I love Maine. As you cross the border into this fair state, you see the sign “The Way Life Should Be” and you learn in just moments from the fiery hills and the salty fresh air that it’s true, this is the way life should be. I am nothing but grateful that the Camden International Film Festival (CIFF) gives me an excuse every year to get up there. CIFF is an amazing festival celebrating the best, brightest, and newest ideas in nonfiction cinema, and it keeps getting better every year.
For the past three years, LEF has sponsored the POINTS NORTH FILM FORUM at CIFF. In fact, we were the founding sponsor of the event! This year there were some real industry heavy hitters on board sharing their wisdom, experience, and valuable advice.
I was on 2 panels this year. One focused on the “truth” about documentary grant funding, sharing stories with my colleagues Reva Goldberg from Cinereach and Ryan Harrington, from the Tribeca Film Institute. It was a wonderful, relaxed but information-rich conversation. Seating in the room was limited, so it was intimate; and there was no moderator, so it felt more like a big lunch discussion than a formal festival panel. Feedback so far tells me that folks who were able to attend learned a lot!
Then, of course, the Pitch Forum which featured a stage full of doc industry know-how: Richard Saiz/ITVS, Yance Ford/POV, Daniel Chalfen/Naked Edge Films, Cynthia Close/DER, Natalie Difford/Chicken & Egg Pictures, Courtney Sexton/Participant Media, Molly Thompson/A&E IndieFilms, Sara Bernstein/HBO, and Ryan and Reva (mentioned above). Four filmmakers with very different projects gave it their all before this formidable jury. Each film had 7 minutes to present and 15 minutes of comments designed to help them strengthen their presentation and their film overall. Some of the projects even received interest from possible funders and buyers. But the winner of the day was Jesse Epstein’s film MOSQUITO – a film about the worldwide epidemic of mosquito-born diseases and the attempts of a rag tag group of scientists who are attempting to find a solution by creating an impenetrable mosquito net made of laser beams. Quite a story! More on the film here: http://mosquitofilm.blogspot.com/.
As for stand out films from the festival, as heavily involved I was in the POINTS NORTH FILM FORUM I was unable to get to as many films as I had wanted to but I did see one film as a part of the Super Secret Screening series that I had been wanting to see for some time. LOW & CLEAR is a film about two friends and, through their fly-fishing adventures together, you get to know a lot about friendship, intimacy, and what it takes to maintain a relationship over time. Its cinematography is seductive, bringing you close to the feelings of exhilaration, timelessness and peace that these men feel when they fish. See more about this film by directors Tyler Hughen and Kahlil Hudson here: http://finbackfilms.com/.
The other stand out for me was the work-in-progress screening of LEF Grantees David Redmon and Ashley Sabin’s film DOWNEAST. David and Ashely are great caretakers of their stories and their characters. This is a tale about small towns, hard work, aging, a bad economy, and the true meaning of entrepreneurship. And while it is intensely local in its setting, it’s global in its themes. And this film has a heart to it that makes you want to throw your arms open wide to bring these characters in. Though they screened was only a 70 minute rough cut, they got a standing ovation from the crowd (their first, they claim!). This warm reception was well-deserved with more to come.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the amazing world premiere of LEF Executive Director Lyda Kuth’s film LOVE AND OTHER ANXIETIES. CIFF was the perfect place to release this new creative effort from our Executive Director into the world. I am not kidding when I say that “I laughed; I cried,” and I know many in the audience were with me!
Finally, LEF hosted the first in what we hope will be a series of events and workshops over the course of the year commemorating the 10th anniversary of LEF’s Moving Image Fund. We had a wonderful party at Camden’s 40 Paper. I recommend this restaurant HIGHLY to anyone visiting Camden. Josh, the chef and owner, has a personal touch that made our experience there memorable, and we’re guaranteed to be back. It was great to see so many familiar faces in the audience – filmmakers who have benefited from LEF grants in the past, colleagues from the industry, and new faces just beginning to know our story. All in all, it was a night to be remembered.
Thanks to Ben Fowlie, Sarah Ruddy, and Sean Flynn for putting together a magnificent festival, forum, and party. Can’t wait until next year!