*= guest speaker
Girl Model U.S./Russia/Japan 2011 - 78min Sat 6:00; Sun 4:15
From acclaimed Maine-based documentary filmmakers David Redmon and Ashley Sabin (Downeast) comes a fascinating look at two cultures who share both frigid winters and economic desperation -- Siberia and Tokyo. A thriving modeling industry also connects those distant regions. Girl Model follows two women involved in this industry: Ashley, a deeply ambivalent model scout who scours the Siberian countryside looking for fresh faces to send to the Japanese market, and one of her discoveries, Nadya, a thirteen year-old plucked from the Siberian countryside and dropped into the center of Tokyo with promises of a profitable career. After Ashley's initial discovery of Nadya, the two rarely meet again, but their stories are inextricably bound. As Nadya's optimism about rescuing her family from their financial difficulties grows, her dreams contrast against Ashley's more jaded outlook about the industry's corrosive influence. "This is absolutely riveting stuff"--Cinema 365
Hardwater U.S.A. 2012 - 75min Sat 4:15; Sun 7:30*
A new film from Portland-based filmmakers Ryan Brod and Daniel Sites about a VERY local subject -- ice fishing! 77-year-old Mainer Bob Foster, an avid ice fisherman, missed his first ice fishing season since he was a boy after being diagnosed with cancer. Following successful surgery and with a clean bill of health, Bob is accompanied by cameras hundreds of miles north to Long Lake, near the very top of Maine, where he targets big landlocked salmon -- fish that he used to catch decades ago in central Maine. Bob’s stories and reflections act as introductions to key players in Maine's ice fishing community today. Travelling across ten counties with an assortment of unique characters, from Sebago to East Grand Lake to Belgrade to Chain of Ponds, Hardwater exposes the challenges to our ecosystem brought forth by environmental shifts and illegally introduced invasive fish species. Ultimately, Hardwater is a film about Maine tradition and about the ways in which ice fishing brings people together during the harshest of seasons.
Tokyo Waka: A City Poem Japan/U.S.A. 2012 - 63min [in Japanese w/subtitles] Fri 9:45; Sun 3:00
Tokyo is a digital metropolis and wellspring of spectacular pop culture, its commercial crossroads carpeted with people day and night. Above them, watching from perches on buildings and power lines, are more than 20,000 crows. As their numbers soared in recent years, Tokyo fought back: trapping them, destroying nests, and securing trash. The crows adapted; they are among the smartest of animals. The 13 million people of Tokyo now live alongside them in a stalemate. Tokyo Waka tells this story, and a larger one as well. A Buddhist priest comments on garbage as the remnants of desire; a gardener considers the relentless persistence of nature amidst urban grit; a homeless woman talks about forging community in her tent village deep in the corner of a city park. The filmmakers give these smart, opportunistic crows their due, but their film is ultimately an episodic and discursive poem about the life and culture of Tokyo, one of the great cities of the world. A filmic "poem" in the tradition of Chris Marker's Sans Soleil and other original cinematic works, this is a real discovery!
The Law in These Parts Israel 2011 - 101min [in Hebrew with subtitles] Sun 9:30; Mon 5:30
Ambitious and meticulously executed, The Law in These Parts is a commanding and compassionate inquiry into the heart of Israel's moral quandary. Maverick nonfiction director Ra'naan Alexandrowicz effectively puts former Israeli military justices and prosecutors on trial, interrogating them on whether justice truly can be served for Palestinians under Israeli law. Precisely argued, disciplined, and dramatic as it considers the repercussions of the complex and unusual legal framework created for the Occupied Territories, the film took years of research...and the evidence is irrefutable, as those interviewed steadily reveal the contradictions sustained by an entire nation -- contradictions of which Alexandrowicz, an Israeli citizen, is painfully aware. As one of the interviewees chillingly suggests, "Security comes before human rights." Winner of the Sundance World Cinema Grand Jury Prize, the Hot Docs Special Jury Prize and a Special Jury Award at the Full Frame Documentary Festival.
