The 23rd annual Maine International Film Festival is set to begin Tuesday at the Skowhegan Drive-In Theatre.

Although the festival, known as MIFF, and its organizers have had to overcome a series of obstacles brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, including limiting the number of films in the program and changing the venue, Festival Director Mike Perreault said there is an overall sense of excitement.

“We’re all feeling that familiar sense of excitement that happens every year as the festival opens,” Perreault wrote in an email Saturday. “We’re looking forward to showcasing a selection of films that otherwise might never be screened in Maine and bringing the community together in a safe way.”

MIFF’s 10-day run will kick off with a screening of “Heroic Losers,” an Argentinian comedy-drama directed by Sebastian Borzensztein.

The film follows a group of neighbors in a rural Argentinian town during the 2001 financial crisis as they devise a plan to recover money that was stolen from them by a crooked bank manager.

The festival, a project of the Waterville-based Maine Film Center, is typically held at the 810-seat Waterville Opera House and the three-screen Railroad Square Cinema, also in Waterville.


This year, all features will screened at the drive-in at 201 Waterville Road in Skowhegan, which can accommodate 350 cars. The film’s are scheduled to begin each night at 8:45 p.m.

The festival’s program and tickets are available at

Mike Perreault, executive director of Maine Film Center and the Maine International Film Festival, visits the festival’s new venue Friday, the Skowhegan Drive-In Theatre. The coronavirus pandemic forced organizers to make changes, including how in-person audiences would view the films. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

Due to the change of venue, the festival’s program this year had to be whittled down to showcase only 10 features, according to organizers. Last year’s film festival screened nearly 100 features.

Part of the festival will also be available for audiences to stream online.

Wednesday night will feature short films produced by Maine filmmakers. They include “Meridians,” by Joey Searle, which depicts the vision of food and community of David Gulak, the owner and manager of Meridians Kitchen & Bar in Fairfield, and “The Space Between Words,” by M. Stanford Campbell, which is a stop-motion animation that depicts a couple’s daily life in East Madison.

On Saturday, the world premiere of the political thriller “American Thief” will serve as the festival’s centerpiece.


Written by Miguel Silveira, Michael Stolnicki and Missy Hernandez, the film is described as a “documentary-narrative hybrid, filmed and scripted around true events between 2015 to 2019.”

Set during the 2016 presidential campaign, “American Thief” follows two teenage hackers: Diop, who is determined to expose government surveillance programs, and Toncruz, who wants to avenge his father’s murder by using technology.

As Diop’s and Toncruz’s stories unfold, the audience is introduced to Paul Hunter, a video blogger who shares his political conspiracy theories with his internet viewers, and Josephine, an artificial intelligence programmer.

The film was chosen as the centerpiece after it left an impression on Ken Eisen, MIFF’s program director, when he watched it in February.

“I was blown away,” Eisen said. “We scheduled it a long time ago, and we knew we would feature it in a prominent way.”

In light of recent protests against police brutality, organizers decided to dedicate this year’s festival to people of color who have lost their lives because of racist violence.


Although MIFF’s programming was not altered to fit this dedication, the program emphasizes black filmmakers and will end the festival with a timely film.

In the festival’s final feature, “The Last Shift,” a white, Midwestern, working-class man discovers unsettling truths about himself and the world around him when he starts training Jevon, a bright, young black man who will replace him at a fast-food restaurant.

Drive-in movie theaters, including the Skowhegan Drive-In Theatre, were among the stage-one businesses that could open or reopen under Gov. Janet Mills’ multiphase economic recovery plan for Maine. The drive-in will screen Maine International Film Festival movies staring Tuesday. Morning Sentinel file photo by Rich Abrahamson Buy this Photo

All donations made to MIFF this year will be given to the Black Public Media’s COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund.

Black Public Media, formerly known as the National Black Programming Consortium, is an organization that develops, produces, funds and distributes media content about the African American and global Black experience.

Other features that will be screened during the festival include “A Bright Light: Karen and the Process,” “Primary Needs,” “Instinct,” “Queen Lear,” “White Riot,” “The 11th Green” and “Latcho Drom.”

The festival’s presenting sponsors are Colby College, Waterville Creates! and the Lawry Family Foundation.


In another break with tradition, there will be no recipient this year of the MIFF Mid-Life Achievement Award. Organizers said this decision was prompted by the festival’s limited programming and travel restrictions brought on by COVID-19.

“With only 10 slots to screen films, we can’t do the partial retrospective of their film work we do when we give the award,” Eisen wrote in an email Sunday. “And travel would very likely be impossible for the award winner as well.”

Last year’s Mid-Life Achievement Award went to writer-director Hilary Brougher, whose film, “South Mountain,” was screened during the 2019 festival.

For Eisen, this year’s festival might be unusual, but he said being able to hold MIFF at all is good enough for him.

“It’s really a new experience for us all, which is all those things: thrilling, nerve-inducing, anticipatory, nostalgic,” Eisen said. “We look forward to being able to share the magic of movies again more than ever, it’s been too long.”

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