The last weekend of summer is filled with film this year, as the 11th annual Camden International Film Festival inhabits downtown venues in Camden, Rockport and Rockland. Taking place earlier than in previous years, CIFF will screen more than 70 documentary films, feature-length and shorts, beginning Thursday morning, Sept. 17, at Rockland Public Library; and ending Sunday evening, Sept. 20, in the Camden Opera House auditorium.

Running concurrently is the seventh annual Points North Documentary Forum, whose director, Sean Flynn, terms it “a platform for discovery.” Points North offers filmmakers and the general public alike the rare opportunity to learn about the process of making documentaries from masters of the medium. While some of those masters are hands-on — one Points North master class will be led by veteran film editor David Teague — the process is story-driven, said Flynn a little over a week before CIFF. And the story of how documentary filmmakers tell stories is engaging, even for those outside the filmmaking community.

“You know, my mother goes to all the [Points North] master classes,” said Caroline von Kuhn, the festival’s managing director.

All of the Points North events, which include master classes, panel discussions, case studies and networking events, are open to those with a festival pass … and the Saturday morning Points North Pitch is open to all, free of admission charge. Six Points North Fellows, after spending a day of training and industry mentorship at the Maine Media Workshops with Sundance Institute’s Kristin Feeley and producer Andrea Meditch, will pitch their documentary works-in-progress before a live audience and receive critical feedback from a panel of doc industry professionals.

One of the filmmaking teams will receive the Points North Pitch Award and Modulus Finishing Fund, which includes a $10,000 in-kind post-production package from Boston-based Modulus Studios and three consultations with the Tribeca Film Institute. The winner will be announced at an All Access Passholders’ cocktail party at Rockland’s Dowling Walsh Gallery late Saturday afternoon.

The Pitch is the original lynchpin of the growing Points North program, and its repercussions are increasingly felt in the CIFF screening schedule. This year, two projects that were pitched in previous years will be screened, “Containment “and “Drawing the Tiger.” And last year’s winning filmmaker, Pacho Velez, will bring a series of project-related shorts to the fest’s final day.

“The roster of [Points North] programs is aimed at identifying new talent and voices,” said Flynn.

First-time filmmakers get something at Points North and CIFF that is very rare — the opportunity to interact face-to-face with established artists, producers and funders.

Thursday, Sept. 17

Rockland Public Library (Being There- FREE)

10 a.m. “Nanook of the North” (1922, USA) 79 min.

Noon “The Hunters” (1957, USA) 72 min.

2 p.m. “Community of Praise” (1982, USA) 59 min.

Camden Opera House

7:30 p.m. "The Russian Woodpecker" (2015, Ukraine/UK/USA) 80 min. (plus a short)

Friday, Sept. 18

Camden Opera House

10 a.m. Shorts First 1 (FREE, eight films) 100 min.

12:30 p.m. “Containment" (2015, USA) 81 min.

2:30 p.m. "The Ground We Won" (2015, New Zealand) 91 min.

4:30 p.m. "Those Who Feel the Fire Burning" (2014, Netherlands) 74 min.

6:30 p.m. “Frame by Frame” (2015, USA) 85 min.

9 p.m. "Meru" (2015, USA) 89 min. (plus a short)

Farnsworth Art Museum

10:30 a.m. “Democrats” (2015, USA) 96 min.

12:30 p.m. “Drawing the Tiger” (2014, Norway/Denmark/Italy) 77 min.

3 p.m. “Toto and His Sisters” (2014, Netherlands) 93 min.

5 p.m. “Reassemblage” (1982, USA) 40 min. (Being There)

6:30 p.m. “Cannibal Tours” (1988, Australia) 72 min. (Being There)

Strand Theatre

4 p.m. “All Things Ablaze” (2014, Ukraine) 82 min.

6 p.m. “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief” (2015, USA) 119 min.

9 p.m. “Breaking a Monster” (2015, USA) 93 min.

Saturday, Sept. 19

Rockport Opera House

10 a.m. Shorts First 2 (FREE, four films) 104 min.

1 p.m. "Kings of Nowhere" (2015, Mexico) 83 min.

3:30 p.m. "Western" (2015, USA) 93 min.

