CAMDEN — The Camden International Film Festival (CIFF) has announced the slate of feature and short films for its 19th edition, which will take place in person from September 14-17 at venues in Camden and Rockland, and online from September 18-25 for audiences across the US.
YETI, MSNBC Films, and RandomGood Foundation return as Headlining Sponsors, and are joined this year by The deNovo Initiative and longtime sponsor National Geographic Documentary Films.
“A program of the Points North Institute, CIFF remains widely recognized as one of the most vital platforms championing cinematic nonfiction works from global filmmakers and one of the most anticipated documentary festivals of the year, attracting one of the largest industry gatherings in the US,” said Points North, in a news release. “The festival is increasingly becoming an Oscar campaign hotspot, showcasing a number of awards contenders premiering in the fall to US-based audiences for the very first time.”
This year's edition is the most international and formally adventurous to date and includes 33 features and 27 short films from 28 different countries. Fifty percent of the program is directed or co-directed by BIPOC filmmakers, and this is the 7th consecutive edition the festival has reached gender parity within the program. Sixty percent of the program will be US or North American premieres, including several new titles from TIFF, alongside award-winning films from Sundance, Berlin, IDFA, Tribeca and Visions du Réel. For the first time in the festival's history, films included in its two major competitions, the Harrell and Cinematic Visions competitions, will all be US premieres.
"As the development and distribution of independent documentary films become increasingly more difficult, we believe this program is a reminder of the incredible value of documentary film as a singularly powerful art form and its extraordinary ability to resonate with audiences," says Ben Fowlie, Executive and Artistic Director of the Points North Institute, and Founder of the Camden International Film Festival. "Through 60 different film experiences, we explore the beautiful relationship between content and form, examining the power of the image, engaging with the potential of the archive, and immersing ourselves in the personal stories that help us to reflect, reimagine, and relate to one another. Cinema is a beacon, and we are grateful to the filmmakers who have made these works and shared these stories.”
The festival will officially open with Beyond Utopia, Madeleine Gavin's gripping and unforgettable cinematic experience following the high-stakes journey of families attempting to escape North Korea. The film premiered at Sundance, where it took home the Audience Award: US Documentary.
Major Festival highlights include the US premieres of Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney’s In Restless Dreams: The Music Of Paul Simon, the definitive portrait of the iconic songwriter, Oscar-nominated director Raoul Peck’s Silver Dollar Road, a searing documentary about a Black family’s decades-long fight to maintain waterfront land in North Carolina they’ve rightfully owned for generations against corrupt developers, and Defiant, Karim Amer’s gripping documentary that follows key Ukrainian officials as they battle to save their country.
Other new films from award-winning directors include The Pigeon Tunnel, an inventive and engaging interview with spy novelist John le Carré by Oscar-winning director Errol Morris, The Mission, the latest film from Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine about American missionary John Chau, who was killed by arrows while attempting to contact one of the world’s most isolated indigenous peoples, and Eastern Front, an immersive portrait of the frontlines of the Ukraine-Russia war by auteur and exiled director Vitaly Mansky.
CIFF will also present the world premiere of One With The Whale, a film about an Alaskan family’s struggle to recover from animal activists’ online assaults against their teenage son, the youngest person to ever harpoon a whale for his village.
The festival will present a number of North American and US premieres from some of the most inventive filmmakers working across the globe. Films include Martín Benchimol’s docufiction Berlinale hit, El Castillo, a cinematic reverie of inheritance and love situated in the heart of the Argentinian pampa, A Golden Life, Boubacar Sangaré’s dynamic debut feature and journey through the intricate and economic politics of small-scale gold mines in Burkina Faso, Visions du Réel’s Burning Light Prize winner, Knit’s Island, a deep character study shot entirely inside a video game, Sonia Ben Slama’s Acid-Cannes title Machtat, a powerful and rhythmic family portrait of three Tunisian woman asserting their voices against all odds, and writer Paul B. Precadio’s directorial-debut and Berlin-winning film Orlando, My Political Biography, which uses Virginia Woolf’s novel as a building block for a modern and innovative take on trans* life and queerness.
