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Get MIFFed

Find your way to Waterville  
By JOSH SCHLESINGER  |  July 12, 2006

Where can you watch a film about alcoholic authors, and then one about the absurdity of high school, and another about a local journalist’s battle with breast cancer? Those are just a couple of the 80-plus films hitting screens in Waterville and Rockland over the next week at the Maine International Film Festival's ninth incarnation, running July 13 to 23.

In addition to the films will be workshops, panel discussions, and special guests such as Walter Hill of Alien fame and Karen Young, the undercover mafiette/FBI agent from season four of The Sopranos.

Another notable star can be found in Factotum, with Matt Dillon as a man in love with the simple things in life — drinking, gambling, women, and his greatest passion, writing. Said to be Dillon’s greatest performance to date, Factotum is already receiving positive reviews. The Notorious Bettie Page will also be playing at this year’s festival. This film chronicling the life and times of the classic pin-up girl will also feature a Bettie Page look-alike contest before the show.

Aside from big names straight out of Hollywood, there will also be “a number of Maine films,” says festival director Shannon Haines. Opening night will highlight Islander, a film shot between Rockland and Vinalhaven Island. Philip Baker Hall stars in this film as a man who, after turning his back on being a lobster fisherman, is forced to return to his home town to make peace with his past and figure out his future. Also included in the local collection of films is First Impersonator — a film about a man whose rise to fame and out of Hallowell came by way of imitating then-president John F. Kennedy. The Breast Cancer Diaries documents Portlander Anne Murray Paige’s struggle with breast cancer. And Ugly Ducklings uncovers bullying of members of the gay and lesbian community.

The 29th annual Maine Student Film and Video Festival will also be held at the same time as MIFF. The Final Grade, put together by three students from Windham in three months of work and help from classmates and teachers, to create a satire of high school, including car chases and government conspiracy. This movie and many others from kids ages 5 to 18 will be ready to roll at the Waterville Opera House on July 22 at 12:30 pm.

There were will also be plenty for the younger folks to watch, including the internationally acclaimed Kirikou and the Wild Beasts, as well as a one-day clay-animation workshop. Among some of the other short films specifically designed for kids is The Ballad of the Purple Clam, a six-minute animated depiction of a Maine clamdigger seeking revenge on the clam that bit his finger off. Catfish Blues digs a bit deeper, showing a 12-year-old boy leaving small-town Mississippi for Memphis and Chicago to pursue his dream of becoming a musician — and his struggles against racism along the way. Mr. Mergler’s Gift is another film for the little ones about a 9-year-old Chinese girl's profound relationship with her piano teacher.

Closing night will feature both Come Away Home, directed by Doug McKeon, about a girl's failed attempt to have the worst summer vacation ever, and Old Joy, by Kelly Reichardt, a search by two friends to find each other as they grow older but not necessarily wiser.

Maine International Film Festival | July 14-23 | in Waterville and Rockland | |207.861.8138 | see "movie listings" for shows + times

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