A still from “Go, Go, Go,” the MidCoast Film Fest’s opening short about sled dogs. Photo courtesy of MidCoast Film Fest

Maine’s movie landscape is dotted with events that provide film-thirsty viewers with strategically spaced cinematic oases. With the shimmering spectacle of the massive and thoroughly refreshing Maine International Film Festival having just closed up its tents for the season, traditionally, weary Maine movie travelers would have to provision themselves for the long trek to the Camden International Film Festival in mid-September.

But there’s a new movie haven right on the horizon to tide us over, with the MidCoast Film Fest’s inaugural season happening this weekend, right up the coast in Damariscotta.

A new film festival – apart from being a gift to Maine’s film fans – is an experiment in forging an identity. Some festivals never discover what they are at heart. They generally drift away on a sea of good intentions and fuzzy organizational focus. Promisingly, MidCoast Film Fest is looking to firmly root itself in the Maine festival calendar with a specific mission, a careful consideration of how it fits in the overall festival schedule, and an eye toward its community.

“In planning MidCoast, we thought, ‘How do we complement what’s already being offered so we’re not competing on the same stage?’ ” That’s Andrew Fenniman, MidCoast co-founder and executive director of Damariscotta’s historic Lincoln Theater, the venue and driving force behind the new festival. “We decided that finding the right date and choosing a narrow theme, one that would appeal primarily to the midcoast, would help us maybe develop something that’s different than what’s already out there.”

To that end, MidCoast is focused specifically on what Fenniman calls “movies that are based on true stories or events,” an intriguingly unique slant that, in MidCoast’s initial roster, comprises documentaries and fictionalized cinematic versions of things that actually happened. In that latter category, there’s the short film “Jack,” written by and starring Maine’s Ryan Gaul as he dramatizes coming to grips with the fate of his titular sick cat.

On the documentary front, the lineup includes films on real-life subjects as varied as the ongoing land dispute between Maine and Canada over an unassuming Gulf of Maine island (“The Grey Zone”), three women’s journey from horrific captivity at the hands of Islamic State militants (“Kani Spring”), three other women’s struggle for equality in India (“Brave Girls”), a historic meeting between President John F. Kennedy and poet Robert Frost (“JFK: The Last Speech”), the hardscrabble life of fishermen (“Pescamare”), and lots more. Like any film festival worth its popcorn, MidCoast offers – even within its self-set parameters – a dizzyingly broad array of films Fenniman hopes will specifically cater to the midcoast audiences he’s come to know so well.

“This is a really interesting area in which there is a real love of history, biography and documentaries,” said Fenniman. “We have a lot of artists and authors, too, and we thought that a focus on history and real events and historical fiction would have a real appeal here.”

Fenniman cites the fact that the festival’s Lincoln County home skews dramatically older as one possible factor, too, although he says that festival attendees of all ages will find plenty to enjoy. (Opening night film short “Go, Go, Go,” about the antics of a team of rambunctious sled dogs, looks pretty irresistible.) “Approaching the festival, I came to realize that it was nice to have some sort of restraints,” said Fenniman, who credits “from-away” film festival veteran and summer resident Matt Smollon for the initial idea. “There’s plenty of room within our definition to explore and screen all sorts of films. It’s a nice niche, and we decided to go with it.”

For Fenniman and MidCoast, the festival is yet another way for the Lincoln Theater to expand its role in bringing fine film fare to the region. “We’re always trying to broaden our scope,” Fenniman. “We held over 500 events last year alone, and, for small theaters like ours, film festivals are one way to ensure our survival.”

There are already three of the festival’s filmmakers confirmed to be in attendance for meet-and-greets, along with the usual festival parties and associated attractions. And while the “all true stories” rule might shave off some film genres from consideration entirely – “We’re not going to get much sci-fi or horror,” Fenniman said – there’s certainly no shortage of great, real-life inspiration for filmmakers to draw from. Said Fenniman, “We had nearly a hundred submissions, which isn’t bad for our first shot out,” adding that he hopes the Lincoln’s reputation for quality booking will inspire locals to check out this new venture as well. “People expect a level of quality from us,” he noted, “and with MidCoast, we’re making sure we really continue that.”

The first-ever MidCoast Film Fest runs from Friday to Sunday at the Lincoln Theater in Damariscotta. For a rundown on the impressive lineup of films, and for tickets and showtimes, go to midcoastfilmfest.org.

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