Camden Film Festival welcomes top documentary filmmakers and emerging talent – Deadline

When September rolls around, it means one thing for many of the world’s best filmmakers: it’s time to hit the road. Venice, Telluride and Toronto follow each other rapidly, to the point of overlapping. But for documentary filmmakers keen to showcase their work, there’s another big stop to make in September: the Camden International Film Festival in central coastal Maine.

“We’re strategically aligned to be right after Toronto and a week after Telluride, and we’re just documentaries,” points out Ben Fowlie, festival founder and executive director of Points North Institute, which organizes CIFF. “In terms of being able to highlight some of the greatest [awards] contenders, so to speak, we can do it in a way that puts them on the main stage… It’s just the time for us to acknowledge the incredible artistry behind the documentary films we’ll talk about at the end of the episode. year or early next year.

The online iteration of the 18e The Camden International Film Festival wraps up today, wrapping up a 10-day programme. The in-person part wrapped up last Sunday night, a four-day rush featuring some of the biggest names in documentary and film with serious Oscar-winning prospects. Oscar winner Laura Poitras brought All the beauty and bloodshed, his film which has just won the Golden Lion at Venice; Two-time Oscar nominee Steve James shared his latest, A compassionate spy; Margaret Brown came with her next Netflix release Descending, winner of a Special Jury Prize for Creative Vision at Sundance. Director Iliana Sosa and producer Emma D. Miller screened their award nominee What we leave behind a few days before its theatrical release.

Multiple Emmy nominee Chris Smith arrived from Telluride with Sr.his documentary on actor-director Robert Downey Sr., made with the participation of Robert Downey Jr. At the Journey’s End space in Rockland, Maine, one of the festival’s main venues, Smith spoke about the benefits of experience a festival in person again.

'Sr.'  director Chris Smith (L) attends a Q&A at the Camden International Film Festival in Maine

‘Sr.’ director Chris Smith (L) participates in a CIFF Q&A hosted by Eric Hynes
Courtesy of Matthew Carey

“Our last movie came out during the pandemic and it was crazy how it was the first movie I released that you didn’t do a festival and you weren’t talking about it, you didn’t feel like closing which you get to do this [in person]”, said Smith. “There was something that never felt complete about it. So I really enjoy being here and seeing people and talking to people.

Last year’s festival was designed as a hybrid online and in-person event, but the pandemic has impacted on-site attendance.

“It was a small program [in 2021]. Most of the filmmakers were based in the United States because international travel was always a challenge,” Fowlie recalls. “This year the size of the program kind of went back to what it was in 2019, pre-Covid…And it ended up being definitely the most international festival we’ve had.”

Afghan filmmaker Tamana Ayazi, now based in London, visited CIFF with In his hands, her documentary co-directed with Marcel Mettelsiefen on one of Afghanistan’s few female mayors. CIFF has also programmed the work of filmmakers from India, Spain, Iran, Bangladesh and other parts of the world. Fowlie notes, “More international artists were here than ever before.”

Points North Institute Launches Diane Weyermann Fellowship, Honoring Late Participant Content Director and Documentary Champion

Camden Harbor, Maine

Camden Harbor, Maine
Courtesy of Matthew Carey

The festival’s lineup and the beauty of coastal Maine draw a cross section of filmmakers, documentary funders, distributors and other industry professionals to Camden. Many emerging artists are brought to the festival through generous scholarship programs, including the Points North Scholarship, the North Star Scholarship and the LEF/CIFF Scholarship. This aggregation of documentary “stakeholders” provides CIFF and Points North Institute with the opportunity to influence the future direction of the field.

“In a way, that’s going to be the most important strategic goal for our institution over the next few years,” says Fowlie, “to really work with the industry as a whole to center filmmakers first, to think about how we can create a space that is primarily developed to meet their creative needs.

The Points North Pitch event at the Camden International Film Festival

The Points North Pitch event at the Camden International Film Festival, September 17, 2022
Courtesy of Matthew Carey

The Points North Pitch session has become one of the festival’s signature events, a public forum where “six teams of early and mid-career filmmakers” get the chance to pitch their documentary projects in front of a supportive but daunting weighty panel. industry heavyweights (Poh Si Teng of ABC News Studios, Noland Walker of ITVS and Jon-Sesrie Goff of the Ford Foundation were among the panelists this year). Fellows receive helpful feedback and, if they’re really lucky, a lead on potential funding or distribution.

Points North Pitch alum Alex Pritz returned to CIFF this year with his Oscar-nominated National Geographic documentary The territory.

“This festival was very important in our journey because I came to the pitch sessions here in 2019 when I didn’t know anyone,” he told Deadline. “I met some really key collaborators who helped fund parts of the project.”

Camden International Film Festival founder Ben Fowlie (L) and lead programmer Milton Guillén

Camden International Film Festival founder Ben Fowlie (L) and lead programmer Milton Guillén
Courtesy of Matthew Carey

The festival has a way of nurturing young talent and creating a space for attendees to bond organically. Oscar-nominated producer Kellen Quinn and award-winning director Luke Lorentzen first met at CIFF around six years ago and went on to collaborate on the acclaimed 2019 feature-length documentary midnight family. Milton Guillén, filmmaker and teacher of Nicaraguan origin, experienced the festival on several levels before becoming CIFF’s main programmer.

“I am a child of this festival. I was made in this festival. My first movie was created here…I was in the artist grants that we have,” Guillén told Deadline, adding that he pleaded with Fowlie and former senior programmer Samara Chadwick to join the programming team. “I was like, ‘I love you guys so much. I need to be involved. So, I joined the selection committee and put my heart into it. And then when Samara left, I was like, ‘Guys, I’m here for you. I want to do this.'”

Guillén says that while the sky is the only limit for the growth of Points North Institute and its scholarship programs, he would like the festival to remain the warm and friendly event that it has become.

“Whatever goals we pursue, it [festival] is a bonsai. It must remain a bonsai,” he says. “Bonsai must be pruned. The bonsai needs to be watered. We need to make sure that the scale of this festival stays at this intimate and beautiful connection of all of these communities and we allow the roots to really settle down to what we can be on a very small scale.

Sharon Liese (L) and Cynthia Wade, directors of

Sharon Liese (L) and Cynthia Wade, directors of ‘The Flagmakers’
Courtesy of Matthew Carey

CIFF has hosted a handful of world premieres this year, including the short documentary The flag makers, directed by Oscar-winning actress Cynthia Wade and Sharon Liese, which National Geographic will debut for awards season. Another important dimension of Camden is how short documents are handled.

“We’ve worked very hard as an organization to recognize the contributions of short films because I think at many festivals they can be pushed aside or not shown as a feature film,” observes Fowlie. “He is still an artist who devotes a tremendous amount of time, energy and resources to the realization of the work. And so we really prioritized shorts on the main stage.

From shorts to feature documentaries, Camden-born Fowlie can be proud of what the festival has become in 18 years.

“As someone who grew up in this city,” Fowlie says, “it’s sometimes overwhelming to look out into the audience and see the immense talent that fills the seats.”

Darcy J. Skinner