In all this fresh air, the Maine Outdoor Film Festival matures and grows


A screening on Portland’s Eastern Prom at a previous Maine outdoor film festival. Photo courtesy of MOFF

When it comes to the glory of nature, no place beats Maine. Whether you’re a skier, hiker, swimmer, surfer, climber, horseback rider, walker, or runner, our state has you covered. Of course, if you’d rather sit back and enjoy Maine’s rugged, multifaceted splendor (rather than get sweaty and exhausted), then the Maine Outdoor Film Festival is just the summertime fun you’ve been waiting for.

Taking place over the next three weekends, the Maine Outdoor Film Festival offers enough natural beauty, adventure and big-screen entertainment from Maine and around the world to satisfy even the most enthusiastic outdoor enthusiast. . And, for the rest of us, it’s a nice, relaxing way to experience Maine outdoors the way we love it – sitting comfortably under the Maine night sky, breathing in some fresh air and gazing the others do all the exciting and strenuous things.

Over 11 nights at three prime Portland locations, the festival’s 70 films showcase a dizzying array of nature, adventure and environmental shorts. Curated with variety in mind, each night’s screenings feature a rich mix of styles and themes, a vital formula that MOFF Director Nick Callanan says offers something for everyone.

“It’s a balance between pace and content, so a night won’t be all about skiing or fishing,” he said. “Our programming committee works very hard to balance the type of activity, so it’s not just bad curation. Although much of the work we received this year focused on climate change as a major issue. »

Kicking off this year’s MOFF (the 11th season and third since the festival’s arrival in Portland), Thursday’s Katahdin program, for example, features an exciting roster of tones and themes. Taking place at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute on Commercial Street, the first evening appropriately begins with “Blessing of the Creatures”, a short film by Marty Pottenger and Vera Francis of Maine, in which singer Passamaquoddy Francis recites an ancient Passamaquoddy blessing for all Earth creatures, including humans.

A scene from ‘Keep It a Secret’, about an unlikely Irish surfing competition, held just as 1972’s Troubles plunged that country into sectarian violence, playing the first night of the festival. Courtesy of the filmmaker

“The Pace of Snow,” which follows, shows a grieving woman’s journey to healing via a snow bike ride through Alaska. “Mardi and the Whites” offers a unique look at hiking in black, following a young woman through her experiences as “the only black person on the mountain.” Gardiner’s “Keystone: Voices of the Little Fish” set is next, examining how a community in Maine attempts to restore an ecosystem by creating fishways around three local dams. And the evening ends with the thrilling and thought-provoking “Keep It a Secret”, about an unlikely Irish surfing competition, staged just as the Troubles of 1972 plunged that country into sectarian violence.

And that’s only the first night.

“We are spreading the festival over three weekends this year,” Callanan said. “Some people said it was easier to attend night screenings on weekdays, so we listened and scheduled some that way. Portland doesn’t really have a film festival in the summer, and every year we get a little more in tune with what people want. MOFF is something a lot of people have come to know, and as we grow, it’s amazing to see the city and the people taking ownership and being proud.

Callanan and the MOFF team certainly have much to be proud of. Along with a growing number of submissions and accepted films this year, the Maine Outdoor Film Festival is constantly innovating to provide Maine moviegoers with the richest (and most fun) experience possible. In addition to the films themselves, this year MOFF is featuring filmmaker panels with participating directors and subjects, which Callanan is particularly excited about.

“We are so proud to be able to do this,” he said. “It shows the film community trying to improve here in Maine.”

“Skin Swimmer,” about a Vancouver woman who practices swimming a mile in 3-degree water, is screened on Friday’s show. Courtesy of the filmmaker

There’s also MOFF Field Day on August 13, a free daytime event outside Afters on Anderson Street where, in addition to food trucks, craft beers, all-important chill stations and other activities , festival partner Maine Outdoor Brands will be hosting a “garage sale.” campaign, offering great deals on gear for those inspired by the festival to head to the Maine outdoors for real. Says Callanan: “It’s a great way to say thank you to the sponsors, and for people to engage and have fun.”

