CIFF makes an Impact

Sep 14, 2016
Morgan Spurlock's new documentary “Rats” is the opening-night feature of the 2016 Camden International Film Festival.

The Camden International Film Festival enters its 12th incarnation as a program of the Points North Institute, an expanded nonfiction media arts organization established in July. Not that festival-going will feel that different.

“The Camden International Film Festival and the Points North Forum are programs of the Points North Institute, but the festival and the forum have not changed at all, except in the depth of their offerings,” said founder and executive director Ben Fowlie. “The CIFF experience will remain the same.”

The 2016 CIFF runs Thursday through Sunday, Sept. 15 through 18, at venues in Camden, Rockport and Rockland. Festival screenings will take place at the Camden and Rockport opera houses; and Rockland’s Strand Theatre and Farnsworth Art Museum. Admission to most screenings is $10 as available, after festival passholders go in; passes can be picked up or purchased at the fest box office at 16 Bay View St. (former Gilbert’s Pub location). Box office hours are noon to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 14; noon to 9 p.m. Thursday; 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Points North Impact

One thing that is new this year is a program called Points North Impact, described as a cornerstone of the newly-established Points North Institute. A direct extension of CIFF’s previous Engagement Summit program and developed in partnership with Working Films and the Fledgling Fund, Points North Impact will bring together filmmakers and Maine-based nonprofit leaders focused on common issues to develop strategies for using nonfiction film and media as an organizing tool.

The pair of issues addressed by the inaugural Points North Impact could not be more timely: gun control and the impact of climate change on the world’s oceans. These will be addressed through screenings and extended panel discussions with special guests and other workshops. There are two screenings during the festival: the world premiere of “Sacred Cod,” a Discovery Documentary Film, Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at the Strand; and, in advance of Maine’s upcoming Question 3, a screening of the award-winning “Newtown” (2016, USA) Sunday at 12:30 p.m. at the Camden Opera House.

“Sacred Cod” (2016, USA) will be followed by a panel with the filmmakers and several special guests including Andrew J. Pershing, chief scientific officer and ecosystem modeler of the Gulf of Maine Research Institute; Sarah Heil, fishery policy analyst at the Sustainable Fisheries Division at NOAA; Ben Martens, the executive director of the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association; and others.

The “Newtown” screening will be followed by an extended Q&A with the film’s director, Kim Snyder, subjects from the film and members of the Newtown community, as well as special guests from across Maine, including William Harwood, co-founder of the Maine Gun Safety Coalition and Rep. Mark Dion from Portland.

The festival’s Points North Forum also will feature a panel discussion Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in the opera house’s Washington Street Conference Room. Titled Building Movements with Media: “Newtown” Case Study, it will explore the collaboration between filmmakers, funders, impact strategists and movement organizers attempting to use documentary film to move the needle on the gun control issue.


Thursday, Sept. 15

Camden Opera House

7:30 p.m. "Rats" (2016, USA) 84 min.

Friday, Sept. 16

Camden Opera House

10 a.m. Shorts First 1 (FREE, eight films) 105 min. Includes new film by CIFF fave Ian Cheney.

2:30 p.m. "La Natura Delle Cose (The Nature of Things)" (2016, Italy) 68 min.

4:30 p.m. “El Remolino (The Swirl)” (2016, Mexico) 73 min.

6:30 p.m. “Cameraperson” (2016, USA) 102 min.

9 p.m. “Do Not Resist” (2016, USA) 73 min. Farnsworth Art Museum

Noon “The Land of the Enlightened” (2015, Belgium) 87 min.

2 p.m. “What Tomorrow Brings” (2015, USA) 77 minutes

4:30 p.m. “Starless Dreams” (2016, Iran) 76 min.

Strand Theatre

4 p.m. “Life, Animated” (2016, USA) 91 min.

6:30 p.m. “Command and Control” (2016, USA) 92 min.

9 p.m. “The Happy Film” (2016, USA) 95 min.

Saturday, Sept. 17

Rockport Opera House

10 a.m. Shorts First 2 (FREE, seven films) 98 min. Includes ode to Montreal snowplowing by CIFF regulars David Redmon and Ashley Sabin.

1 p.m. “Sonita” (2015, Germany) 91 min.

3:30 p.m. “Les Sauters (Those Who Jump)” (2016, Denmark) 80 min.

7:30 p.m. “All These Sleepless Nights” (2016, Poland” 100 min.

Strand Theatre

10 a.m. “Brothers” (2015, Norway) 110 min.

12:30 p.m. “Salero” (2015, Bolivia/USA) 76 min.

