Call it the “Godfather, Part II” of Sanford International Film Festivals.
Director Francis Ford Coppola’s 1974 epic is often cited as the quintessential example of a movie sequel besting its predecessor. “The Empire Strikes Back,” the second film in the original “Star Wars” trilogy, is also often mentioned as something bigger and better than the original.
The 5th Annual Sanford International Film Festival — which returns to local screens Tuesday, Oct. 16, and runs through Sunday, Oct. 21 — is the biggest the event has ever been, and its organizers are aiming to make it the best fest yet, as well.
“I’m excited about all of the fun new things we’re doing this year,” said James Harmon, the festival’s director.
New things, indeed. An added, sixth day. Free screenings. A triple feature on opening night. A late-night block of films, “SIFF After Hours,” for mature audiences. A special presentation about Bigfoot and other cryptids by a renowned cryptozoologist. A twofer tribute to John Carpenter’s classic “Halloween,” on the occasion of its 40th anniversary. An awards ceremony at the new Sanford High School.
“I’m so proud of what we’re putting together here,” Harmon said. “When we started this festival, we had a love of movies, tons of energy, and the will to do something big and fun. Since then, we’ve learned so much about what audiences and filmmakers want from a film festival, and every year we get closer to that ideal.”
The triple-feature will be shown from 6 to 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 16, at Smitty’s Cinemas at 1327 Main St. On the bill are “Clickbait,” a horror flick that satirizes the pursuit of popularity and fame in this internet age; “After Hours Trading,” a buddy comedy that teams up a shiftless malcontent and a European con man; and “Ghost Mask: Scar,” about a search for a missing sister that unleashes a bloodbath of enormous consequences.
Films from assorted genres — dramas, comedies, animated, noir, fantasy, social commentary, romance and science fiction — will hit the silver screen from 3 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 17, at Smitty’s. Selections will include “Comments,” a clever look at the impact of statements made on social media; “Stuart Sleuth,” a black-and-white short about a detective diving into a multilayered case; “Padded,” a sweet tale of bubble-wrapped love for all ages; and a one-hour block of films and music videos made by the youth of Maine, some of whom live right in Sanford.
After the screenings, Wednesday will conclude with an ice cream social for everyone at Shain’s of Maine at 1491 Main St.
The entertainment shifts to the Nasson Little Theatre at 457 Main St. in Springvale on Thursday, Oct. 18. Two documentaries and the aforementioned “After Hours” attractions will be shown.
“Up to Snuff,” a doc about W.G. Snuffy Walden, a rock musician and one of the most beloved television composers in history, will start at the Little Theatre at 5 p.m. “Peace, Love & Zoo,” an inspiring doc about Portland recovery artist Zoo Cain, will light the screen afterward at 6:30 p.m.
“SIFF After Hours” will launch at the Little Theatre at 8 p.m. and will offer four hours of films aimed at an older audience. This block is not age-restricted, but the festival’s organizers urge that only individuals age 18 and older attend. The films range in subjects from midlife crises to relationship struggles to the burlesque worlds of Portland, Maine, and New York City.
A cash bar and food will be available at the Little Theatre throughout the evening.
“Horror Friday” returns to Smitty’s Cinema on Oct. 19. This event starts at noon and ends at midnight, promising 12 whole hours of frightful fun just a dozen days before Halloween. The afternoon will include such films as “The Weeping Woman,” involving haunting and mysterious cries from the woods; “Count Your Curses,” a darkly comic animated tale about a town in which supernatural beings run amok; “Our Friend Jon,” a big-hearted doc about the making of a low-budget horror film in New Hampshire; “Heimlich,” about the appearance of an enigmatic woman in the life of a lonely man in a rundown home; and “She Came from the Woods,” an homage to chilling campfire stories.
The scares, of course, must continue once the sun goes down. Loren Coleman, the president of the board of directors of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, will give a special presentation about Bigfoot and other cryptids at 7:20 p.m. But first, viewers will see two related films, “Eaglehawk” and “Hominid,” starting respectively at 6:40 and 7 p.m.
“Halloween,” the 1978 chiller by director John Carpenter, will terrify audiences once again at 8:15 p.m. Its 1981 sequel, “Halloween II,” will follow at 10 p.m.
Taking Horror Friday right up to midnight will be the final film of the evening, “The Eve,” a weird tale about a boy who wishes for Santa Claus to take him to his toy factory.
More films of mixed genres will be shown from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20, at Smitty’s Cinemas. Offerings will include “Hands Free,” a dark comedy about a man whose hopes for a new job go awry; “Maelstrom,” a nail-biter that takes place in a coffee shop; “For Luck,” a goofy crime yarn about a man who discovers he can be a hero; “Condemned,” a gripping drama about a convict on death row; and “Ainhoa,” an unpredictable drama about a young girl’s response to the effects that the 2009 economic crisis in Spain has on her family.
A filmmakers’ forum will follow the films at 5:45 p.m. Filmmakers who attend the festival will discuss the challenges of filmmaking in the world today and will take questions from the audience.
The annual Tommy Awards — SIFF’s answer to the Oscars — will take place from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday evening at the Agora performance space at the brand-new Sanford High School and Technical Center at 100 Alumni Blvd.
Afterward, there will be a Glo-Bowl party at the Bowl-A-Rama at 1217 Main St. until midnight.
SIFF will conclude at the Nasson Little Theatre on Sunday, Oct. 20, with a “Best in Fest” showing of the principal award-winning films from the night before. Festivities will start with a reading of the winner of the script-to-screen contest, with the films in the top eight award categories to follow.
Audiences can attend most of the festival for free, although donations will be accepted and appreciated. An all-access festival pass is available for $30 and admission to the catered awards ceremony Oct. 20 costs $10.
For more information — including specific showtimes, film trailers and summaries; suggested ratings; award nominations; and a list of the festival’s sponsors — visit www.sanfordfilmfest.com or www.facebook.com/SanfordIFilmFest.
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