with such powerful films,” said Benjamin Fowlie, founder and director of the Camden International Film Festival.

“Both of these films are excellent examples of the new and unique ways documentary filmmakers are telling stories. We’ve always been committed to highlighting new voices in nonfiction storytelling and both Danfung and Jarred have reset the bar for what we typically consider a documentary. I don’t think you could find two more different films, but both are similar in their poetic camera work and their ability to completely immerse audiences in the stories they are sharing. These are two films that people have been talking about all year and I’m very excited to be bringing them both to Maine to continue the conversations.”

The Camden International Film Festival will showcase nearly 60 documentary features and shorts over the course of the four-day festival, plus several special screenings and events, musical performances and the Points North Documentary Forum, which consists of workshops and panels, and a live pitching session featuring dozens of filmmakers and industry delegates from all over the world. Now in its seventh year, the Camden International Film Festival is the largest documentary film festival in New England.

Passes to the festival are available online. For more information or to purchase passes, visit www.camdenfilmfest.org.

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