Organizers of the 14th annual Maine International Film Festival are delighted that the 10-day, audience-oriented event affords face-to-face interaction with filmmakers and actors.

“The movie stars are accessible,” said Ken Eisen, programmer of the festival that runs this Friday to July 24 at Railroad Square Cinema and Colby College in Waterville. “You’re not going to have them over for dinner, but it demystifies them. They are wonderful people, and all the glamour and phoniness is taken away.”

It’s not necessary to be a cinephile or have an encyclopedic knowledge of films to attend.

“You just have to enjoy movies. This is an event for anyone in central Maine,” Eisen said.

This year, though, festival director Shannon Haines strongly encourages fans who want up-close access and interaction with industry standouts and up-and-comers to purchase tickets online as soon as possible and arrive early at screenings. Seats will be at a premium.

Railroad Square Cinema’s three screens will be used, as usual, but the Waterville Opera House, which seats 960, is undergoing renovations and is not available. Instead, Colby College’s 341-seat Given Auditorium will take the opera house’s place.

Malcolm McDowell, the festival’s 2011 Mid-Life Achievement Award honoree, will be front and center at Given Auditorium at 6 p.m. Saturday to pick up his custom-made Maine Moose award designed by Haines’ mother, Laurel McLeod. As part of the ceremony, McDowell’s 1973 film “O Lucky Man!” will be shown.

Several more of the prolific actor’s films will be screened during the festival.

Haines and Eisen are particularly excited about the festival’s selection of rediscovered films, including “The Conformist.” Eisen said the picture, one of his favorites of all time, is the reason he devoted his life to film.

“I first saw it in a tiny, long-gone second floor theater in Provincetown, Mass., in 1973, and I was literally staggered by the experience,” he wrote in the festival catalog.

Wanting to make a movie equally as incredible but thinking that would be impossible, Eisen decided, “Well then, I’ll do the next best thing: show this movie to people.”

Other retrospective films on the docket are “Taxi Driver,” “310 to Yuma,” “Madame Butterfly,” “Battleship Potemkin,” “The Quiet Man” and “World on a Wire.”

Those interested in seeing a world premiere — as well as more than 100 foreign, American independent and Maine-made films — are in luck, too.

“In Good Time, the Piano Jazz of Marian McPartland,” a documentary film by Huey (a Maine-based director who goes by one name) will premiere Tuesday. It explores the life of jazz legend and pioneer Marian McPartland, 93.

The festival’s opening-night flick is “The Athlete” (2009). In English and Amharic with English subtitles, the film tells the true story of Ethiopian marathon runner and Olympian Abebe Bikila, a soldier and son of a shepherd.

“Another Earth” (2011) is the closing-night film. As a duplicate Earth is about to be discovered, Rhoda Williams, who is fascinated by astrophysics and dreams of exploring the cosmos, becomes involved with John Burroughs, a composer about to have a child with his wife. During their love affair, one of them is given the chance to travel to the other Earth.

“Another Earth,” according to the program, “lures audiences to go where no one has gone before.”

That sense of discovery is what Eisen said he values most about the festival.

“People come in with a sense of openness, and they go to see movies and they are surprised,” he said.

“I love sharing the five or 10 movies I care the most about and watching them and sharing them with an audience, particularly if they love it and even if they don’t.”

Haines said she appreciates what the festival does for the city of Waterville.

“People are out and about, and they’re having a dialogue about films, and they’re eating in restaurants,” she said.

“It feels like a community.”

Contact Beth Staples at 861-9252 or at:

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