And while there’s plenty of fun to be had throughout the Maine Outdoor Film Festival, MOFF has always responsibly and thoughtfully engaged with all elements of our relationship with the environment. As Callanan said, climate change is first and foremost on the minds of filmmakers whose primary focus is nature — and what we do to it.

“All artists feel they have to do something,” he said of the upsurge in environmental-themed submissions. “A perceived lack of effective leadership, oil companies and politicians intentionally obstructing something that scientists have been sounding the alarm for 40 years – filmmakers think, ‘I’ve got a camera, I’ve got editing equipment, I can at least do something.’ When people go to see a film, they trust that film, make a pact with the filmmaker to go on a journey with them. That’s what I love about running a film festival. If filmmakers can to connect with an audience, and that the audience is better off hearing what the filmmaker has to say, that’s amazing.

The brave people of the Maine Outdoor Film Festival know that there is a unique and rewarding bond between us and our environment, a bond that only grows stronger the more we engage with them. To that end, as always, a portion of MOFF’s annual proceeds are donated to Teens to Trails, a Brunswick-based nonprofit whose mission to connect Maine middle and high school students with nature seeks to launch this fruitful partnership as soon as possible.

“Unsinkable Ships,” by Portland-based Moroccan-born filmmaker Lamia Lazrak, illuminates the unique lives of those who choose to live on the islands of Maine. Courtesy of the filmmaker

But that relationship takes countless forms, with this year’s films allowing filmmakers from Maine and around the world to express their individual experiences and ideas. Callanan is particularly excited for people to see the short film “Unsinkable Ships” (released August 13 as part of MOFF’s White Cap program), in which Portland-based Moroccan-born filmmaker Lamia Lazrak uses the works of the late Buckminster Fuller to illuminate the unique lives of those who choose to live on the islands of Maine.

“The filmmaker is not from Maine, but she is able to make Maine people’s voices heard through her skills as a filmmaker,” Callanan said. “I lived on an island here, and I recognize a lot of the characters. Lamia paid homage to these islanders in a way few storytellers could – it’s a beautiful ode to the islanders.

Just to pick another personal favorite, Callanan can’t wait for people to see Jeshua Soucy’s “A Painting from the Earth” (shown Aug. 11 as part of MOFF’s Doubletop program).

“It’s not a film about an outdoor adventure, but a connection to the outdoors,” he said. “The painter, Nathan Allard, uses natural materials to create this painting of a log cabin, and it’s so creative in the shots that its 15 minutes feels like two. I was captivated the whole time.

He’s also thrilled for audiences to see “We Are Like Waves” (Saturday, as part of the Cadillac program), about a young Sri Lankan woman overcoming prejudice and sexism in her quest to chart her own path as a surfer.

This year, the Maine Outdoor Film Festival has also added a new venue to its ambitious three-weekend celebration of all things outdoor. In addition to the Gulf of Maine Research Institute (Thursday-Saturday) and the beautiful and ever-sprawling Eastern Promenade (August 4-7), MOFF’s third weekend will be hosted by the East Bayside facility. and the adult gourmet beverage hangout Aprés from August 11 through the festival’s closing night on August 14.

“Mandatory Gear” tells the story of an ultramarathon relay team that overturned a competition’s rule of having at least one woman by choosing to have three women and one man. Courtesy of the filmmaker

That’s where MOFF closes out this year’s festival with the cheeky headline “Mandatory Gear,” about an ultramarathon relay team that subverts a competition’s “one woman mandatory” requirement by fielding a team made up of three women and one man.

Said Callanan of the victorious team, “The nickname for the only woman on these teams is that she’s ‘mandatory equipment’, but they knocked her down and ran over everyone. Despite the efforts of the conservative right, many formerly oppressed communities feel empowered and use their voice.

The Maine Outdoor Film Festival is a beautiful, exciting, fun and empowering banquet of cinematic riches for Maine residents who want a vicarious outdoor experience. Of course, an online streaming pass is also available, if even the idea of ​​getting out into the wild to watch great movies seems a bit too stressful. No one judges.

Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Auburn with his wife and cat.

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