The feature slate also includes four alumni of Points North’s Artists Programs, all of which were supported through the Points North Fellowship, the organization’s longest running development program. Sierra Urich’s Joonam, which premiered at Sundance, Jude Chehab’s Q which premiered at Tribeca and won the Albert Maysles Award for Best New Documentary Director, Pedro de Filippis’s Rejeito (Tailings), which premiered at Cinéma du Réel in Paris, and Brian Becker and Marley McDonald’s Time Bomb Y2K which will premiere on HBO later this year.
The festival’s commitment to showcasing the incredible artistry behind short form continues with a global slate of shorts that includes World Premiere of What These Hands Do by Oscar-nominated director, Bing Liu, Camp Courage by Max Lowe and Más y más y más flores by César Martínez Barba, which was developed at Points North’s North Star Fellowship last fall. The program also includes new work from internationally acclaimed award-winning filmmakers including Maryam Tafakory’s Mast-Del, Bill Morrison’s Incident, Aylin Gökmen’s Ever Since, I Have Been Flying and Takashi Makino’s Anti-Cosmos.
Storyforms, CIFF’s exhibition of immersive experiences will feature a range of forms and styles within nonfiction, including a live performance by filmmaking duo Hannah Jayanti and Alexander Porter, Strata: a performance of Topography; Sundance’s award-winning producer Keith Wilson, debuting his genre-bending performance piece: Moore for Sale; as well as the premiere of the first episodes of World Records’ podcast: Trust Issues, co-produced by Jason Fox & Aliya Pabani. CIFF will also feature an installation at the Rockland Contemporary Museum of Art by visual artist Daïchi Saïto, earth, earth, earth. The museum will also be home for the multisensorial VR piece by Winslow Porter and Elie Zananiri, Forager.
Organizers also announced that CIFF will continue with its Filmmaker Solidarity Fund for the fourth consecutive year. Established in 2020, this year the fund will provide honoraria of approximately $300 to all feature and short filmmaking teams participating in the virtual festival. Over four years, the fund will have distributed nearly $70,000 to participating CIFF filmmakers. For the second consecutive year, the Filmmaker Solidarity Fund is made possible by support from Bright West Entertainment.
This year Points North continues the tradition of in-person panels through the festival’s Points North Forum program, sponsored by ESPN, which will feature conversations around the depiction of landscapes as protagonists in relation to the nonfiction cinematic gaze, artistic encounters with the archive in a discussion between award-winning filmmakers Mila Turajlic, Vlad Petri and Youssef Srouji, and The Art of the Pitch,, featuring an array of prominent filmmakers and industry representatives.
Similar to prior years, the festival will run concurrently with Points North Artist Programs. Twenty-two projects will be supported through four Points North led fellowship programs. In total, nearly seventy fellows will be on the ground via partnerships with other artist fellowships and labs from Bay Area Video Coalition, Hot Docs, POV, Chicken & Egg Pictures and the American Film Showcase, making the CIFF weekend the most dynamic and intimate documentary market experience in the US.
A complete list of the program’s features and short films can be found below.
2023 Camden International Film Festival Features
Lea Glob | Denmark
When filmmaker Lea Glob met Apolonia Sokol, she knew there was a film there, but neither of them knew that it would take over 13 years to make. The intimate friendship that ensued rendered a powerful portrait of how an artist is born.
THE ARC OF OBLIVION
Ian Cheney | USA
THE ARC OF OBLIVION explores a quirk of humankind: in a universe that erases its tracks, we humans are hellbent on leaving a mark. Set against the backdrop of the filmmaker's quixotic quest to build an ark in a field in Maine, the film heads far afield to illuminate the strange world of archives, record-keeping, and memory.
Vlad Petri | Romania, Croatia, Qatar Iran | US Premiere
In an epistolary exchange between Zohra (Tehran) and Maria (Bucharest), a space is created to read between the lines of their relationship, are they more than just friends? In parallel, the letters reveal a forgotten cultural bond between their countries.
