CIFF announces Official Selections

Sep 07, 2012
Maine is the subject of several feature films in this year’s Camden International Film Festival, including Joe Fox’s “Question One.”

Camden International film Festival has released its first round of Official Selections for this year’s documentary fest, which will run Thursday through Sunday, Sept. 27 through 30 at venues in Camden and Rockland. The films following are listed in alphabetical order.

“Ballroom Dancer” (2011, Denmark) by Andreas Koefoed and Christian Bonke will have its New England premiere. A decade after Slavik Kryklyvyy became the World Latin Dance Champion, he tries to regain the success that seemed to have slipped by him with a new partner and lover. Depicting their shifting dynamic through gestures, glances, and dance, this film evolves past the comeback, into a tragic love story as Slavik's perfectionism drives a wedge between them.

“Betting the Farm” (2012, USA) by North Haven’s Jason Mann and Cecily Pingree will have its New England premiere. After being dropped by their main dairy processor, a group of nine Maine organic dairy farmers try to launch a new milk company, Maine’s Own Organic Milk. But in their first year, the farmers face mounting debts and money loss every week. Can the new company succeed, and fast enough to save them?

“Call Me Kuchu” (2012, USA/Uganda) by Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall is set in Uganda, where a new bill threatens to make homosexuality punishable by death. David Kato, Uganda's first openly gay man, and his fellow activists work against the clock to defeat the legislation while combating vicious persecution in their daily lives.

“Canícula” (2012, Mexico) by Jose Álvarez will have its East Coast premiere. An engrossing ethnographic work, “Canícula” is a study of the rich cultural heritage and traditions of the Totonac people of Veracruz, Mexico, who have resided in this region for thousands of years. Beautifully photographed, this documentary features rare footage of the Totonac's voladores ritual ("the flying dance"), named an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO.

“Chasing Ice” (2012, USA) by Jeff Orlowski focuses on acclaimed environmental photographer James Balog, who once was a skeptic about climate change. Through his Extreme Ice Survey, he discovers undeniable evidence of our changing planet. “Chasing Ice” reveals Balog's hauntingly beautiful, multi-year time-lapse videos of vanishing glaciers across the Arctic, all while delivering fragile hope to our carbon-powered planet.

“Citadel” (2011, Bolivia/Germany) by Diego Mondaca will have its United States premiere. “Citadel” captures the disturbing and mysterious place of the male prison in La Paz, Bolivia. The film attempts to expose life inside a detention facility that does not adhere to the traditional mores of prison; here, some inmates’ wives and children live alongside the prisoners.

“Code of the West” (2012, USA) by Rebecca Richman Cohen is set against the sweeping vistas of the Rockies, the steamy lamplight of marijuana grow houses and the bustling halls of the Montana State Capitol. Following the political process of marijuana policy reform, the film tells the story of the many lives and fraught emotions where politics fail and communities pay the price.

“Colombianos” (2012, Sweden/Colombia) by Tora Mårtens will have its U.S. premiere. Fernando's life in Stockholm seems to be going nowhere. He is struggling with substance abuse and his mother wants him to go and spend time with his older brother Pablo in Colombia. Pablo has a plan on how to get Fernando clean in six months. They set out on a journey filled with trials and tribulations that put their relationship to the test.

“Downeast” (2012, USA) by David Redmon and Ashley Sabin returns to CIFF, having had a work-in-progress screening last year. Set during an era of U.S. post-industrialization in which numerous factories have been exported, “Downeast” focuses on Antonio Bussone's efforts to open a lobster processing factory on the coast of Maine.

“Drought” (2011, Mexico) by Everardo González will have its East Coast premiere. Desert cowboys, "Cuates de Australia," face death every year, avoiding the drought that threatens the ranch. While the community is forced into an exodus, the Ejido is abandoned and eventually desert animals take over the place. They wait for the first drops of rain in order to return.

“East Hastings Pharmacy” (2011, Canada) by Antoine Bourges will have its U.S. premiere. In a Vancouver pharmacy, patients arrive for their dose of methadone, to be taken in front of the pharmacist. Over-the-shoulder shots forcefully convey the furtiveness and tension of this daily face-to-face.

“Goranson Farm: An Uncertain Harvest” (2012, USA) by William Kunitz will have its world premiere. The 2009 season for the Goranson Farm of Dresden, Maine, began like most: full of hope for the year. Then the wettest June on record arrived; July 4th brought hail and late potato blight. The film follows the farmers, as they struggle through the harvest and into the following year.

“Hardwater” (2012, USA) by Ryan Brod and Daniel Sites sheds light on the insular, diverse and oft-misunderstood ice fishing community in Maine, revealing their quirky habits and long standing traditions.

“Herman’s House” (2012, Canada/USA) by Angad Singh Balla explores the injustice of solitary confinement and the transformative power of art. This feature documentary follows the unlikely friendship between a New York artist and one of America’s most famous inmates as they collaborate on an acclaimed art project.

“The Imposter” (2012, UK/USA) by Bart Layton begins when a 13-year-old Texas boy vanishes without a trace. Three and a half years later, staggering news arrives: the boy has been found, thousands of miles from home in Spain, saying he survived a mind-boggling ordeal of kidnap and torture by shadowy captors. His family is ecstatic to have him back no matter how strange the circumstances … but things become far stranger once he returns home.

“Journey to Planet X” (2012, USA) by Myles Kane and Josh Koury will have its New England premiere. Eric Swain and Troy Bernier are scientists by day and amateur filmmakers by night. Over the years, these two friends have turned out many of their own amateur, sci-fi inspired movies. “Journey to Planet X” follows the filming of “Planet X,” the duo’s most ambitious endeavor to date and sheds light on their unique brand of movie magic.

