WATERVILLE — The 19th annual Maine International Film Festival kicks off its 10-day run here Friday with about 100 international and independent films to be shown at Railroad Square and the Waterville Opera House.

The festival, which runs through July 17, brings thousands of film enthusiasts to the city from all over the world to watch films, take part in question-and-answer sessions, attend receptions and social events, and to rub elbows with directors, producers and actors.

Opening night will feature a 6:30 p.m. showing of “Seasons” at the Opera House.

The film by Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud affords moviegoers a view of the world as it existed before human beings inhabited it, according to festival program director Ken Eisen.

Before the screening, Eisen will join festival director Shannon Haines, as well as Uri Lessing, president of the Maine Film Center board of directors; and Eisen’s wife, actress Karen Young, in welcoming guests to the festival. Young is the festival’s shorts programmer.

“I’m very excited about the festival,” Eisen said. “I’m very, very excited about the people who are here and pretty thrilled with the lineup overall.”

The film festival is put on by the Maine Film Center, headed by Haines. Haines said the World Filmmakers Forum, which attracts filmmakers from around the world for screenings and discussion, is a particularly compelling aspect of the festival.

“This is the second year we’re doing it,” she said. “We have filmmakers coming from four different countries – Brazil, South Africa, Mexico and Uruguay – and they will present films throughout the festival. The filmmakers are coming over the course of 10 days and they will have showings of at least one film each.”

Two Brazilian filmmakers are already here. They call themselves VJ Suave and they perform digital animation and projection on the street, according to Haines. Film festival officials saw them on YouTube and asked them to attend.

Saturday will feature audiovisual works from 2 to 9 p.m. at Common Street Arts downtown as part of MIFFONEDGE, which continues daily throughout the festival.

The event will pay tribute to animation pioneer Robert Breer and highlight contemporary work by Kelly Gallagher and Dustin Grella. Two works by Stephanie Maxwell will be screened and VJ Suave will supplement the video installation with mobile projections along city streets.

The festival’s centerpiece film will be the world premiere of a 35 mm restoration of “Peyton Place” at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Opera House, accompanied by a new short film, “On Location in Peyton Place.”

Robert Benton, an Academy Award-winning director and screenwriter whose films include “Bonnie and Clyde,” “Kramer vs. Kramer” and “Nobody’s Fool,” will be given the festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award at 6:30 p.m. Sunday at the Opera House, after a showing of “Nobody’s Fool,” written by Maine-based Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Russo. Russo is a former Waterville resident and Colby College professor who won the Pulitzer for his novel “Empire Falls,” which he dedicated to Benton.

The 2005 film, starring Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Ed Harris and Helen Hunt, was filmed mostly in Waterville and Skowhegan.

Actor Gabriel Byrne will receive the festival’s Mid-Life Achievement Award on July 15, also at the Opera House.

Byrne, nominated this year for a Best Actor Tony Award for the revival of Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey into Night,” has performed in more than 35 films, including “Miller’s Crossing,” “Stigmata,” “Excaliber” and “Louder than Bombs.”

Previous Lifetime and Mid-Life Achievement award winners have included Harris, Glenn Close, Sissy Spacek, Jonathan Demme, Keith Carradine, Bud Cort, Walter Hill, Terrence Malick, Thelma Schoonmaker, Lili Tyler, Arthur Penn, Michael Murphy, John Turturro, Karen Black, Malcolm McDowell, Peter Fonda and Jos Stelling.

Golden Globe-winning actress Lori Singer will have a special career retrospective recognition. Her films, including “Footloose,” “Trouble in Mind,” Short Cuts” and “God Knows Where I Am,” will be shown during the festival.

Amy Calder can be contacted at 861-9247 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17