WATERVILLE — The Maine International Film Festival, which starts July 12, draws a flurry of excitement during its 10-day run as thousands of film enthusiasts from all over the world gather at both Railroad Square Cinema and the Waterville Opera House to view 100 independent American and foreign films.
Actors, film directors, writers and producers share their craft with audiences in various festival venues, including public receptions and question-and-answer sessions before and after movie screenings.
Festival Executive Director Shannon Haines is on the home stretch as the festival nears, finalizing schedules for about 50 visiting filmmakers and wrapping up other details.
“I know I say this every year, but it feels like one of the most exciting festivals to date,” she said.
The festival is a project of the Maine Film Center, of which Haines also is executive director, and is sponsored by Colby College and Bangor Savings Bank.
Keith Carradine, actor, producer and songwriter, will receive the festival’s 2013 Mid-Life Achievement Award.
The award ceremony will be 6:30 p.m. July 15 at the Waterville Opera House and will coincide with a screening of Carradine’s 1976 film, “Nashville.”
Carradine won both an Oscar and Golden Globe for best original song for “I’m Easy,” which was featured in the film. He was nominated for a Tony Award this year for his role in the Broadway show “Hands on a Hardbody.”
Other Carradine films to be showcased during the festival are “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” and “Thieves Like Us.”
Honoring Carradine also has been a longtime goal of festival officials. He is a great actor, whose music is nearly as important to him as his acting, according to festival programmer Ken Eisen. “His new film, ‘Ain’t Them Bodies Saints,’ is a wonderful film,” he said.
Prior Mid-Life Achievement winners include Ed Harris, Sissy Spacek, Lili Taylor, John Turturro, Peter Fonda, Jonathan Demme, Thelma Schoonmaker, Terrence Malick, Malcolm McDowell, Jay Cocks, Bud Cort, Walter Hill and Jos Stelling.
Carradine’s appearance will accompany a special festival highlight honoring the late director Robert Altman called “Celebrating Robert Altman.”
Altman’s widow, Kathryn, as well as Carradine and other actors who appeared in Altman’s films – Michael Murphy, Allan Nicholls and Mike Kaplan – will introduce and discuss Altman’s films.
“He is one of the greatest directors of all time, and to be able to celebrate him in this way is a huge honor for us,” Haines said.
Altman films to be shown include “Short Cuts,” “Luck,” “Trust & Ketchup: Robert Altman in Carver Country,” “McCabe and Mrs. Miller,” “Kansas City” and “A Prairie Home Companion.”
Annie Ross, who starred in “Short Cuts” and created its soundtrack, will perform in concert at 8 p.m. July 17 at the Opera House. She is one of the early practitioners of a vocalese, a singing style in which original lyrics are set to an instrumental jazz solo.
Another festival highlight is the return of Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme, recipient of the festival’s 2002 Mid-Life Achievement Award. Demme will present a special program of music films called “Demme Does Music.” His newest documentary, “Enzo Avitabile Music Life,” will premiere at the festival on opening night; Demme films including “Stop Making Sense” and “Storefront Hitchcock” will be shown at the festival.
Another special guest this year will be Ernest Thompson, Academy Award-winning writer of “On Golden Pond,” which is set in the Belgrade Lakes. Thompson, of New Hampshire, formerly lived in the Waterville area. His new film, “Time and Charges,” will premiere at the festival, and he will host a free workshop.
“That’s going to be a homecoming and a really exciting event,” Eisen said. “It’s our centerpiece film this year.”
Maine-made films always are a focus of the festival; this year, two works in progress will be shown.
“The Hermit of North Pond,” about Christopher Knight’s 27 years in the Maine woods, is a documentary by Lena Friedrich. “Lost on a Mountain in Maine” is about Donn Fendler, who was lost on Mount Katahdin in 1939. The film is by Waterville native Ryan Cook and Derek Desmond of New Hampshire.
“They’ve (Cook and Desmond) shot 20 minutes of footage, which I’ve seen, and which is spectacular,” Eisen said. “It’s a Hollywood-looking movie. It’s very, very professional looking and attractive.”
Gavin Peretti’s film, “The Guide,” shot in the winter in Rangeley and Rumford, will have its world premiere at the festival, according to Eisen. “This is a really gripping, dramatic movie, which is a genuine homegrown article,” he said.
The festival has a new film shorts programmer, Eisen’s wife, Karen Young, an actress and frequent festival guest.
The star of films including “Heading South” and “Bonne Anee,” Young also played an FBI agent in the HBO series “The Sopranos.”
The retrospective portion of the festival will feature eight older films officials deem worthy of revisiting, including “Leave Her to Heaven,” a film noir set in Maine and shot partially in Maine, in Technicolor.
“This was very unusual in 1945 when Hollywood didn’t film much on location at all,” Eisen said. “It’s a really fascinating, interesting film and I’ve been wanting to show it for years. We’ve got a fantastic 35mm print.”
For the third year, the festival will honor a female editor. This year’s honoree is Pam Wise, whose work includes the films “Secretary” and “Transamerica.”
“She’s a really, highly regarded editor and she does make more edgy movies,” Eisen said.
The closing-night film, “Short Term 12,” is about kids in group homes – a serious topic examined with sensitivity. “It is an amazing, amazing film that is both really emotionally strong and yet, very, very, very funny,” Eisen said.
Morning Sentinel Staff Writer Amy Calder can be contacted at 861-9247 or at [email protected]