“The List” (2012, USA) by Beth Murphy  tells the story of Kirk Johnson, a modern-day Oskar Schindler who is fighting to save Iraqis whose lives are in danger because they worked for the U.S. government and military to help rebuild Iraq.

“Meanwhile in Mamelodi” (2011, Germany/South Africa) will have its East Coast premiere. Extension 11 is one of many districts in the Mamelodi township in South Africa; running water, paved roads and electricity are nowhere to be found. But even here there is daily life, which the Mtsweni family masters with routine and integrity. Will the 2010 Soccer World Cup hosted in their country have an impact on their hopes and dreams?

“Night Laborer” (2012, USA) by David Redmon will have a work-in-progress screening. It follows Sherman Frank Merchant, a 6-foot-6-inches 46-year-old Downeaster during his transition from an independent and rugged clam digger by day to a laborer inside a factory at night. With his white smock, arsenal of knives and signature black beret, Merchant performs the tasks of preparing and arranging tools for the day laborers.

“Off Label” (2012, USA) by Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher will have its New England premiere. A powerful and unconventional coast-to-coast exploration of pharmaceuticals and American life, this film thoroughly investigates off-label use of medication, in the process revealing the tremendous influence psychiatric drugs in particular have on the greater population.

“Only the Young” (2012, USA) by Elizabeth Mims and Jason Tippet will have its New England premiere. In a small desert town just beyond the shadow of magic mountain, children are the gods of foreclosed homes and underpasses. Three teenagers find things to do in a place that offers nothing, discovering first love and friendship and avoiding the realities of becoming an adult.

“Peak” (2011, Italy/Germany) by Hannes Lang will have its New England premiere. Each year, hundreds of thousands of tourists come to the white winter paradise of the mountains. A portrait of the Alps in a changing environment, “Peak” questions the relationship between nature and technology. How artificial is a landscape allowed to be? How artificial must it look in order to fulfill and justify our archaic desire for paradise on earth?

“Plimpton! Starring George Plimpton as Himself” (2012, USA) by Tom Bean and Luke Poling tells the story of writer, editor, amateur sportsman and friend to many, George Plimpton. Using Plimpton’s own narration — along with thoughts and stories from friends, family and contemporaries — the film is a joyful celebration of a life lived fully, richly, strangely and, at times, a life that is hard to believe was actually lived by just one man.

“Question One” (2011, USA) by Joe Fox is one of several Maine-set features this year. In May 2009, Maine became the first state in the United States to legislatively grant same-sex couples the right to marry. Seven months later, Maine become the 31st state in this country to say “no” to gay and lesbian marriage. “Question One” chronicles the fierce and emotional battle that took place during that time.

“The Revisionaires” (2012, USA) by Scott Thurman catches the theory of evolution and a rewrite of U.S. history in the crosshairs when an unabashed creationist seeks re-election as chairman of America’s most influential board of education.

“Special Flight” (2011, Switzerland) by Fernand Melgar will have its New England premiere. The community of rejected asylum seekers and illegal migrants in Switzerland’s Frambois Detention Centre share friendships, fears and a similar fate. While the staff serve as caretakers, counselors and friends to the men there, in the end, they reflect society’s attitudes towards migrants, making them simultaneously friend and foe — a fact made most evident when staff must prepare one of the men to leave on a “special flight,” a situation of extreme humiliation and despair.

“Survival Prayer” (2012, Canada/Haida Gwaii) by Benjamin Greené will have its world premiere. A journey to the edge of the world, “Survival Prayer” follows individual food harvesters as they gather and prepare for the winter. The film celebrates the modern lifeways of a remote indigenous community and bears witness to a sacred relationship between individuals and the land that sustains them.

“The Waiting Room” (2012, USA) by Pete Nicks is a character-driven documentary that uses extraordinary access to go behind the doors of an American public hospital struggling to care for a community of largely uninsured patients. Using a blend of cinema verité and characters’ voiceover, the film offers a raw, intimate and even uplifting look at how patients, staff and caregivers each cope with disease, bureaucracy and hard choices.

“Wavumba” (2012, Nigeria/Netherlands) by Jeroen van Velzen will have its New England premiere. In search of the reality behind the memories the filmmaker has of his youth in Kenya, he once again allows himself to be led by an old fisherman to a world where fantasy, dreams, belief and reality cannot be differentiated from one another.

The Secret Cinema films offer Midcoast moviegoers a chance to see documentaries whose titles, for various reasons, cannot yet be publicized. The film of The Secret Cinema 1 asks, how can a human being be illegal? What would the world be like if borders did not exist? And what do we do with all the pitiless power that surrounds us? This film raises these fundamental questions but rather than offering simple answers, it chooses to illustrates the complicated situations that arise when we construct a social world over our natural one.

The Secret Cinema 2 is an experiential and atmospheric film that drops viewers in contemporary Lapland in the Arctic Circle, which is simultaneously the fairytale we might have imagined and something much more real. Using astonishing, vivid imagery, colors ,and precise, evocative sound design, the filmmakers make the experience of family life and work life in the legendary North country so real to us that we become part of the story, not just observers.

The Secret Cinema 3 is by an Academy Award winning director, offering an investigation into a cover-up in one of the world's most powerful institutions. This film documents four heroes who attempt to expose a devastating abuse of power despite the denials of authority figures who believe that because they stand for good they can do no wrong.

More features as well as the Short Films and Made in Maine Showcase lineup will be announced soon. For complete information about the festival, visit camdenfilmfest.org.

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401 or dernest@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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