Madeleine Gavin | USA, Korea, Laos, Thailand
A suspenseful look into the lived experience of fleeing North Korea. By embarking on this journey, defectors risk severe punishment and possible execution - all to abandon a paradise they’ve believed in their whole lives.
Martin Benchimol | Argentina, France | US Premiere
Having worked as a housekeeper all her life, Justina inherits from her former employer an enormous castle in the middle of the Argentine pampas. The inheritance comes with a singular condition: she must never part with it.
Clair Titley | UK | US Premiere
The incredible true story of a man who lived for 15 months trapped inside a small room, naked, starving and alone… and completely unaware that his life was being broadcast on national TV in Japan, to over 15 million viewers a week.
Karim Amer | Ukraine, UK, USA | US Premiere
A gripping documentary that follows Ukraine's Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, and other key figures in the administration as they battle to save their country against the might of Russia during the invasion of February 2022.
Vitaly Mansky, Yevhen Titarenko | Latvia, Ukraine, Czech Republic, USA | US Premiere
Six months on the front lines of war with a Ukrainian medical unit.
Pau Faus | Spain | US Premiere
A science fiction fable about humans and animals, Fauna is the story of two worlds, seemingly antagonistic, that end up being two sides of the same coin. Two intertwined stories that illustrate the complex relationship between humans and nature.
A GOLDEN LIFE
Boubacar Sangare | Burkina Faso, Benin, France | North American Premiere
In Burkina Faso, in the gold-digging site of Bantara, Rasmané, 16 years old, descends more than 100 meters deep in artisanal mines to extract gold. Anxious about accidents, Rasmané makes his way in this world of fierce adults in the hope of one day becoming emancipated.
Daniel Mccabe | USA | US Premiere
Filmed over the course of three seasons, GRASSHOPPER REPUBLIC follows a local grasshopper trapping team in verité style, as these modern-day prospectors push into remote forests seeking their fortune by capturing this elusive prey.
A HAWK AS BIG AS A HORSE
Sasha Kulak | France | North American Premiere
Lydia a queer ornithologist who lives in Shcherbinka, embarks on remaking David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, and decides to create Lara, a life-size silicone doll she has been made from scratch.
IN RESTLESS DREAMS: THE MUSIC OF PAUL SIMON
Alex Gibney | USA | US Premiere
The definitive musical biography of Paul Simon, one of the greatest songwriters (and performers) in the history of rock ‘n roll. Granted unprecedented access to the making of a new album, the filmmakers also show never-before-seen footage of Simon’s extraordinary career, from Simon & Garfunkel to the phenomenal global success of Simon’s solo album “Graceland."
IN THE SHADOW OF LIGHT
Ignacia Merino Bustos, Isabel Reyes Bustos | Chile | North American Premiere
In a small town in Chile, rural life deals with the electric grid that provides power to the rest of the country. In the darkness, the threatening presence of the large-scale industrial complex reveals the workings of an unequal system.
Sierra Urich | USA
Spurred by a provocative family memory and a lifetime of separation from the country her mother left behind, a young filmmaker delves into her mother and grandmother's complicated pasts, and her own fractured Iranian identity.
Ekiem Barbier, Guilhem Causse, Quentin L'helgoualc'h | France | North American Premiere
In the guise of avatars, a film crew enters an online video game. They come into contact with a community of players and meet their stories, fears, and aspirations.
THE LADY BIRD DIARIES
Dawn Porter | USA
From award-winning filmmaker Dawn Porter comes a groundbreaking documentary film that uses Lady Bird Johnson's audio diaries to tell the story of one of the most influential and least understood First Ladies in history.
THE LAST YEAR OF DARKNESS
Ben Mullinkosson | China, USA
THE LAST YEAR OF DARKNESS revolves around a small club called Funky Town, the go-to party space for a group of twenty-year-old DJ’s, drag performers, lovers, ravers and skaters in China. In this unassuming corner bar hidden by Chengdu’s construction cranes, five locals escape their stress, even if it’s only for the night. But as the sun rises and the cranes begin to move again, our protagonists are forced to face what brought them to the party in the first place.