True Wolf U.S.A. 2012 - 76min Fri 8:15; Sun 5:45
What does it mean to be wild? This is the story of a wolf called Koani, who, with the help of her human companions, became an ambassador for her species -- traveling the U.S. to help raise awareness about wolves and help sway public support for their reintroduction to the wilds of the Northwest. True Wolf is about Koani's life and journey; it is the tale of a wolf and the way she changed lives, most of all those of her humans Pat Tucker and Bruce Weide. Together they presented 1,400 programs about wolves to 200,000 people. Born in captivity, Koani could never be allowed to run free. Bruce and Pat, despite all their efforts to provide for Koani's needs, had to face the painful truth that they could not provide her with freedom, perhaps her greatest need. The filmmaker weaves the story of Bruce and Pat's life with Koani into a greater tapestry of questions concerning humanity's relationship with wolves and with wildness. Through sixteen years of archival footage -- supplemented by provocative interviews, stylized re-creations and stunning wolf footage -- this contemporary film explores the highly polarized and contentious period before, during, and after our nation made the historic decision to return wolves to the homelands from which they'd been exterminated in the Northern Rockies.
Like the Water U.S.A. 2012 - 74min Fri 6:30; Sat 2:30
Shot entirely in-state, Like the Water reveals the beautiful Maine summer landscape with a tenderness that's infectious as it follows Charlie, a young journalist, returning to her hometown of Camden to eulogize her best friend, Katherine. Charlie's task unearths her deep feelings of guilt at not having been a better friend, which only fuel her long-standing resentment toward Katherine's girlfriend. On the eve of the memorial they are forced to a confrontation, and Charlie goes too far. She must learn to pick up the pieces when words are not enough. This project was co-written by one of its lead actresses, Camden native Caitlin FitzGerald (It's Complicated, Newlyweds, Taking Woodstock), and Caroline von Kuhn, the film's director. It was produced, shot, and edited by a team of young women filmmakers who, working on a micro-budget, have wrought wonders.
Nor'easter U.S.A. 2012 - 84min Sat 7:00*; Sun 5:30*
A powerful new dramatic feature set and shot on Vinalhaven, Maine! Erik, a young priest, serves as the sole Catholic authority on a small island off the coast of Maine. After a poorly attended mass, Erik is visited by Ellen Greene, the mother of a child who has been missing for five years. Josh's absence has pushed Ellen's marriage to the breaking point, and though her husband strenuously objects, she has decided to hold a symbolic funeral in an effort to move on. Erik agrees and recommends that she and her husband come to the church for ongoing support. Yet when the family's decision becomes public, Josh shockingly returns to the island, alive and well. Now sixteen years old, he appears unharmed but refuses to answer questions about where he's been. Erik involves himself in the investigation into the boy's whereabouts in an effort to both help the family and overcome his own insecurities as a man of faith.
The Painting (Le Tableau) France 2012 - 78min [In French with subtitles] Sun 2:30; Mon 9:15
This French César (Oscar equivalent) nominee for Best Animated Feature is as inventive and charming a film as you're likely to see all year. In this wryly inventive parable, a kingdom is divided into three castes: the impeccably painted Alldunns who reside in a majestic palace; the Halfies whom the Painter has left incomplete; and the untouchable Sketchies, simple charcoal outlines who are banished to the cursed forest. Chastised for her forbidden love for an Alldunn and shamed by her unadorned face, Halfie Claire runs away into the forest. Her beloved Ramo and best friend Lola journey after her, passing between the forbidden Death Flowers that guard the boundaries of the forest (in one of the film's most radiantly gorgeous scenes), and arriving finally at the very edge of the painting -- where they tumble through the canvas and into the Painter's studio. The abandoned workspace is strewn with paintings, each containing its own animated world. In a feast for both the eyes and imagination, they explore first one picture and then another, attempting to discover just what the Painter has in mind for all his creations.
