The Maine International Film Festival Celebrates Its Biggest Premiere Yet

The 26th annual festival debuts its stunning new $18 million venue.

Maine International Film Festival attendees watching a film
Photo by John Meader
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Waterville can seem a bit sleepy in the summer, with so many of its 4,000 resident college students packed up and gone, but it’s a veritable metropolis for 10 days every July, when as many as 10,000 movie lovers, filmmakers, and even stars gather for the Maine International Film Festival. This year’s 26th annual MIFF, July 7 through 16, will feature nearly 100 American independent and international films — plus parties, panels, and more.  

This year’s fest also has a glitzy new home in the just-opened Paul J. Schupf Art Center, which houses three state-of-the-art cinemas featuring 173 seats, a concession area with beer, wine, popcorn, and more, and the offices of MIFF’s organizers, the nonprofit Maine Film Center, which is a division of Waterville Creates. The new theaters, executive director Mike Perreault says, are more comfortable and more technologically equipped than at the organization’s former home, Railroad Square Cinema, with new laser projectors, improved surround sound, and brand-new theater seats. The Waterville Opera House, which hosts many of MIFF’s larger events, including award ceremonies and the annual Centerpiece Gala, is connected to Schupf Arts via the Bibby and Harold Alfond Sky Bridge. “It’s the kind of place where people will feel comfortable spending the entire day enjoying movies,” Perreault says. “Every festival has become such a momentous occasion— it’s really exciting that we’re going to be able to celebrate this one in our new location.” 

Mike Perreault speaking at the 2022 Maine International Film Festival
Mike Perreault speaking at the 2022 Maine International Film Festival. Photo by John Meader

MIFF programming runs the gamut: in the course of a day, a film buff might catch a niche-y documentary, an under-the-radar foreign drama, a restored classic, a shoestring-budget short, or a buzzy indie packed with Hollywood talent. The programming team strives to pack the schedule with as many North American premieres as possible — “movies you wouldn’t be able to see anywhere else in the state,” Perreault says. MIFF’s awards include the juried Tourmaline Prize for Maine-made movies, introduced at last year’s MIFF, which featured 22 homegrown films. “MIFF’s Tourmaline Prizes celebrate the filmmakers who live and work in Maine, tell stories in and about our state, and encourage the future development of our most-promising talent with a cash award, a platform, and an opportunity to exhibit their film,” Perreault says.

The annual Achievement Award honoree is a much-anticipated announcement: notables who’ve turned up to accept in years past include Debra Winger, Glenn Close, Terrence Malick, Ed Harris (for whom the art center’s main box office is named), John Turturro, and Peter Fonda. This year’s recipient is Hungarian filmmaker Ildikó Enyedi, probably best known in the U.S. for On Body and Soul, which was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2018 Oscars and will be screened with the award presentation.

COVID threw the film festival circuit for a loop (MIFF’s 2020 screenings were held outside, at the Skowhegan Drive-In), but last year saw audiences returning in a big way, Perreault says, and with the big, beautiful new venue, he’s confident this year will continue that trend. “People are ready to come back to the movies,” he says. “It’s a different experience than streaming movies on the couch at home. MIFF is about building community. That’s what makes it essential.”

View this year’s screening schedule and purchase MIFF passes here