Ben Fowlie launched the Camden International Film Festival in 2005 to showcase the bounty of stellar documentary films from New England and beyond. The Maine festival is now recognized as one of the top 25 international documentary festivals, and one of the 12 best small-town film festivals in the United States. Running Sept. 26-29, this year’s CIFF presents more than 70 features and shorts. “All use a myriad of both new and old techniques to do one thing: share a compelling story,” says Fowlie, who also programs The DocYard series at the Brattle Theatre.
Director Zachary Heinzerling will be at the CIFF with the opening-night film, “Cutie and the Boxer,” a revealing portrait of famed boxing painter Ushio Shinohara and artist Noriko Shinohara, who many years ago left Japan for New York and still struggle to make a living, stay true to their creative voices, and juggle their 40-year marriage and careers.
A highlight of the CIFF is Then and Now, with filmmakers presenting classic and new documentaries. Barbara Kopple will be on hand with her latest, “Running From Crazy,” about actress Mariel Hemingway coming to terms with the legacy of mental illness and suicide in her famous family (she’s the granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway), as well as Kopple’s Oscar winner from 1977, “Harlan County, USA.” Peter Davis will attend with his 1974 Oscar-winning documentary, “Hearts and Minds,” about the war in Vietnam.
Other highlights include a new film from Maine filmmakers David Redmon and Ashley Sabin, whose “Down East,” from 2012, depicted efforts to revive a Maine fish-packing plant. This year the directors will present “Night Labor,” which follows a 46-year-old Downeaster during his transition from independent clam digger by day to laborer on a factory night shift.
Jillian Schlesinger’s “Maidentrip” chronicles 14-year-old Laura Dekker’s pursuit to be the youngest person to sail around the world alone, an effort that included a yearlong battle with Dutch authorities. “Moon Rider,” from Denmark’s Daniel Dencik, is a coming-of-age story about Rasmus Quaade’s struggles to become a professional bike rider. Timely subject matter is evident in “Town Hall,” as directors Sierra Pettengill and Jamila Wig-not offer an inside look into the lives of two Tea Party activists from Pennsylvania. Cullen Hoback’s “Terms and Conditions May Apply” examines the things that can happen to Internet users once they click on “I Agree.” The screening will be followed by a panel talk with Ben Wizner of the American Civil Liberties Union, Shahid Buttar, of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, and Amie Stepanovich, from the Electronic Privacy Information Center.
“It’s exciting to us that almost all of our films are represented by their filmmakers, both national and international, who wish to share their work with such a smart, engaged local audience and the top industry who come out for our festival year after year,” says Caroline von Kuhn, CIFF managing director. She comes to Camden from the Film Society of Lincoln Center and has produced industry panels for the Tribeca Film Festival.
A unique component of the CIFF is the Points North Documentary Forum. Now in its fifth year, the three-day event runs Sept. 27-29 and offers filmmakers a conference within the larger festival. For the first time this year, the fest hosts an Engagement Summit for filmmakers and Maine-based nonprofits with the goal of using documentaries to advance social and community issues. The inaugural event is on Aging in Maine, featuring a daylong closed-door strategic summit between filmmakers and professionals on Sept. 28. During the festival, there will also be an Aging in Maine sidebar of film screenings, including Banker White and Anna Fitch’s “The Genius of Marian.” White, who’ll attend, follows his mother, Pam White, in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease as she struggles to retain a sense of self.
Go to www.camdenfilmfest.org.
Words and music
French movies for free outdoors? No, not in Paris but at MIT, on Kresge Lawn. Christophe Honoré’s “Love Songs” (“Les Chansons d’amour”), starring Louis Garrel, Ludivine Sagnier, and Clotilde Hesme, screens Sunday at 7:30 p.m. Get there early; Snap Four, a jazz manouche group, will be performing at 6:45 p.m.
A grieving nation
“Letters to Jackie: Remembering President Kennedy,” from Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Bill Couturie (“Common Threads: Stories From the Quilt”), will have its Boston premiere Tuesday at the John F. Kennedy Library. Based on Ellen Fitzpatrick’s book “Letters to Jackie: Condolences of a Grieving Nation,” the film features 20 celebrities, including Viola Davis, Channing Tatum, Laura Linney, and Anne Hathaway, reading letters sent to Jacqueline Kennedy in the two months after President Kennedy’s assassination on Nov. 22, 1963. The JFK Library houses the letters in its archives and provided Fitzpatrick access to them. A discussion with letter writers and others involved with the film follows the screening.