7:30 p.m. "T-Rex" (2015, USA) 86 min.

Farnsworth Art Museum

10 a.m. “Forest of Bliss” (1986, USA) 89 min. (Being There)

Noon. "Tell Spring Not to Come This Year" (2015, USA) 83 min.

2 p.m. “Sailing a Sinking Ship” (2015, USA) 64 min.

4 p.m. “Of the North” (2015, Canada) 74 min.

6:30 p.m. “Machine Gun or Typewriter” (2015, USA) 71 min.

Strand Theatre

10:30 a.m. “Above and Below” (2015, Switzerland/ Germany) 110 min.

1 p.m. “Uncertain” (2015, USA) 82 min.

3:30 p.m. "Bluespace" (Work-in-progress, USA) 70 min.

6:30 p.m. “Almost There” (2014, USA) 93 min.

9 p.m. "Olmo and the Seagull" (2014, Denmark/Brazil/Portugal/France) 85 min.

Camden Opera House

3:30 p.m. “Elephant’s Dream” (2014, Belgium) 74 min. (plus a short)

6:30 p.m. “(T)error” (2015, USA) 84 min.

8:45 p.m. “How to Change the World” (2015, UK/Canada) 112 min.

Sunday, Sept. 20

Camden Opera House

10 a.m. Shorts First 3 (FREE, five films) 89 min.

12:30 p.m. “In Transit” (2015, USA) 76 min.

2:30 p.m. “Thank You for Playing” (2015, USA) 81 min.

4:30 p.m. "Peace Officer" (2015, USA) 109 min.

7:30 p.m. "This Changes Everything" (2015, Canada/USA) 89 min. (plus a short)

Strand Theatre

10 a.m. “The Film Life of Charles Norman Shay, Penobscot Elder” (2015, USA) 70 min. (Dirigo Doc)

Noon “From This Day Forward” (2015, USA) 74 min. (plus short)

2:30 p.m. “Best of Enemies” (2014, USA) 87 min. (plus Pacho Velez shorts)

4:30 p.m. “I Am The People/Je Suis Le Peuple” (2014, France) 111 min.

Farnsworth Art Museum

10 a.m. Shorts First 4 (FREE, seven films including Cinema Eye Honors for Nonfiction Filmmaking Shorts) 108 min.

12:30 p.m. Dirigo Shorts (four Maine-made shorts) 74 min.

2:30 p.m. “Jaguar” (1967, France) 89 min. (Being There)

“It’s a unique attribute of this festival,” said CIFF founder and Executive Director Ben Fowlie, a Midcoast native. At most film festivals, the “big names” are cordoned off from attendees when not sitting on panels or doing Q&As. That’s not how things are at CIFF, which PBS’ “POV” has named one of the 12 best small-town film festivals in the U.S. During this weekend on the Midcoast, everyone rubs shoulders. Conversations pop up in restaurants and on coffee queues that could never happen at Sundance, Toronto or that other CIFF (Cannes).

“Everybody is really into the energy here … they’re forced to integrate, and we’re starting to see the positive effects of that,” said Fowlie.

Related pitch opportunities in recent years have been tied to grants from the New York Times (Op-Docs) and Al Jazeera’s media network AJ+. Point North’s final offering in 2015 is The New News, a 75-minute documentary journalism showcase of short films scheduled for 11 a.m. Sunday at the Rockport Opera House.

“We’ve got all-star heavy hitters for that one,” said Flynn, citing a post-screening panel moderated the MacArthur Foundation’s Lauren Pabst and featuring editors from the New York Times, The Guardian and “Frontline,” as well as a couple of filmmakers. The latter include Ben Solomon, the New York Times digital journalist who won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for his short “The Ebola Ambulance” (included in the showcase).

The overlap between narrative documentary and journalism is heightened, thanks to the digital technology that makes on-the-fly, in-the-field work such as Solomon’s possible. But it has always been a somewhat blurred line. A Being There retrospective sidebar of this year’s fest focuses on the kind of ethnological documentary that goes back to the acknowledged, if sullied, dawn of the doc itself, Robert Flaherty’s “Nanook of the North.”