3:30 p.m. “Sacred Cod” (2016, USA) 65 min.

6:30 p.m. “National Bird” (2016, USA) 92 min.

9 p.m. “Contemporary Color” (2016, USA) 107 min.

Farnsworth Art Museum

10 a.m. “Liberation: The User’s Guide” (2016, France) 80 min.

12:30 p.m. “The Mariposa Uprisings: A Live Participatory Documentary” (2016, USA) 90 min., associated with Storyforms installation

2:30 p.m. “Gulistan, Land of Roses” (2016, Canada/Germany) 86 min.

5 p.m. “La Laguna” (2016, Mexico) 40 min.; and “Salamanca” (2015, Russia) 39 min.

7 p.m. “New York Cuts” (2015, USA) 77 min.

Camden Opera House

1:30 p.m. “The Pearl” (2015, USA) 97 min.

4 p.m. “The Islands and the Whales” (2016, UK/Scotland) 84 min.

6:30 p.m. “Best and Most Beautiful Things” (2016, USA) 91 min.

9 p.m. “Following Seas” (2016, USA) 94 min.

Sunday, Sept. 18

Camden Opera House

10 a.m. Shorts First 3 (FREE, seven films) 98 min. Includes world premiere of “All the Presidents’ Heads.”

12:30 p.m. “Newtown” (2016, USA) 83 min.

3 p.m. “Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You” (2016, USA) 92 min.

5 p.m. “All This Panic” (2016, USA) 79 min.

7:30 p.m. “When Two Worlds Collide” (2016, Peru) 103 min.

Farnsworth Art Museum

10 a.m. Shorts First 4 (FREE, four films) 103 min.

12:30 p.m. “Kate Plays Christine” (2016, USA) 112 min.

Strand Theatre

10 a.m. “Dead Slow Ahead” (Spain, 2015) 74 min.

Noon “The Prison in Twelve Landscapes” (2016, USA/Canada) 87 min.

2:30 p.m. “Peter and the Farm” (2016, USA) 91 min.

4:30 p.m. “Zero Days” (2016, USA) 116 min.

Rockport Opera House

10 a.m. “Dirigo Docs” (six Maine-made films) 84 min.

2:30 p.m. “Return to Cuba: in the footsteps of Walker Evans” (2016, Cuba/USA) 52 min.

The one-two pitch

While the Points North Forum, which runs concurrently with the festival, is geared toward independent documentary filmmakers, regular CIFF attendees know that its Pitch is worth attending, as a handful of filmmakers are given the opportunity to present their projects-in-process to an international panel of funders, broadcasters, distributors and producers … in seven minutes, followed by 12 minutes of back and forth with the panel. The Points North Pitch takes place Saturday at 10:30 a.m. at the Camden Opera House. The six 2016 Points North Fellows will present docs, whose subjects range from a cooking school in Bolivia to opioid addiction in West Virginia, before a live audience. The winning Fellow gets the Points North Pitch Prize and Modulus Finishing Fund, which includes a $10,000 in-kind post-production package from Modulus Studios and three consultations from Tribeca Film Institute. The winner will be announced at Saturday evening’s Dowling Walsh reception in Rockland.

This year, thanks to a partnership with the Camden-based Conservation Media Group, CIFF will host another pitch session as part of Points North Impact. Three finalist filmmakers and organizations will make their cases for a potential $10,000 grant to produce a short film related to healthy oceans or renewable energy solutions during a private session. The CMG Action Grant recipient will be announced during CIFF’s closing night.

Also new this year are two programs under the banner of the Points North Institute that highlight immersive nonfiction storytelling and provide creative support for filmmakers working on short documentaries. Storyforms and the Shortform Editing Residency represent major steps forward for the Points North Institute, said Sean Flynn, the organization’s program director.

“We hope they will continue to grow and allow us to explore the many ways that creative nonfiction storytelling is evolving and expanding on new digital platforms,” Flynn said.

Virtual reality, in Rockland

Storyforms is an inaugural showcase of interactive and immersive nonfiction media that takes viewers beyond traditional screens. The program includes six virtual reality documentaries from artists and journalists, including the latest VR experiences from the New York Times, BBC and The Guardian; as well as four interactive installations and a nonlinear theatrical film that each explore the program’s theme of Remixing Reality. This new component to CIFF will be open to festival passholders beginning noon each day in a building dubbed the Storyforms Barn on Winter Street.

Highlighted projects in the Storyforms exhibition include a new work by media artist Alexander Reben called “time-lapse LED wall (the wall can see)” that will explore the rise of intelligent objects and embedded sensors. This piece was co-commissioned by the Points North Institute and PopTech.

