Kris Tompkins on her hike up a mountain range in Patagonia, Chile. She and her husband are subjects of the film “Wild Life,” by the same people who made “Free Solo.” Photo by Jimmy Chin

A great local filmmaking organization just can’t stop giving. The Points North Institute is a great filmmaking organization.

Best known for running the internationally renowned nonfiction movie showcase the Camden International Film Festival (19th season coming Sept. 14-17), the Rockport-based Points North Institute is equally committed to fostering and supporting filmmakers from Maine and away. The institute’s Points North Fellowship allows teams of aspiring nonfiction filmmakers to hone their latest projects with the assistance and guidance of seasoned documentary and industry professionals in preparation for the Points North Pitch, in which the teams can show off their in-progress works to Camden International Film Festival attendees, including the major show business figures routinely drawn to Maine for the occasion. (Aspiring filmmakers can still make the April 24 extended deadline for submissions.)

Then there’s the North Star Fellowship, where “four innovative media artists and filmmakers from underrepresented backgrounds” get flown up to Camden for a pre-CIFF week of accommodations, meals, and intensive workshops and meetings with industry professionals, curators, and other helpful types dedicated to helping these exciting new film voices realize their projects. (The deadline to apply for the North Star Fellowship is May 8.)

But what about the rest of us? You know, the Maine movie fanatics who are content to sit back and enjoy the fruits of ambitious filmmakers’ hard work? Well, Points North has us covered, too.

Acting as a film fest stopgap for those of us itching for the annual September festival, Points North is presenting its appropriately named Cabin Fever Film Fest this week. With the fine film fans at Points North assuring us that winter, despite all mid-March sucker-punching Nor’easters efforts, is coming to an end, Cabin Fever Film Fest brings us a bracing mini-festival of five eclectic nonfiction films to brighten up our winter-blighted brains with the institute’s signature array of challenge, uplift and cinematic enlightenment.

Taking place over two days, Friday and Saturday, Cabin Fever Film Fest comes to us lucky Mainers at the ever-sumptuous Camden Opera House. Tickets are a quite reasonable $10 per screening ($5 for students), but smart CIFF attendees know that the festival pass is always the way to go, with just $40 getting you into all five films. Oh, and since Points North is savvy as well as generous, buying a Cabin Fever Fest pass also gets you a $25 credit toward a Camden International Film Festival pass come September.


“But enough of the hard sell,” I can hear you saying, “what about the movies?” Fair enough. Here’s the quintet of documentaries coming to us this weekend, thanks to Points North.

The festival opens with “Wild Life,” from Oscar winning filmmakers Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin (“Free Solo”). The story of Kris and Douglas Tompkins, co-founders of pioneering outdoor apparel companies like Patagonia and North Face, “Wild Life” sees the married conservationists retiring from their lucrative corporate lives to dedicate themselves to preserving endangered wilds of Argentina and Chile as national parks. “Wild Life” is showing at the Camden Opera House at 7 p.m. Friday.

Pope Francis in a scene from “In Viaggio,” screening at the Cabin Fever Film Fest in Camden. Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

Saturday sees four wildly different documentaries playing throughout the day. Up first is “In Viaggio: The Travels of Pope Francis,” a thought-provoking travelogue chronicling the current Catholic leader’s dedication to bringing his message to some 53 countries during the first nine years of his pontificate. For non-believers, “In Viaggio” certainly invites questions about how Francis’ stated sermons about universal human dignity square with some of the church’s anti-LGBTQ and anti-woman teachings, even while his often-progressive words play out over stunning sequences of the Pope delivering his sermons in the furthest corners of the globe. “In Viaggio: The Travels of Pope Francis” kicks off Saturday’s programming at 10:30 a.m. at the Camden Opera House.

Up next with a 1:30 p.m. screening at the Opera House is the wrenching yet inspirational “A House Made of Splinters” from director Simon Lereng Wilmont. The Oscar-nominated 2022 film looks at the dedicated group of educators and social workers running a beleaguered home for children orphaned during the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Taking an unobtrusive approach to his often war-shattered young subjects and their caregivers, Wilmont’s tender approach provides one of the most delicately powerful and humanistic portraits of the effects of war on children, all while providing a silent rebuke to both those behind the bloody and needless war in Ukraine and those who scoff at the human cost of such atrocities.

Steph Curry in a scene from the documentary “Underrated.” Courtesy of Apple Original Films

Switching gears entirely, the 4 p.m. offering is “Stephen Curry: Underrated,” about the undersized yet absurdly talented NBA legend in the making, Steph Curry. From his time at tiny Davidson College, where the 6-foot-2 point guard was told he was too small to make it in the land of NBA giants, to his tenure leading the once-lowly Golden State Warriors to four NBA titles and earning two league MVP awards, Steph Curry has made a career out of defying the odds, and his critics. Similarly gifted filmmaker Peter Nicks (“The Waiting Room,” “Homeroom”) turns Curry’s story of individual success into a multilayered portrait of perseverance, as the now Hall of Fame-bound Curry juggles fame, family, injury and the promise he made to his mother to go back and finish his college degree.

Bobi Wine atop his vehicle as he drove through Kayunga district in Uganda on Dec. 1, 2020, during the presidential campaigns that were flawed with brutality and violence by security agencies. Photo by Lookman Kampala

Capping off this movie marathon is a very different sort of underdog story in “Bobi Wine: The People’s President.” Filmmakers Christopher Sharp and Moses Bwayo document the perilously long-shot 2021 presidential campaign of Ugandan pop star-turned-politician Bobi Wine, whose years-long criticism of dictatorial president Yoweri Museveni sees the singer and his family under constant threat of violence from Musveni’s forces. After Wine is arrested while campaigning, dozens of people are killed in anti-government riots, with the filmmakers daringly diving right into the middle of things, as Wine’s mission to defend Uganda’s perpetually ignored and oppressed citizens proves an inspiration in Uganda’s fight against tyranny. (The country, still under Musveni’s rule, just passed laws invoking the death penalty on LGBTQ citizens, if you want to know the sort of person Wine was fighting against.)

Now all that is a cure for cabin fever if I’ve ever seen one. Thanks to Points North Institute, as ever, for keeping the movie lights shining. For more information, go to

Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Auburn with his wife and cat.

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