That and two other essentials of the medium’s history will be screened Thursday in Rockland Public Library’s Friends Community Room, a new screen and collaborator for CIFF. These screenings — “Nanook” (1922, USA) at 10 a.m.; John Marshall’s “The Hunter” (1957, USA/Namibia) at noon; and the Ricky Leacock/Marisa Silver-helmed “Community of Praise” (1982, USA) at 2 p.m. — are free, as are the four Shorts First screenings Friday through Sunday.

“Everyone’s a little sad about the Bayview Street Cinema,” said Fowlie about the revived-for-CIFF-only venue in Camden that used to screen the free Shorts programs; the building is being turned into a hotel.

“But we had to turn 25 to 50 people away from the Shorts. The Camden Opera House has twice the seats, so we’re excited to move on,” he said.

“And we’ll be at the Rockport Opera House all day Saturday too, making the experience much more cinematic,” said von Kuhn.

Another new venue the team is excited about is the former Zaddick’s (and other fooderies)/future Long Grain space on Washington Street, which will serve as the festival hub. It is just steps away from the Camden Opera House building, which will host screenings in the auditorium; Points North events in the first-floor conference room and second-floor Kay Tucker Room; and receptions on the third floor. If the weather gods permit, said Fowlie, there will be CIFF-sponsored family arts activities Friday and Saturday on the Camden Village Green — so the corner of Elm and Washington streets will really be abuzz.

In Rockland, screenings are set for the Strand Theatre and the auditorium of the Farnsworth Art Museum; and a couple of late-night events will be held in the Bicknell Building, used this season as temporary quarters for the Center for Maine Contemporary Art. The opening night party (the parties and receptions are open to those with All Access Passes) will be out on Rockport’s Brewster Point.

Fowlie is very excited about this year’s opening night film, “The Russian Woodpecker,” set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Camden Opera House. The Chad Gracia-directed film introduces viewers to Fedor Alexandrovich, an artist whose investigations into the Chernobyl nuclear disaster led him back to the Cold War, even as the 2014 uprising in Ukraine was taking place.

“It’s the first year we’ve opened with a film and hosted its subject. The film is a great, rabbit-holesque experience about what caused Chernobyl. Fedor Alexandrovich is coming from Ukraine to be here, and he’s quite a character! It should be mind-blowing,” said Fowlie.

The festival’s final day opener also focuses on a real character — one with Midcoast connections. “The Film Life of Charles Norman Shay, Penobscot Elder” is a Dirigo Doc (Maine-made), 70-minute compilation of home movies of a 92-year-old Penobscot Elder from Old Town who used to have the teepee basket shop on Route 1 at Lincolnville Beach. It will screen 10 a.m. Sunday at the Strand, and Shay will be on hand.

Shay’s film, presented in conjunction with Northeast Historic Film, ties into the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences-supported Being There slate of historic ethnographic films. The opening event of the Points North program also makes the connection, as a Stories of Place discussion explores the approach that Leacock described as a "search for the feeling of being there" — the use of sight and sound to immerse viewers in an experience that may be totally foreign to them. Flynn cites Robert Gardner’s “Forest of Bliss” (1986, USA), screening Saturday morning at the Farnsworth, as a doc well known in academic circles that is considered a precursor to the art/anthropology genre.

“There was so much experimentation going on when we started, but many are striving to get back to that earlier approach, so it was easy to put together a contemporary slate to go hand in hand [with the Being There films],” he said.

It’s not easy to run a film festival, but Fowlie, von Kuhn, Flynn and their team of volunteers pull it off once a year … and recently, they have produced related events year-round. In addition to Aging in Maine screenings and workshops — another such initiative, Sustainable Maine, will be launched this year — and CIFF Selects screenings, CIFF/Points North held the inaugural Camden/TFI Retreat in June. Focused on creative, cinematic, character-driven documentary by U.S.-based filmmakers, the retreat was developed in partnership with the Tribeca Film Institute and presented by CNN.

That’s pretty heady company for a few burgs on the coast of Maine, but it's par for the course during CIFF. To be a part of the 2015 fest, visit for more information on each film and festival passes, as well as the full schedule. For specifics about the projects in the sixth annual Points North Pitch, set for 10 a.m. Saturday in the Camden Opera House auditorium, visit