Unity College lauds MIFF choice

Jul 06, 2014
Glenn Close will be honored during the 17th annual Maine International Film Festival

Waterville — The Maine International Film Festival will present its annual Mid-Life Achievement Award to Emmy, Golden Globe and Tony Award winning actress Glenn Close. MIFF will present Close with her award Sunday, July 13, at the Waterville Opera House after a screening of “Albert Nobbs,” the film that earned Close her sixth Academy Award acting nomination in 2012, along with Golden Globe and SAG nominations.

Close, who has a home in southern Maine, has recently completed filming on four features: “Low Down,” which debuted at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and will also be featured at MIFF; “5 to 7”; “Anesthesia”; and the highly-anticipated feature film of Marvel Comics’ “Guardians of the Galaxy,” opening Aug. 1. She is currently filming “The Great Gilly Hopkins” with Kathy Bates, Julia Stiles and Sophie Nelisse.

The actress holds a special place in the storied history of Unity College. Close donated funds that allowed Unity College to refurbish the array of solar panels formerly atop the White House during the administration of Jimmy Carter. The panels were taken down during the administration of President Ronald Reagan and placed in government storage, where they remained until the early 1990s. With the help of former Sen. William Cohen, the panels were then released from government storage and transported to Unity College, where they were refurbished with funds from Close and several other benefactors.

These panels supplemented the hot water system for the cafeteria. For more than a decade, the panels formerly atop the White House warmed water in the cafeteria at Unity College until they reached the end of their useful lifespan. In 2004, an Associated Press story about the panels brought Swiss filmmakers Christina Hemauer and Roman Keller to campus for the exploration of a possible documentary film topic. Over the next four years, they made multiple trips to the United States to film the documentary “A Road Not Taken” about Carter’s vision for the panels, their fate, resurrection and future.

The documentary featured Unity College alumni Sara Trunzo ’08 and Jason Reynolds ’05, who brought one of the White House panels on a road trip from Unity to the Carter Center in Atlanta, Ga. A rough cut of “The Road Not Taken” was screened during MIFF 2009 both filmmakers attended the premiere.  The documentary showcasing the Unity solar panel story has since been screened at film festivals internationally.

The documentary was re-cut in 2010 to include a new interview with former President Jimmy Carter, who shared his candid feelings about why the panels were removed from the White House. Also in 2010, Huang Ming, Chairman of Himin Solar, one of the largest solar manufacturing companies in the world, visited Unity College to accept the gift of a White House solar panel to the people of China. The panel that was gifted to Ming is on permanent display at Dezhou Solar City museum in China.  Unity gifted panels from the White House array of 32 panels to the Smithsonian and Carter Center. One panel is on permanent display on campus, while the balance is in storage.

“The saga of the former White House solar panels is ongoing,” said Michael Evans, Vice President for Academic Affairs. “They have inspired a generation of students to imagine the possibilities for achieving a more sustainable planet. We all applaud Ms. Close for her generosity to help the solar panels formerly atop the White House to find a new, useful existence after years of government storage.”

The full MIFF schedule is available online at miff.org. This year’s fest run from Friday, July 11, through Sunday, July 20.

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115; or dernest@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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