LEWISTON — The big stars of the Emerge Film Festival came out Saturday: the films.

In four locations across Lewiston, independent films, including “She Doesn’t Love Marty,” “Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine” and “Lessons of Basketball and War” played.

Some of the films were short, some were made by students, some were made in Maine or with Maine connections. After films were shown, many were followed by question and answer sessions between the audience and a moderator. Often, someone involved in the film’s production took questions, giving behind-the-scenes insights.

At the Franco Center, associate producer of “Food Chains,” Carl Banks of Brooklyn, N.Y., spoke to the audience.

“Food Chains” is a documentary which has won high reviews about unfair labor conditions of workers in Florida and California. The film shows workers in Immokalee, Fla., get on buses as the sun rises, work at grueling paces picking tomatoes and return home at 8 p.m. A typical day’s pay is $40, well below poverty levels. They’re paid for each bucket of tomatoes they pick.

“To live hungry while working is not a dignified life,” one worker said in the film. They live in run-down trailers, 15 people crammed in each one.

The film shows workers organize as the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, go on a hunger strike across the street from the corporate headquarters of Publix’s supermarket. Workers unsuccessfully tried to meet with Publix to ask about raising their pay from one cent per pound of tomatoes to two cents.

Some companies, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Taco Bell and Burger King, pay more for produce which has improved workers pay. CIW continues to fight for better pay from Publix and other supermarkets.

Banks said “Food Chains” was unveiled in 2014, has been shown at several film festivals and was picked up by Netflix in March. It took three years to produce. He worked on camera and sound.

One of four people who started making the film, before he got involved “embarrassingly, I had no idea where food came from,” Banks said. “Nor did I know that almost all produce has to be hand-picked by human beings.”

One audience member thanked Banks for the film. “It’s an incredible movie.” He asked about the difficulty of filming workers picking tomatoes.

Many of the workers hid their faces because they’re undocumented, don’t want to be identified “and are afraid to speak up,” Banks said. Some farmers also didn’t want them filming. Eventually, “Food Chain” filmers won their trust.

Another audience member asked did they get permission before filming? Banks chuckled. Sometimes they filmed, then asked. “We were all first-time filmmakers. We found people and filmed them.”

Banks urged consumers to ask restaurants they frequent and supermarket managers where they shop if the produce comes from farm workers who are fairly treated. He also urged consumers to go the film’s webpage, www.foodchainsfilm.com, and use social media to encourage corporations like Wendy’s and Publix to improve farm workers’ pay.

Attending Saturday’s festival were Colby College students Palmer Taylor and Grace Baldwin. Baldwin was writing about it for the Colby newspaper, Taylor is an aspiring filmmaker who attended the Sundance Film Festival in January.

Going to the Emerge Film Festival was an unique experience to see what’s new, Taylor said. “None of my friends have seen any of these films.” When he and other audience members post feedback about films online, it can make a difference “where the film goes. It allows you to be part of the creative process.”

Films played Saturday at four locations: the Franco Center, the Public Theatre, Guthries Independent Theater and Free Grace Church.

On Friday night, Emma Myles, one of the stars of Netflix television series “Orange Is the New Black,” attended world premiere of “Child of Grace” at the Franco Center. The movie was filmed in Millinocket in 2013 and based on the Chris Fabry novel, “June Bug.”

Also appearing Friday night was Maggie Elizabeth Jones, the young star of “Child of Grace.” Jones, 11, has 14 film and television credits, including “We Bought a Zoo” with Matt Damon.

The festival concludes Sunday with a 2 p.m. showing of “Honor Flight,” about four WWII veterans.

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“Honor Flight” caps off festival

LEWISTON — The festival concludes Sunday with a special presentation of “Honor Flight,” a heartwarming documentary about four living World War II veterans and a Midwest community coming together to give them the trip of a lifetime to see the war memorial built in Washington, D.C.

“Honor Flight” will be shown from 2-5 p.m. at the Franco Center. A question and answer session with be held following the film with director Dan Hayes. WWII veterans will be attending. Among those invited is Irving Grant, who has taken the Honor Flight.

Veterans and active duty service members will be given free admission Sunday.

Emerge Film Festival is in it’s second year. It was formed to promote the motion picture arts to local audiences, offering networking and attract visitors to Lewiston-Auburn and Maine.

Festival director Katie Greenlaw said Saturday night this year’s festival “has been fantastic. We were honored to have so many top quality films as part of the lineup. We’re delighted that so many of our filmmakers were able to join us to present their work and discuss it with us.”

Those attending have been enthusiastic about what they’ve seen, Greenlaw said. “We’re certainly looking forward to closing out the festival with one more wonderful film.”

The festival’s board of directors are a group of film enthusiasts and business leaders from Lewiston-Auburn. For more information, go to http://emergefilmfestival.org/festival.


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