A crowd shot from a previous edition of the Maine International Film Festival. Credit: Maine Film Center

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For its 22nd year, the Maine International Film Festival, usually held each July in Waterville, will instead be taking the show on the road — to nearby Skowhegan, specifically.

MIFF, as it’s usually called, will this year screen the entirety of its slate of programming at the Skowhegan Drive-In movie theater, 201 Waterville Road, in an effort to maintain social distancing and protect the safety of movie-goers during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Though there will not be quite as many films to be shown as there would be in a normal year, due to the fact that the Skowhegan Drive-In has just one screen, programming director Ken Eisen expects it to at the very least be a unique year for the festival.

“While we’d love to be able to share with our audiences all the incredible cinematic discoveries we’ve made in working on this year’s festival, we are truly thrilled to be embarking on what we are sure will be an exciting, safe, and joyful version of MIFF appropriate to the current conditions,” said Eisen, who founded the festival in 1998, and also originally opened Railroad Square Cinema in Waterville 1978.

MIFF’s executive director, Mike Perrault, said that as soon as it became clear early on that movie theaters like Railroad Square Cinema, which hosts the majority of MIFF’s screenings, would have to remain closed indefinitely, the planning began.

“It took us a while to consider all of our options, but in the end, we knew that partnering with Skowhegan was just a natural fit, especially since we’ve hosted events with them before,” said Perrault. “I think this is going to be a pretty special edition of MIFF… it makes the most of the Maine summer, which is something we’re very excited about.”

Perrault said that one of the silver linings of the pandemic is that non-profit arts organizations are being forced to reimagine how they do things.

“We’re being forced to think outside the box, and develop new, creative solutions,” said Perrault. “I think that will help us to do that sort of thing even better in the future.”

The Maine International Film Festival shows a mix of both domestic and international films, including dramatic features, documentaries and shorts, as well as film classics and films from Maine filmmakers. It also awards the Mid-Life Achievement Award, given to film professionals and actors, including in previous years luminaries such as Terrence Malick, Jonathan Demme, Glenn Close, Peter Fonda and John Turturro.

MIFF isn’t the only Maine film festival planning to switch to a drive-in model this year. The Camden International Film Festival also announced this week that it plans to build its own drive-in theater at the site of the former Rockport Elementary School, in order to host its festival this September, as well as potentially host other screenings.

Perrault said the lineup of films to be shown at MIFF this year will be released in early June. The festival is set for July 7-16. For more information, visit miff.org.

Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native and proud Bangorian, covering business, the arts, restaurants and the culture and history of the Bangor region.