The Pier Ireland 2011 - 89min Fri 6:00; Sat 4:00
The village of Schull lies on the scenic coast of Ireland’s West Cork, but the souls who inhabit it are as bitterly black as its soil. Larry McCarthy is a sour man who pretends he's dying in order to get his son Jack back from America. When Jack arrives, he finds the old coot just wants him to go knocking on the doors of hostile villagers, collecting debts for him. Jack and Larry have a bilious relationship, and their small talk consists mostly of cursing. Neither has come to terms with the long-ago loss of Jack's mother, who drowned on the village pier while looking out for her husband's boat in a storm. Temporarily stuck in his native village, Jack befriends two sad boys whose dad drinks and whose mum is "away." One ray of sunshine is his friendship with Grace, an American woman looking for her roots. Writer-director Gerard Hurley stars with MIFF Mid-Life Achievement Award winner Lili Taylor in this contemplative film about the search for solace in the midst of emotional storms.
Sleeping Dogs (Schlafende Hunde) Germany 2011 - 85min [in German w/subtitles] Sat 9:00; Mon 7:30 Beautifully shot in haunting black and white, Sleeping Dogs is a strong independent film from Germany. Haunted by visions of his own violent death, Jim is convinced he doesn't have long to live. He sets out on a journey to find and reconcile with his estranged son Tom. When past events re-emerge in the form of an old friend with an ax to grind, Jim's visions become more and more menacing. Certain everything is playing out exactly as he foresaw, Jim prepares for a showdown with his past and finally understands what his visions mean.
The Student (El Estudiante) Argentina 2011 - 110min [in Spanish w/subtitles] Sat 9:15; Mon 7:15
What an original, riveting and exciting a film! No wonder it's been running for nine months in its native Argentina, and was also a big success at the most recent New York and Toronto Film Festivals. "It's a dynamic piece of filmmaking that promises a bright future for director Santiago Mitre. The film follows the adventures of Roque, who arrives in Buenos Aires from the provinces to study at the university. But his classes bore him. He's more interested in piling up a series of sexual conquests and in entering the fraught world of university politics. Roque is a man in a hurry, and he quickly ingratiates himself with some of the political leaders on campus, both students and professors, and gets involved in a campaign to bring reforms to a desiccated academic system. It quickly becomes clear that the director is using the conflicts of a campus election to create a metaphor for political manipulations in the larger society...The movie is full of talk, yet Mitre's style is so energetic that the film always has a rushing forward momentum. It also provides a fascinating glimpse into the passionate atmosphere at so many Latin American universities, reminiscent of American colleges in the '60s but very unlike American campus life today."
-- Hollywood Reporter
VacationLand U.S.A. 2012 - 96min Sat 7:30*; Sun 9:15*
One of the most delightful films we've ever had at MIFF is also one of the first made right here in the state, with a cast uniting Oscar nominee Karen Black (Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces) with closer-to-home-grown talent and a universal topic. Journeying to the mountains of western Maine for a high summer reunion that no one seems to know about, several members -- and one would-be member -- of a scattered family find beauty, truth and a buried treasure of no particular worth in VacationLand, a very funny, very honest, very observant human comedy from Jamie Hook, director of the acclaimed indie feature The Naked Proof.
SHORT FILMS PROGRAMS:
New Young Filmmakers 106min Fri 8:00*; Mon 5:00*
A carefully-culled selection of spectacular, fully realized and emotionally satisfying fiction films from filmmakers in their 20s, including four COA students and three others from Maine who have a great deal to say and a great talent for saying it right now -- and who promise great things for the future...
~Baby Blue Set on the somber Maine coast, the journey of a father who delves into the nature of closure and fulfilling promises.
~Buoy A multimedia animation exploring loss, identity, and marine debris in the Gulf of Maine.
~Child of the Desert A military mother who has just suffered the loss of her son befriends an undocumented immigrant in the West Texas desert.
