Photographer John Meader takes photos Sunday of Ken Eisen, right, and Lea Girardin during the 25th Maine International Film Festival at Railroad Square Cinema in Waterville. Girardin says she and Eisen helped start Railroad Square Cinema about 25 years ago. Meader, who has photographed the festival for six years, curated an exhibit of photos, shown on the wall in the background. Meader says the work features 51 photos from six photographers. The images show festival staff members, movie stars, filmmakers and the public. Meader and sound recordist Shawn E. Burke joined forces to present still photographs with sound for a film shown during the festival, “Place and Time — Portland, Maine.” Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

WATERVILLE — The 25th Maine International Film Festival returned to a full scale event after two years of hosting smaller audiences and fewer filmmakers because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 10-day festival, which ended Sunday, drew audiences from all over the world and filmmakers from as far away as California, Mexico and the United Kingdom, according to festival Executive Director Mike Perreault.

“It went so, so tremendously well,” Perreault said Monday. “It was really, I think, a celebratory festival for our 25th anniversary.”

The number of guests attending the festival, known widely as MIFF, had not been tallied as of Monday, according to Perreault, who also is executive director of the Maine Film Center.

While the numbers were not back to pre-pandemic levels, they have increased over the past three years and audiences were happy to be back, enjoying the experience in a communal way, he said.

Businesses also felt the impact, as patrons dined at restaurants and shopped locally, Perreault said. The festival last year was about half the size of this year’s event.


The festival, which features contemporary, independent and classic films from all over the United States and world, went smoothly, according to Perreault. A small exception was bugs that had to be worked out with three new film projectors, which offered audiences higher visual quality.

Perreault said festival officials and film enthusiasts were proud to welcome actor Debra Winger, who was honored Friday night with the festival’s Mid-Life Achievement Award. Winger is known for acclaimed performances in films such as “A Dangerous Woman” and “Terms of Endearment.”

Winger came with her family, stayed on a lake in the area and enjoyed her time here, according to Perreault.

“She was such a gracious guest of the festival,” he said.

Actor Debra Winger stands at the podium with her Moose award as she takes questions from the audience after the showing of her 1993 film, “A Dangerous Woman,” at the Waterville Opera House. Winger received the MIFF Mid-Life Achievement Award. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Winger, 67, was nominated for Academy Awards for her roles in “An Officer and a Gentleman,” 1982; “Terms of Endearment,” 1983; and “Shadowlands,” 1993. She has worked in a wide variety of genres with renown directors, including Bernardo Bertolucci, Jonathan Demme, James L. Brooks, Bob Rafelson and James Bridges.

Like Perreault, festival programmer Ken Eisen said it was an extraordinary festival for many reasons.


“It was exciting to be able to put on a full festival again after the last two years,” he said.

It was great to see filmmakers, producers, actors and other cinema enthusiasts strolling through the city as they headed to shows or receptions or to dine at restaurants during the festival, according to Eisen.

“It does transform Waterville a little bit — not that Waterville isn’t perfect to begin with,” he said.

For Eisen, this year’s event allowed him to schedule films that for the past couple of years could not be finished or put into circulation because filmmakers did not have the normal ways to get them out. He said he thinks the quality of films this year was perhaps the best to date.

“I had wonderful films to choose from than I have ever had, in a lot of ways,” he said.

Moviegoers file Sunday into a theater at Railroad Square Cinema in Waterville for a showing of “The Peacock’s Paradise” on the final day of the 25th Maine International Film Festival. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Eisen called Winger “a fantastic guest, a wonderful guest.”


Acknowledging he was a little exhausted, a little elated and exhilarated after the festival, Eisen said the 25th annual event was exciting for everyone involved — and the last one to be held at Railroad Square before the cinema moves later this year to the new Paul J. Schupf Art Center on Main Street in downtown Waterville.

“At the same time,” he said, “we’ve got a nice future for the festival ahead of us, and for Railroad Square.”

The festival also honored Alan Sanborn with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Sanborn, who helped found Railroad Square Cinema, has been technical director there for 43 years. He was also a founder of the film festival.

“Honoring Alan was a lovely thing to do and an appropriate thing to do for this silver anniversary,” said Eisen, also a founder of Railroad Square and the festival.

Nearly 100 films were shown at Railroad Square and the Waterville Opera House over MIFF’s 10-day run. Like Eisen, Perreault said the upcoming move from Railroad Square to the Schupf Center is exciting.

“This change has been a long time coming,” Perreault said. “It’s really such an exciting opportunity for a small town like ours to have this arts center come into shape right before our very eyes.”

The new venue is to have new seats, projectors and screens to offer a better experience, he said, and plans call for the cinema to complement other arts offerings at the center.

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