When the average Portland film fanatic thinks about going to the movies in town, he or she looks to Space Gallery (for something challenging), the Movies at the Museum (for something nice and foreign-y), the Nickelodeon (for an eclectic mix of the new and unexpected) or the chain theaters (for something huge and explode-y).

But what about the Portland Public Library?

The library might not be the first place you imagine showing movies. For one thing, it’s all full of those book things (they’re like movies — that you read!). But the PPL has, of late, been catering to the Portland film fan in intriguing ways.

The venue at Monument Square just completed a teen movie series that examined the portrayal of teenagers through the decades, and is now focused on the summer-long showings of documentaries from PBS’ acclaimed “POV” series (documentaries with a point of view). All screenings are free.

“This is a really high-quality documentary series,” said Rachael Weyand, the library’s programming manager. “It’s a great opportunity for Portlanders to see them before they air on PBS.”

The “POV” series, which selects a wide variety of award-winning documentaries from around the world, approached the library earlier this year, which fit in perfectly with Weyand’s own plans.

“We were already looking to start up a film series along with a discussion program, and PBS’ offer fit in perfectly,” she said.

In addition to choosing the “POV” documentaries she felt would appeal to Portland’s unique character, Weyand is organizing relevant speakers from the community to lead a discussion of the films after the screenings.

Last month’s “Biblioburro: The Donkey Library,” a tale about a Colombian teacher’s efforts to bring a tiny portable library on donkey-back to remote areas, dovetailed nicely with the PPL’s plans to begin a mobile library. The Aug. 9 offering, “Kings of Pastry,” is sure to attract the city’s foodie culture.

“We get together and identify local people who have a commonality with the film,” says Weyand. As a recent example, she cited the choice of St. Joseph’s College history/political science professor Michael Connolly to moderate a discussion of July’s showing of the documentary “Mugabe and the White African.”

Up next this Tuesday is “Steam of Life,” a comically moving portrait of Finnish men and their obsession with taking saunas. While “sweating out not only the grime of contemporary life, but also their grief, hopes, joys, and memories,” is not perhaps your ideal pursuit for a muggy August, it certainly does sound interesting. Weyand promises that a guest speaker (TBD as of press time) will put the film in proper perspective.

The film fan out for some unexpected and challenging viewing can add the Portland Public Library to the list of destinations this summer — and beyond, if Weyand has her way.

“The film series is a pilot program, but we’ll try to offer it again in the winter,” she said. “We’d like to build it up over time and get even more adventurous.”


Kennebunk native Lance Edmands is looking for males and females between the ages of 15 and 19 for a leading role in his upcoming directorial debut “Bluebird.” For more information about the Aug. 5 casting call, check out vacationlandfilms.com.

Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.


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