April 05, 2020

Waterville film festival set for July> Organizers to show hard-to-find movies

WATERVILLE — It won’t be another Sundance Film Festival, but organizers of a Maine film festival hope the event this summer will draw tourists and movies that otherwise wouldn’t make it to the theater in Maine.

The Maine International Film Festival is scheduled for July 10-19 at the Waterville Opera House and Railroad Square Cinema.

Organizers hope to show 30 films, three times each, at the 10-day event. All showings will be at night so that people will have their days free.

The organizers don’t expect the festival to attract attention from the movie industry. Instead, their goals are to bring independent and foreign films to Maine that might not come here otherwise, get Maine some attention from filmmakers, and build an annual event that might draw tourists.

“We want to add to the summer cultural scene and give film buffs an opportunity to see a whole lot of films,” said Joan Phillips-Sandy, a Waterville lawyer and the festival’s director. “This is not a one-shot deal. We’re expecting it to be an annual event.”

The operators of Railroad Square Cinema, one of Maine’s best-known art-film theaters, are organizing the festival. They had tried to plan a festival 10 years ago, but it never happened.

Today, the climate is different. Independent films — those not made in Hollywood — are well-known. Festivals are springing up everywhere. “We realized film festivals were capturing people’s imaginations,” said Ken Eisen, a co-owner of Railroad Square Cinema and a festival organizer.

There are other film festivals in Maine, but they typically focus on a certain genre and show far fewer films, such as the annual Women’s Film and Video Festival at the Portland Museum of Art.

New England may be ripe for more film festivals.

Bill Pence, who runs the Telluride Film Festival in Colorado and the Hopkins Center film program at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., said the Waterville festival could attract audiences from beyond Maine. “They probably have a good chance of drawing people from Boston, since there aren’t any decent film festivals down there in the summer,” he said.

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