Fall in Camden

Camden from Megunticook Mountain, Opening Day.

Just about a month ago I was at the 12th annual Camden International Film Festival, now part of the Points North Institute. This is my 12th festival involved in some organizational capacity, and my 6th as a board member. At 36 that means that for a third of my life CIFF has been a part of it.

It’s hard to quite capture what this experience is like, seeing the event growing bigger and better than we ever could have imagined in the early years. For me it is a tremendous mix of pride, respect and being ever, ever humbled by the talent that keeps CIFF and Points North always evolving and pushing. It is awe at the drive and courage of the filmmakers and storytellers whose work we all come together to celebrate. And it is gratitude and a deep feeling of connection with the community that has year after year shown its commitment to welcoming this type of exploration on the coast of Maine. I think that is a combination of feelings shared by so many of the attendees, and a framing that makes the experience so incredibly unique.

And then there’s opening night. Seeing the local and filmmaking communities coalesce in Camden’s beautiful Opera House. Remembering the first year we sold out the venue and what a milestone that was for the organization. The unveil of Jon Laurence’s newest bumper, fingers crossing that all the tech transitions go smoothly, and that first dive into a weekend of transportation with friends and family.

This year’s opening short film was one of my favorites of the entire festival: The Art of Flying by Jan van Ijken:

Friday morning’s Shorts First program blew me away. The new short from AJ Schnack, Speaking is Difficult managed to, for me, cut through the numbness that seems to pervade our nation’s growing mass shooting crisis:

Ian Cheney’s new short film, Smog of the Sea takes a very different but equally powerful approach to another systemic crisis, our relationship with the planet. Meditative, immersive cinematography, ethereal music from Jack Johnson, and Ian’s knack for making complex topics relatable and human take us on an epic quest to the Sargasso Sea. He shares a bit of the story and filming process here.

And last night I watched Brett Story’s The Prison in 12 Landscapes having missed it during the festival and wow, such an incredibly powerful portrait of the prison nation that has and continues to grow in our country. The film opens theatrically at Anthology Film Archive in NYC Nov 4-10 and it’s a topic that’s close to my heart, with work on the documentary film Criminal continuing here on the coast of Maine. Brett has a way of weaving together these seemingly disparate narratives in a way that captures the nuance and grays of the current situation in a way that only film can do:

And to me, that is the true power of documentary film: to move us in ways that the written word, dialogue or imagery alone cannot. To weave these together and hold up contrasts, build connections and share the human experience. The ultimate journey.


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