Several of the works in Storyforms invite audiences to participate directly in their experience. “The Maribor Uprisings,” a live participatory documentary directed by Colby College professor Maple Razsa and Milton Guillén, asks audiences to inhabit the roles of protesters in Slovenia and make decisions about the path they travel through the story. “(Dis)Locate” by Billy Wirasnik is an interactive, single-channel installation that allows users to experience a series of “slow films” created by local residents through a community workshop earlier in the week at Steel House. And “Roundware: Rockland,” created by sound artist Halsey Burgund, is a location-based “augmented reality” installation that allows users to contribute their voices to a constantly-evolving soundscape spread out across downtown Rockland.

Rodents, Disney, bondage and more

As far as the film festival program, this year’s Camden International Film Festival will present more than 70 features and short films from across the globe, the country and the state, with filmmakers attending nearly every screening. Opening night offers a subject that provokes both fear and fascination. Morgan Spurlock’s “Rats,” which had its premiere earlier in the week at the Toronto International Film Festival, will be screened Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at the Camden Opera House. Director Spurlock, who is being credited with inventing a new form of documentary horror storytelling, and producer Jeremy Chilnick will be on hand. “Rats” will air next month on the Discovery Channel.

The Closing Night Film is “When Two Worlds Collide” (2016, Peru), a tense, immersive tour de force that takes audiences directly into the line of fire between powerful opposing Peruvian leaders. In between, some three dozen other features, ranging in length from 39 to 116 minutes, will be screened, some presented as part of four feature programs. These are the annual Harrell (Best Documentary) and John Marshall (Contemporary Ethnographic Media) award competition contenders; Emerging Visions, work by early-career directors; and Fest Favorites, docs that have been making the larger festival circuit. The latter includes “Life, Animated,” which won Sundance’s directing award. Based on Ron Suskind’s book, it shares the story of young autistic man Owen Suskind, who was unable to speak as a child until he and his family discovered they could communicate by immersing themselves in the world of classic Disney animated films.

One of Fowlie’s not-so-short list of films to cherish is one shot primarily here in Maine. Garrett Zevgetis’ “Best and Most Beautiful Things,” a celebration of outcasts and a provocative coming-of-age film, had its world premiere at SxSW and will make its Maine premiere Saturday at 6:30 p.m. at the Camden Opera House. It follows the unexpected path of self-discovery of legally blind Michelle Smith, who grew up in Bradford and currently lives in Bangor. She and the production team will be on hand.

“I first met Michelle when I taught her in a class on filmmaking at Perkins School for the Blind,” said Executive Producer Kevin S. Bright (“Friends”). “She continues to teach and inform me, and challenges the rest of us to step out of our comfort zone and be open to different people and lifestyles.”

The movie has good music, kinky stuff, a cute cat, romance, drama and “definitely is not normal," said the film's star, Smith.

Director Zevgetis said he was honored that his subject’s empowering story of individuality was selected for Camden International Film Festival, adding, “We’re excited to finally share Michelle’s story with the great people of her home state of Maine, where it all began."

Short stuff

As far as short films, which run between 5 and 40 minutes this year, the popular free Shorts First program offers different slates Friday through Sunday at 10 a.m. Sunday morning offers shorts galore, with free Shorts First screenings in Camden and Rockland; and the annual Maine-shot Dirigo Shorts in Rockport. The latter includes the Midcoast-made and –focused “Alison and NuDay Syria” by Josh Gerritsen; and Richard Kane’s portrait of Cranberry Islands artist, poet, illustrator and puppet maker Ashley Bryan.

There are more than three dozen shorts in all, some of which will be shown around feature films. CIFF was selected by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences as a qualifying festival for the Documentary Short Subject Award this year. The documentary short film that receives the Camden Cartel Award for Best Short will be eligible to enter the Documentary Short Subject competition for the academy, which awards the Oscars.

Access to screenings and panel discussions is open to all CIFF passholders; All Access passholders also get entrée to after-hours happenings. For a complete list of film screenings and show times, visit pointsnorthinstitute.org/ciff.

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Dagney C. Ernest
A&E editor for Courier Publications, LLC
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Dagney has been providing Courier coverage of the local arts scene since 1985 and has helmed the multi-paper A&E section since it debuted in 2003. She has been a local performing artist, community and professional, for more than 30 years and spent a decade writing, producing and announcing on-air for several Midcoast radio stations. When not in the NewsNest, Dagney likes to be in motion.

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