Jon Cavallero’s vision for the growing Bates Film Festival is to make it sort of a summer camp for filmmakers, a place where they can reunite with old colleagues and catch up on each other’s work.

That strategy helped this year’s festival, scheduled for May 14-19 in Lewiston and Portland, attract some pretty interesting guest speakers, including director John Sayles and his longtime partner, producer Maggie Renzi; Oscar-winning actor Chris Cooper and his wife, actress and writer Marianne Leone; and director Nancy Savoca and her husband, producer Richard Guay.

All six know each other well and are looking forward to a chance to spend some time together outside of a film set.

“This will be a chance to meet up with some old friends, people I’ve known a long time,” said Sayles, 73. “Plus I haven’t been to Maine in about 40 years.”

“Amigo,” featuring Chris Cooper and directed by John Sayles, will screen at this year’s Bates Film Festival. Photo courtesy of the Bates Film Festival

Cavallero, a film professor at the college, started the Bates Film Festival in 2018. The idea was to give students the chance to organize and program their own festival. Since its inception, it has grown steadily in scope. This year, it will include 26 films and 23 guests, at locations on the Bates campus in Lewiston for the first three days and at several Portland locations for the final three days.

Held every other academic year (this is the fourth), the festival is free, but people can register online to ensure a seat for a screening.


Lili Taylor in “Household Saints,” screening at this year’s Bates Film Festival. Photo courtesy of the Bates Film Festival 

Sayles, who lives in Connecticut, near New Haven, has made several films with Cooper, including “Matewan” (1987), “City of Hope” (1991), “Lone Star” (1996) and “Amigo” (2010). So he’s looking forward to catching up with him and other film friends. In fact, he and Cooper are hoping to work on two more films in the future. One would be a western with legendary lawman Pat Garrett as a character and the other would be about the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania, a government-founded school that operated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Sayles said he’s often drawn to episodes in history that are lesser known or not well understood, like “Matewan,” about coal mining wars in West Virginia, and “Eight Men Out” (1988), about the scheme by gamblers and players to rig the 1919 World Series.

“When doing films like that you have to try to get at what were people thinking? What did they know about the world at the time?” said Sayles. “What Hollywood does best is black hats and white hats, good guys and bad guys. But when you work to bring complexity to the story, that’s when you can get into real history.”

“We Are The Warriors,” about the American Indian mascot at Wells High School, will screen twice at this year’s Bates Film Festival. Photo courtesy of the Bates Film Festival

Sayles, Cooper and Renzi will be part of a Q&A session at a 3 p.m. screening of the film “Lone Star” at the Portland Museum of Art on May 18. Sayles was the director, Cooper one of the stars and Renzi a producer. The film, also starring Kris Kristofferson and Matthew McConaughey, is about a Texas sheriff discovering long-buried secrets about his town and his own father.

Sayles is also scheduled to introduce a screening of “Amigo” at 1 p.m. May 19 at Space. Leone is doing a reading of some of her writing at 10:30 a.m. May 18 at the Portland Public Library. Leone is the author of two memoirs, and her essays have appeared in newspapers and magazines. Her next book, due out this year, is “Five-Dog Epiphany,” about the comfort that dogs brought to Cooper and Leone after the death of their only child, Jesse, at the age of 17.

Actress and writer Marianne Leone will be at this year’s Bates Film Festival. Photo courtesy of the Bates Film Festival

Cavallero said the festival is holding events in Portland for the first time because it is something the students who run the festival have hoped to do for several years. Because the three Portland venues – Portland Museum of Art, Portland Public Library and Space – are just blocks from each other, festival goers can easily walk from one event to another, Cavallero said.


The festival’s sponsors include Bates College, the Maine Permanent Commission on the Status of Racial, Indigenous, and Tribal Populations, Maine Irish Heritage Center and the Italian American Studies Association.

Savoca, Guay and Leone will also be part of a Q&A at the screening of their films “Renata” and “Household Saints” at 5:30 p.m. May 17 at the Portland Museum of Art. “Renata” is a short, made as a student film in the early 1980s, about a young mother (Leone) in New York City. “Household Saints” (1993) stars Tracey Ullman and Lili Taylor and focuses on three generations of Italian-American women in New York’s Little Italy after World War II.

A screening of the documentary “We Are The Warriors,” about the American Indian mascot of Wells High School, at 7 p.m. May 17 at Space in Portland, will include a Q&A with filmmakers David Camlin and Megan Grumbling. The film will also screen May 16 at Bates with a panel discussion.

For a complete list of films and speakers, and to register for free seats at screenings, go to

The 2023 Finnish-German romantic comedy-drama “Fallen Leaves” will screen at this year’s Bates Film Festival. Photo courtesy of the Bates Film Festival

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