The Maine Short Film Festival debuted earlier this year, touring nine theaters around the state. MSFF 2016 is adding a venue and, while the grand tour begins in early January, the 2016 fest actually premieres this month — Friday, Dec. 11, at the Strand Theatre in downtown Rockland. The 100-minute program of 14 films begins at 5:30 p.m. and includes Q&A with festival organizers, jurors and filmmakers.

The Midcoast is well represented by filmmakers, subjects and locations and, like the program overall, they cover quite a range. Up-and-coming filmmaker Josh Gerritsen of Lincolnville has one of his nonprofit agency portraits in the mix, while longtime artist Walter Ungerer, based in Camden, is represented by one of his independent experimental films. Cushing artist Alan Magee began making social justice-driven music videos a few years ago, two of which juried into MSFF. And Huey (Coleman), for many years the face of Maine filmmaking, documents the creation of the Maine Heritage Orchard at MOFGA’s headquarters in Unity.

The selections — the shortest runs a bit more than 90 seconds and the longest just under 18 minutes — also range in genre. Included are straight documentary, musical parody, classic horror, dramatic narrative and more. While the horror film features a child actor familiar from Waldo and Heartwood theater productions, it — and the luscious nudes being painted in an artist retrospective — are perhaps best suited for mature audiences; otherwise, there is truly something for everyone among the winning films.

“I knew there were great films being put out in Maine,” said Richard Kane, chairman of the Maine Film & Video Association and producer of the festival, which is sponsored by the MFVA.

The Downeast filmmaker also knew that some of the great films being made in Maine were not being entered into the Pine Tree State’s surprisingly fertile film festival crop. He has been entering, and often jurying into, the state’s fests for a number of years. For the most part, his jury selections have been short subjects, but his feature-length documentary, “Imber’s Left Hand,” has gained real traction and continues to tour festivals, including some overseas.

“I felt that a lot of talented people out there don’t enter their films, for one reason or another,” he said.

One reason might be that many festivals eschew works-for-hire, even as some of the highest quality filmmaking in the state is being done for “commercial” interests. Several of the jury selections in this year’s lineup advocate for things as far away as the coral-rich seas off Bonaire and as close as heritage apple grafting in Palermo.

“We’re not just independent and documentaries; there are some fine filmmakers doing commercial work,” he said.

A case in point is “Bonaire,” a 1:34 film that is one of five short edits from a longer work produced as part of a Dutch Caribbean National Parks environmental awareness campaign. The stunning cinematography is by Mauricio Handler, who travels all over the world to shoot, often underwater.

“He is absolutely top-echelon, and he lives in Durham,” said Kane.

The closest thing to what the audience might think of as commercial is a delightfully silly “Thrift Shop” parody about, yes, a thrift shop in Ellsworth. That film was produced for viewing on YouTube, as was an episode of a monthly web series about a Lewiston housing cooperative. Both Mike Perlman’s “Clothes Encounter” and Craig Saddlemire’s “My So-Called Housing Cooperative #2” will get big-screen cred during Maine Short Film Festival 2016.

Other selections will look right at home at the Strand. “Fever” is a compelling narrative work by Marie Chao and Matthew J. Siegel, a husband-and-wife team familiar to the Maine film community. Chao recently took over the video production unit of the Jackson Laboratory; she and Siegel produce Maine’s newest film fest, the Bar Harbor Film Festival.

“It’s extraordinarily beautiful, very skilled filmmaking and a great story,” said Kane.

While “Fever” is a psychological thriller, “Tickle” goes right for the jugular. Directed by Corey Norman, chairman of communications and new media at Southern Maine Community College, “Tickle” was featured in last year’s Damnationland tour and has the suspense, and splatter, to prove it.

In a completely different vein, “Scribe of the Soul” is a quiet, wordless piece depicting a 19th-century woman getting into that era’s layers of clothing in preparation for a trip to town. The film, by Alban Maino and Jimmy Liepold, is part of new, Portland-based venture Memory-Lane.Tv, which is producing streaming short films aimed at providing non-pharmacological stimulation therapy for people living with dementia, PTSD and other brain disorders.

