Still More at MIFF 24
by Gregor Smith
While the screens will soon go dark on the 24th annual Maine International Film Festival, there's still more to see. During the final three days, two fictional features and one quasi-documentary will be premiered; six features that debuted earlier in the week will be shown again; the Maine Student Film and Video Festival will present its awards; and the Kneeling Art Photography Project will finish its run.
This year's sole Canadian feature will have its New England debut at the Waterville Opera House on Friday, July 16, at 7:00. The film is set during the Oka Crisis, a 78-day uprising from July to September 1990, which was triggered by a plan to expand a golf course and build townhouses on land near Montreal that included a Mohawk cemetery. According to MIFF's website, "Twelve-year-old Beans is on the edge: torn between innocent childhood and delinquent adolescence; and between Native and Settler culture… She must grow up fast to become the tough Mohawk warrior she needs to be…" Beans will be shown again Saturday at 3:00 in Railroad Square's Cinema 1.
After taking a hiatus in 2020 due to the pandemic, the Maine Student Film & Video Festival will be back for its 43rd year. Since MIFF began, the student festival has been held during MIFF at Railroad Square or the Opera House, usually on MIFF's second Saturday. This year, it will take place Saturday at noon in Railroad Square's Cinema 1. Admission is free.
The student festival features short films, no more than 10 minutes each, made by Mainers from kindergarten through Grade 12. Films are judged according to the age group of their creators (Grades K-6, Grades 7-8, and Grades 9-12) and by category (Narrative, Documentary, and Creative). Winners receive filmmaking gear, scholarships, or a $500 grand prize.
On Saturday at 7:00, the Opera House will give the world premiere of The Last Election and Other Love Stories. This new film comes from the makers of American Thief, which had its world premiere at MIFF last year. That film culminates on Election Night 2016. This time, the cast and crew goes to Times Square for Election Day 2020 to make, what the MIFF site calls "a documentary, a podcast, and a flash ethnography about the United States on that day." In The Last Election, Khadim Diop and Xisko Monroe, the two lead actors from American Thief, are citizen journalists creating a podcast called "The Last Election." For 24 hours starting at sunrise on Election Day, they interview people on the street, asking each person the same three questions, including, "Could this be the last election?" Like Beans, The Last Election will have a second screening the next afternoon at 3:00 in Cinema 1.
The festival's closing weekend will also offer a second (or third!) chance to see six features and two shorts compilations, all of which were described in last week's issue. These screenings take place at Railroad Square in either Cinemas 1 or Cinema 2 (RR1 & RR2). The titles, days, times (all p.m.), and locations are Kansas City (Fri., 3:00, RR1), The Loneliness of the Bones (Fri., 3:30, RR2), Missing in Brooks County (Fri., 7:00, RR1), The Big Scary S Word (Fri., 7:30, RR2), Maine Shorts I (Sat., 3:30, RR2), Sapelo (Sat., 7:00, RR1), Maine Shorts II (Sat., 7:30, RR1), and Bread in the Bones (Sun., 3:30, RR2). In addition, you can watch Sapelo, Missing in Brooks County, the two Maine shorts collections, and also Transitions Shorts and From Away Shorts, online through MIFF's website, www.miff.org, until 11:45 p.m. Sunday.
MIFF's Closing Night feature is Cryptozoo, which MIFF's site calls an "incredibly animated indie film [that] appears to have taken some acid." The story takes place either on an alternate earth, where griffins, unicorns, gorgons, and other creatures from myth and legend are real but scarce and where their human guardians are beginning to question whether the zoo that they are building is the the best way to keep them safe from those who seek to exploit them. Perhaps it is better for these "cryptids" to remain hidden and unknown? The film's sole screening will be at 7:00 on Sunday at the Opera House. For this screening, admission is $12; for the other MIFF screenings, it's $10.
Finally, if you haven't already done so, be sure to check out the Kneeling Art Photography Project in Colby's new "Arts Collaborative" at 18 Main Street, across from the new Lockwood Hotel. The exhibit, which is open daily during MIFF from 1:00 to 5:00, shows photos of diverse Mainers working for racial justice. You can also have your picture taken as you literally take a knee in support. Admission is free.
This exhibit in the former Waterville Hardware building will be the first time that the building has been open to the public since renovations were completed this spring. Colby College bought the structure six years ago, one of six downtown properties that it acquired between 2015 and 2018. The arts collaborative has exhibition and performance space on the first floor, studios for visiting artists on the second and third floors, and offices for the Lunder Institute for American Art on the fourth floor.