Storytellers in film from here and around the world will converge on this southern Maine city starting Wednesday, Oct. 18, to see the films they’ve created screened at the Sanford International Film Festival.
Not only is the festival a mecca for filmmakers, film buffs will be able to watch dozens of films over five days.
Now in its fourth year, the festival, which runs Oct. 18 to 22, will screen close to 90 films — from student films to romance flicks, from horror to comedy, documentary and every other genre imaginable.
About 600 films were submitted. SIFF director James Harmon said all of the submissions were seen by at least two of the judges. Scores were compiled to come up with the 87 films to be screened at the festival and those were watched by a majority of the six judges. The films in line for a Tommy Award (named for Sanford textile baron Thomas Goodall) will be announced at the awards ceremony Saturday night at the Town Club.
Sanford native Brian Boisvert, who divides his time between Boston and his hometown, is one of the six judges. He watched about 250 of the films.
“I’m definitely a lifelong movie buff,” said Boisvert in an email. “I got involved in SIFF after attending the first film fest in 2014 as an audience member and really loving some of the films that were shown. One of the great treats about being a SIFF judge is the tremendous variety you get to see — a drama from Sweden, science fiction from Belgium. And you also get to see some amazing films that were made right in our own backyard. Every year I see New England-produced films that are better than most of what you see coming out of Hollywood.”
One of the first on the agenda to be shown is a short student film by called “H.U.M.A.N.S.,” said Harmon. It will be screened Wednesday during the student film portion of the festival.
In the program, “H.U.M.A.N.S” is described as “A comedic history of life over the past 70 million years that examines the ongoing competition between evolution and extinction – as personified as hyperactive millennials.”
“It’s a history of humanity told by a couple of kids,” said Harmon of the comedy he pronounced “really funny.”
Historical films and documentaries are on tap for Thursday, at two venues: Sanford High School and the Sanford Springvale Historical Museum. At the latter, the historical pieces, “The Town that Refused to Die” and “The Goodall Mills,” a short film, will be shown beginning at 7:45 p.m.
Other venues include the new Smitty’s Cinema adjacent to Ocean State Job Lot and Nasson Community Center.
There is an ice cream social, a horror film night on Friday complete with a zombie make-up contest — with cash prizes. In addition to submitted films, “Night of the Living Dead,” and “Damnationland,” will be screened.
The complete schedule and ticket details — Wednesday and Thursday screenings are free; $15 passes for Friday or Saturday get a whole days worth of films — are available online at: www.sanfordfilmfest.com.
The SIFF debuted in 2014, after a longtime Lewiston film festival was abruptly cancelled. That first year, said Harmon, the festival screened as many films as possible.
In 2015, 140 films were screened, with six screens playing at the same time.
“It was really hectic to coordinate,” Harmon said.
In 2016, about 90 films were screened.
This year, the time frame was moved to the fall — in previous years it was a spring festival.
Premiering following the awards ceremony Saturday will be a screening of “Dark Lady Love,” written by Stephen Hunt, who won the SIFF “script-to-screen” award in 2016. Sanford Films produced the 30-minute dark romantic film based on Hunt’s screenplay, said Harmon.
Boisvert said the festival is a great event and attracts lots of folks from all over.
“This is a fun event that really gets to show off Sanford in the best possible way,” said Boisvert. “You not only get to see some great films that you’ll never seen anywhere else, but you also get to interact with the filmmakers directly during Q&A sessions and in more casual settings, like our awards night celebration and after party. Two years ago, I was bowling with some filmmakers from Finland at the Bowl-a-Rama after party. We often have people travel here from away to attend — not just New England filmmakers, but people from Germany, Hong Kong, all over — and they all come away with praise for our city and the support and appreciation they received from our community.”
Harmon agreed. He said filmmakers are anxious to see how their films will fare.
“Many films have gone on to receive distribution contracts,” that have been screened at SIFF, said Harmon. “I think that’s due to the quality of the films, and the film festival is part of the equation.”