From old age to childhood, Magee’s latest animated music video, “A Nasty Law,” makes use of the artist’s oddly compelling childhood drawings to address 2012’s National Defense Authorization Act. The jury also selected Magee’s first foray into this work, 2013’s “Gun Shop.” Another of Magee’s shorts was screened during the 2014 Camden International Film Festival.

CIFF founder and Director Ben Fowlie is one of Maine Short Film Festival 2016’s jurors. He was joined by Louise Rosen, chairwoman, artistic and executive director of the Maine Jewish Film Festival; and Daniel Kany, art and film critic of the Portland Press Herald. Kane, who has had films in both MSFFs, said he “put up a firewall” between himself and the jurors. Nonetheless, this is the last year he will be entering his own work, at least while he is producing the fest.

“I did it this year because there were no other films about art, and I think that art is the most important industry in Maine,” he said.

His film, “The Raw Essence of Carlo Pittore,” combines previously shot footage about the late artist who helped found the Union of Maine Visual Artists with contemporary interviews with people who knew Pittore. The artist and his art fill the screen with exuberance and, apparently, a bit too much flesh for public television. Kane, who has produced many of the Maine Masters films, still hopes to expand the 8:36 film into a chapter of the series.

Ungerer’s “I Just Don't Get It – It's My Russian Soul” uses time-lapse imagery, color washes and a complex soundscape to produce an immersive several-season experience of Portland. The experimental film distinguishes itself from many of the other festival selections in its urban sensibility, illustrating another level of Maine’s range.

Rural living is celebrated in “Heart & Hand,” Sharyn Paul Brusie and Kevin Brusie’s warm depiction of life on a farm. Part documentary, part art film, its meditative portrait of winter at Scarborough’s Frith Farms is accompanied by The Old Grey Goose. Huey’s “Maine Heritage Orchard,” features apple guru John Bunker of Palermo, traces the reclamation of an abandoned gravel pit to create the site and includes an orchard-planting workday that took place this spring.

Another reclamation is celebrated in “Penobscot River” by Justin Lewis, Michelle Stauffer and Laura Rose Day, a short that documents the work of the Penobscot River Restoration Trust and other organizations taking down the Great Works Dam. And Gerritsen’s “Alison and NuDay Syria” spends time with both New Hampshire’s Nadia Alawa, founder of the nonprofit, and Camden’s Alison McKellar. The film includes one of the aerial shots the young filmmaker is known for.

The breadth and depth of the work presented in Maine Short Film Festival 2016 are a testament to the state’s filmmaking community, which is supported by the Maine Film & Video Association. Their work is increasingly supported by the state’s film-going audience, as well.

“There are some terrific film festivals in Maine,” said Kane. “Some are getting big, and I think we will too.”

Admission to the Strand screening Dec. 11 is  $8.50, $7.50 for senior citizens and $6.50 for Maine Film & Video Association members. For the lineup, visit

The rest of the festival tour is as follows: Space Gallery, Portland, Jan. 7 at 7:30 p.m.; Gracie Theatre, Bangor, Jan. 14 at 7 p.m.; Frontier Café, Brunswick, Jan. 28 (TBA); Reel Pizza, Bar Harbor, March 10 (TBA); Stonington Opera House, Stonington, March 24, at 7 p.m.; The Alamo, Bucksport, April 7, at 7 p.m.; Denmark Arts Center, April 14, at 7 p.m.; Schoodic Arts for All, Winter Harbor, April 21, at 7 p.m.; and Railroad Square Cinema, Waterville, April 28, at 7 p.m. Sponsors include Maine Media Workshops, University of Southern Maine, Bar Harbor Bank & Trust, the Maine Film Office, Deighan Wealth Advisors, University of Maine Museum of Art and WERU Community Radio.