Emerge Film Festival committee member Amanda Frost puts out boxes of popcorn for Wednesday’s opening night of the four-day 2019 film festival at Rinck Advertising on Lisbon Street in Lewiston. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

LEWISTON — It was opening night of the Emerge Film Festival, but organizers had no intentions of easing slowly into it.

“Tonight is going to be a really special night,” Peter Scheibner, director of the festival, said Wednesday. “We’re playing 35 short films across four rooms. It’s kind of a pick-your-own adventure for the folks who come tonight.”

Those nearly three dozen films kicked off the festival at Rinck Advertising on Lisbon Street, promising to be only a glimpse of things to come at various venues around the Twin Cities.

Among other films slated to be shown is the highly anticipated “Scattering CJ,” which will air Friday at The Dolard & Priscilla Gendron Franco Center on Cedar Street. No other film is being shown then because festival organizers don’t want anyone to miss it.

The documentary by Spark Media tells the story of the Twomey family following the 2010 suicide of 20-year-old C.J. Twomey. His mother, Hallie Twomey, made international headlines with her heart-wrenching Facebook post seeking people to help scatter C.J.’s ashes, her attempt to give her son the adventure he never got. Almost six years later, more than 22,000 people have volunteered and small packets of C.J.’s ashes have been scattered in 1,100 locations around the world.

Emerge is one of the first festivals to screen the film. “Scattering CJ” had its world premiere last month at the Camden International Film Festival, where it received multiple standing ovations.

On Thursday, there will be a showing of the classic “Reservoir Dogs,” Quentin Tarantino’s unnerving first big film, with a panel discussion following about first-time filmmakers.

On Wednesday, festival co-founder Ramsey Tripp announced a change to the Friday lineup. Instead of the film “Mosul,” audiences at the Franco Center will instead see “Ride: Challenge to Conquer Cancer,” a documentary about cyclists who have been riding the past 10 years from Greenville, South Carolina, to Austin, Texas, and to Lewiston to raise money for cancer research.

On Friday, a 10 a.m. educational session at the Franco Center will focus on possible future tax incentives for filmmaking in Maine. Starting at 1:30 p.m., the festival will screen films at the Franco Center and Community Little Theatre on Academy Street, including “Breaking Their Silence,” an award-winning documentary about women fighting poaching, and “Return to Hardwick,” a World War II documentary.

That evening, the festival will show “As One,” a short film about loss and overcoming loss, with “Scattering CJ” to follow.

Featured on Saturday will be a series of films at the Franco Center and Community Little Theatre starting at 10 a.m., including several short horror movies. At 7 p.m. at the Franco Center, the festival will offer an encore presentation of whichever film is named Best in Festival.

“I’m really excited about the slate of films we have this year,” Scheibner said. “We have some amazing films and some amazing filmmakers who have worked really hard.”

Seating for all films is first-come, first-served. That might prove to be key at this year’s festival since the films are being offered up at no cost.

“This year, we’re really excited to be able to bring the festival to the community for free,” said Ramsey Tripp, co-founder of the festival. “We hope that will be an awesome thing for people who weren’t able to come to the festival in the past.”

Get there early, in other words, and claim your seat.

The festival began in 2014 after the Lewiston Auburn Film Festival was abruptly canceled after its director was arrested. Few had any hope that a new festival could emerge quickly enough to get off the ground. Yet within 10 days, Emerge had nonprofit status, a board of directors and had expanded from one day to two. Tickets went on sale at three weeks. And at the 10-week mark, filmmakers began arriving.

For a full schedule of events at this year’s festival visit emergefilmfestival.org .

Ramsey Tripp, one of the founders of the Emerge Film Festival, welcomes a group of film buffs at Rinck Advertising on Lisbon Street in Lewiston on Wednesday night as the four-day festival begins. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

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