June 26 – July 2, 2020Vol. 22, No. 3

MIFF Presents Maine Shorts

by Gregor Smith

David Gulak, co-founder of Meridians

Although this year's Maine International Film Festival has been considerably slimmed down, an important element of the festival remains. The festival will be presenting a new batch of Maine Shorts, recently made short films that are all directed by Mainers, set in Maine, or shot in Maine. Collectively, the eight films, comprising two documentaries and six works of fiction and averaging 8½ minutes in length, represent the best of new Maine filmmaking.

One can see the Maine Shorts at the Skowhegan Drive-In on the second night of the festival, Wednesday, July 8, starting at 8:45, for $10. Starting on July 9, one can also watch all eight online on demand for the rest of the festival. For more information, go to www.miff.org.

One of the shorts will be of particular interest to local residents. "Meridians" is a five-minute film by Ronan Schwarz and Joey Searle, both of whom graduated from Colby College in May. In "Meridians," David Gulak, one of three founders of the eponymous restaurant and gourmet food shop on Main Street in Fairfield, shares his vision for a local food economy, in which food is grown or raised in the same region where it is consumed. At Meridians, 85% to 90% of the food sold is sourced locally, and at any given time, the store is buying from 75 to 100 local producers, most within 20 miles. There are challenges to buying locally, however: For example, the menu for restaurant has to vary from week to week depending on what ingredients are available at the time.

This year's other documentary, "Shoulder Season," takes a light-hearted look at an adult, coed, recreational dodgeball league organized by the YMCA in Rockland. In a statement on the website of the Maine College of Art (MCA), director Halle Johns explains, "Before attending Salt Institute of Documentary Studies [at MCA in Portland], I lived in the Midcoast and played in the league on a team called Hard Knox. I never got over how special it was that this rec league was able to pull so many people out of the woodwork, especially in the dreariest months of the year.… Dodgeball kind of united people in the area whose lives don't usually converge, and I like the idea of coming together and celebrating a shared experience on screen."

The first of the fictional films also takes place on the coast. In "The Bold Coast," director Camille Howard plays Penny, a young woman, who dissatisfied with her life and having heard news reports of other women having become mermaids, decides to walk into the ocean and become one herself. This decision is supported, but not entirely understood, by her mother (Elizabeth Lawley) and her best friend (Faith Kelly).

On her website, the director states, "When working in a fictional space, I use elements of magical realism and silliness to create spaces where big feelings can be felt. I make films about Love, whether between partners, sisters, or people with their places. My most recent fiction film, 'The Bold Coast,' contains all this, as well as mermaids."

The next film also has an element of the unreal, in the form of a "muse" who is not physical present but very much in the mind of the lead character. With its title taken from the Prologue of Shakespeare's Henry V, "Oh For a Muse of Fire" follows struggling, New York City actress Laura (Laura Darrell) as she retreats to her aunt's lake house in Maine to sort out her life and her career.

Initially taunted by her muse (Julian Elfer) as she tries novel writing, painting, and ukulele playing, Laura resolves to overcome her insecurities, taking inspiration from a passage from a speech in Paris by Theodore Roosevelt: "It is not the critic who counts.…The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena,…who, at the best, knows…the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst…fails while daring greatly…" Filmed mainly on and around Moosehead lake, director Peter Rohan's opus has the the best scenery of any of this year's shorts.

"Say Cheese"

The four remaining shorts are all works of fiction:

Please note that the order in which the films are described above is not the order in which they will be shown. The actual running order is "Shoulder Season," "The Bold Coast," "The Space Between Words," "Oh For a Muse of Fire," "Meridians," "The Caller," "Felix the Robot," and "Say Cheese."


Although MIFF has ended, three of the Maine shorts and trailers for two others are available to watch for free on their creators' websites:

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