Wednesday, December 11, 2013
By DENNIS PERKINS
In 2010, then-University of Southern Maine student Tyler Johnston thought it was a shame that a city like Portland didn't have its own film festival.
“Dream World,” a “romantic comedy drama,” is one of the films featured in the Portland Maine Film Festival.
Courtesy of PMFF
COMING TO LOCAL SCREENS
NICKELODEON CINEMA, Portland
Friday: "Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry." Documentary about the titular Chinese artist's struggles with the preparations for his latest museum show and the repressive censor-hand of the Chinese government.
SPACE GALLERY, Portland
Wednesday: "The Living End." Space's "Normative Narrative" series about the depiction of gay men in cinema continues with this groundbreaking, still-shocking 1992 revenge road movie from director Greg Araki ("Mysterious Skin," "The Doom Generation") about a pair of HIV-positive lovers on a killing spree targeting gay-bashers.
In 2012, welcome to the third annual Portland Maine Film Festival.
"Portland has the largest population center in the state," said Johnston from, of all places, the Trinidad + Tobago Film Festival, where his documentary "Five Bones" is competing. "It just makes sense to have a festival here. And we're networking, inviting filmmakers, having parties, connecting with MECA and other film festivals in Maine, learning from them. PMFF is really about building the film community in Maine."
Ambitious words. But the PMFF has borne them out, refining its mission in its brief history to, as Johnston puts it, "become a festival that can grow, to curate really good, meaningful films and emerging Maine filmmakers."
To that end, executive director Johnston and his team have put together a varied and ambitious roster of films and filmmaking workshops designed to highlight the best of the Maine film scene, provide guidance and inspiration to Maine filmmakers and, for the rest of us, just give us a chance to see some great movies.
On the Maine film front, there are Friday's two "Made in Maine" short film blocks, featuring 12 films from Maine filmmakers along with Sunday's feature-length documentary "Fambu Tok" (from Portland filmmakers) about the peace movement in Sierra Leone. "We had literally hundreds of Maine submissions this year," said Johnston, "and we were able to choose the best."
For aspiring or active filmmakers, PMFF has lined up several Hollywood insiders, including screenwriter/director Wayne Beach, media executive Louise Rosen and Bahamas film commissioner Craig Woods, among others. They join Maine moviemakers such as Kate Kaminski from USM and Donna Galluzzo from the Salt Institute of Documentary Studies, and local actress Krystal Kenville.
All of them will participate in various panels and Q&As dedicated to, as Johnston explains, "developing that kind of film economy in Maine. One or two major films in Maine would be a huge boost to our creative economy."
As for features, Johnston is particularly enthusiastic about the indie "Dream World," which he calls "a touching, artsy romantic comedy drama. Low budget, with a strong, universal story, but one that will really hit home for a lot of students."
In all, Johnston's dream for a truly ambitious Portland film festival seems to be a reality. As he puts it, "I wanted to help build community among filmmakers across the state and develop Portland as a destination for film, and to support one another as filmmakers. This is their film festival."
The PMFF begins Thursday and runs through Sunday. Tickets are $6 ($5 for students and seniors). For the full schedule and location of screening venues, go to portlandmainefilmfest.com.
Dennis Perkins is a Portland freelance writer.