~La Fille Sans Coeur (The Heartless Girl) A short 'boy meets girl' film with a twist. A young man falls in love with a curious young girl, only to find out she is incapable of loving him back. He soon understands the true meaning of love and the power of one's heart.
~The Fort On a rainy afternoon, a young boy is building a fort in the woods when a man appears and offers to help.
~From the Quotidian to the Universal A short animation about a daydream which traces creation -- from the quotidian to the universal and back again.
~Nani Oscar got caught spraying graffiti. Now doing community service at a nursing home, he meets Isabel, age 84 and suffering from dementia. She may be a little old school, but soon the entire block is covered with her pink tag...
~Now You Know A night with a Ouija board reveals the bizarre death of a long lost relative.
~Ouija Upon receiving news that her husband is missing in action, a young woman presumes the worst and seeks the help of a Ouija board to contact him. A silent film inspired by movies of the 1920s.
~Temma Neuro-programmer Temma Baumgarten tries to complete a computational model of her own mind while her body succumbs to a degenerative disease.
~You'd Think We'd Never Stop Dancing "The more closely I looked at the things that we consider individual and indivisible, the more profoundly obvious it became that there is no escaping connectivity. Sometimes the connections are physical, sometimes the connections are abstract." -- director Chalese Carlson
World Shorts Showcase 94min Sat 2:00; Sun 7:15
This selection of shorts spans amazing ranges of landscape, culture and ideas, from South Africa to Ecuador to Poland and the US...
~The Couple An actress and screenwriter sit down with a magazine reporter to discuss their film and their relationship. It becomes a more revealing discussion than they'd imagined.
~Fanuzzi's Gold A 77-year-old NYer fights for the survival of his family by searching for gold in the most unexpected of places. This documentary -- a story of resilience, creativity and the moments that compose a life -- incorporates footage shot by this inveterate forager, inventor, father and grandfather.
~The Last Ice Merchant (El Ultimo Hielero) For 53 years, Baltazar Ushca has harvested glacial ice from the tallest mountain in Ecuador. His brothers have long since retired from the mountain. This is a tale of cultural change in a small indigenous community.
~Sea Pavilion An innocent picnic turns surreal when curiosity leads to the uncovering of secrets hidden in the decrepit yet beautiful ruins of a seaside pavilion. Filmed in eerie, picturesque Macassar, So. Africa, where the dunes have half-buried a once vibrant recreation park.
~The Search for Norumbega A film both documentary, in search of a mythical subject -- a land that existed in central Maine along the Penobscot River -- and experimental, aiming at truths only the moving image can reveal. Perhaps the poetic capabilities of the moving image will manifest an alternative future geography -- a Norumbega that exists beyond the limits of history, cartography, and nationality.
~Written in Ink This compelling story of a man trying to get back in touch with his sister after fourteen years of no contact. But can one change what has already been written in ink? A documentary about hope.
Kyrgyzstan New Wave 62min Sat 5:45; Sun 4:00*
Three fascinating, inventive and delightful films from Kyrgyzstan. It is impossible to overlook a similarity between these new, youthful films and former New Wave cinemas in, for example, France (1950s-60s), (1960s) and, of course, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan (1980s-90s).
~Water In dry Kyrgyzstan, water is the most valuable natural resource and the search for it is a daily labor. The fragmented, often humorous episodes in Alijan Nasirov's film reveal a traditional Central Asian sense of community and extended family that drives villagers to find solutions.
~I, Chin-Su Chyngyz -- a young lad still living at home with his ethnically mixed family -- loves math, physics, astronomy, entomology. The fact that he has autism greatly distresses his family but his sister is a true ally. Will he find a love to stand by his side and a companion to understand his silent world?
~A Pencil Against Ants In a mountain village, people are preparing for a wedding. Nothing’s unusual, except for a strange young man watching how a line is drawn on a wall with a pencil against ants. The wedding preparations leave him completely indifferent...but he is the fiancé!