“3 Vendors of Ipanema” is directed by Lewiston native Jonathan S. Lee. Courtesy of JSL Films

For Maine movie fans, this is the week. The 27th annual Maine International Film Festival takes place from Friday to July 21 in the great city of Waterville, bringing Mainers its signature roster of outstanding, challenging and crowd-wowing features, shorts and movie-related events.

This year’s festival, as usual, is a movie lover’s smorgasbord, with over 100 films from Maine and around the world for our collective big screen pleasure. There are world premieres, resurrected and restored classics (now’s your chance to see “Goodfellas” on the big screen) and the sort of innovative, eclectic film fare that only a great festival like MIFF can provide.

That’s a lot of stuff packed into a few weeks (smart festivalgoers will select the bulk savings of either the full festival pass or the 10-day variety), so here are my picks for the hidden gems scattered among the dazzling MIFF summer sand.

‘3 Vendors of Ipanema’

“No drama, nothing horrible, just feelings, a gorgeous setting and fascinating people.” That’s Veazie-based producer Sián Evans on this compelling look at three remarkable people from Lewiston native director Jonathan S. Lee. Chronicling the proud, hardscrabble lives of three Brazilian food vendors who’ve formed a decadeslong relationship with the LGBTQ+ tourists who flock to stunning Ipanema Beach, the short film is, according to Evans, a tale of “mutual respect and admiration” between two very different communities, with Evans adding, “the film could have premiered anywhere, but we’re all from Maine and wanted it to happen (at MIFF).”

‘All Illusions Must Be Broken’

Death might not seem like inspiration for beauty, but this feature documentary about seeking meaning in the ending came all the way to Maine for answers. Directors Laura Dunn and Jef Sewell fix their camera on the stark majesty around Stonington, Maine, as they examine the philosophy and legacy of author Ernest Becker, whose Pulitzer-winning book “The Denial of Death” posited that viewing death as just another part of existence opens up worlds of beauty and understanding.

‘Charlie Says’

This 2018 feature from this year’s MIFF Mid-Life Achievement Award winner Mary Harron is another in the director’s examinations of Americans psychos. (The Harron-directed “American Psycho” is also playing MIFF this year.) The Doctor himself Matt Smith essays infamous cult leader Charles Manson, but Harron’s focus is on the young women (including the ever outstanding Merritt Wever) drawn to Manson’s orbit and the societal forces that made them so vulnerable to a charismatic con man.


‘The Echo’

MIFF’s role as a hub for nurturing relationships with filmmakers from around the world continues, as former festival guest Tatiana Huezo brings her new documentary back to Maine. Having spent nearly two years among the inhabitants of an impoverished Mexican village, Huezo’s unobtrusive camera is able to capture the complexities and realities of rural life with startling intimacy.

‘Film Is Dead. Long Live Film!’

A treat as well as a cautionary tale for film lovers everywhere, Peter Flynn’s documentary chronicles the dogged and dusty efforts of cinephiles dedicated to finding and preserving the decaying reels of film whose abandonment threatens to leave gaping holes in movie history. In a landscape where corporate greed and indifference can disappear your favorite flicks on a whim, the film asserts that physical media is more important than ever.


When a social media-addicted pig loses his phone, a whole world opens up in this charming-looking stop-motion animated short from Maine director and College of the Atlantic grad Maddy Stevens.

‘The Ghost Trap’

Based on the novel by Maine author K. Stephens, this tale of a lobsterman beset by misfortune, treachery and inner demons is as Maine as it gets. Shot on Maine’s choppy waters and boasting a cast brimming with authenticity (including Maine resident Xander Berkeley), this feature from director James Khanlarian delves into some uniquely Maine drama.

‘High Tides’

A short film spiritual companion to “The Ghost Trap,’ ” a story of fraught Maine coastal drama, this movie sees a young fisherman bridling under his father’s domineering hand. Made by Maine students ages 16-18, it promises a unique look at intergenerational conflict on the coast.

Members of Kneecap in a biopic about the Northern Irish hip-hop band. Courtesy of Sony Pictures


MIFF goes out with a bang in the form of this rollicking, insightful music biopic about the self-described “low life” Northern Irish hip-hop band Kneecap (playing themselves) battling censorship, poverty and sectarian violence to make it big, all while championing the preservation of their native Irish language. Also starring Michael Fassbender, the anarchic film will close out your 2024 MIFF experience with a song in your heart – even if you can’t understand it.



We all imagine our family trees are ripe with obscure and fascinating characters. But what if your exploration of your history unearthed an aunt who worked as a groundbreaking queer female wrestler nicknamed “Gorilla Woman” in an infamous underground, all-woman Brazilian wrestling circuit? Check out documentarian Fernanda Faya’s film to share in the surprise.

‘The Other Profile’

There’s identity theft, and then there’s what happened to documentarian Armel Hostiou, who found his likeness used to lure actresses to Congo’s capital city of Kinshasa for an alleged starring role. Playing out like the most too-weird-to-be-true thriller, this world-spanning tale of impersonation and intrigue is the perfect suspense film for the digital age.

‘The Ruse’

Keeping Maine’s horror cred alive, director Steven Mena helmed this tale of a young caregiver dealing with a cantankerous old patient and a possibly haunted Maine house exclusively in Blue Hill. Featuring the legendary Veronica Cartwright (“Alien,” “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”) and setting its twists and scares in always spooky Maine, it’s sure to scratch that Maine horror itch.

As ever, this is just the tantalizing tip of the Maine International Film Festival iceberg. Check out MIFF’s always-stunning roster of films and events at miff.org.

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