Sonia Ben Slama | Tunisia, Lebanon, France, Qatar | US Premiere
Mahdia, Tunisia. Fatma and her daughters, Najeh and Waffeh, work as "machtat", traditional wedding musicians. While the eldest, divorced, tries to remarry to escape the authority of her brothers, the youngest seeks a way to breakup with her abusive husband.
Angie Vinchito | Russia | North American Premiere
This found footage film is composed entirely of often-shocking videos that Russian teenagers have posted on social media.
Milisuthando Bongela | South Africa, Colombia
Explored through the memories of Milisuthando, who grew up during apartheid but didn’t know it was happening until it was over, the story is a meditation on power, intimacy, difference, and the weight of loving and fearing your enemy in a time of decolonisation.
Jesse Moss, Amanda McBaine | USA
A missionary’s obsession with the remote Sentinelese people proves fatal.
NON-ALIGNED: SCENES FROM THE LABUDOVIĆ REELS
Mila Turajlić | Serbia, France, Croatia, Montenegro, Qatar | US Premiere
Using a trove of unseen archives and the diaries of the cameraman who filmed them,
Non-Aligned reveals the behind-the-scenes of a political dream; Ciné-Guerrillas plunges us into the impact of cinema joining the struggle against colonialism."
ONE WITH THE WHALE
Peter Chelkowski, Jim Wickens | Sivuqaq (St Lawrence Island), USA, UK, Portugal | World Premiere
A heartwarming, yet thrilling tale of an Alaskan family’s struggle to recover from animal activists’ online assaults against their teenage son, the youngest person to ever harpoon a whale for his village.
ORLANDO: MY POLITICAL BIOGRAPHY
Paul B. Preciado | France
In this maximalist celebration of trans* and nonbinary lives, director Paul B. Preciado employs an all-ages cast of players to embody Virgina Woolfe’s gender-bending protagonist, Orlando.
Errol Morris | UK
Academy Award-winning documentarian Errol Morris pulls back the curtain on the storied life and career of former British spy David Cornwell — better known as John le Carré, author of such classic espionage novels as The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Constant Gardener.
Jude Chehab | USA, Lebanon
God works in mysterious ways and so do women. For 50 years, a secretive matriarchal religious order has stolen the hearts of thousands of women. Q unravels the unspoken ties of devotion that have bonded the filmmaker, her mother, and her grandmother to the group, stealing not only her mother's heart but her soul.
Agniia Galdanova | France, USA
Gena, a queer artist from a small town in Russia, dresses in otherworldly costumes and protests the government on the streets of Moscow. She stages radical performances in public, which becomes a new form of art and activism – and puts her life in danger.
Pedro de Filippis | Brazil, USA | US Premiere
After the largest mining dam breaks in history, further dam collapses threaten millions in Brazil. A state counselor confronts the modus operandi of the government, while dam refugees resist the abuses of the mining companies in their threatened communities.
SILVER DOLLAR ROAD
Raoul Peck | USA | US Premiere
From Academy-Award Nominee Raoul Peck, SILVER DOLLAR ROAD follows the story of the Reels family as told by the matriarch Mamie Reels Ellison and her niece Kim Renee Duhon, two fierce and clear-eyed women bending to safeguard valiantly their ancestors' land and their brothers and uncles Melvin and Licurtis, who were wrongfully imprisoned for eight years - the longest sentence for civil contempt in North Carolina history.
A STORM FORETOLD
Christoffer Guldbrandsen | Denmark | US Premiere
With Trump‘s political godfather, Roger Stone, as its central character, this film documents how Trump‘s presidential period found its logical endpoint with the January 6th Insurrection. Director Guldbrandsen set out to follow the ‘Make America Great Again’ movement, and became a close witness to the historical events at the center of American democracy.
Yousef Srouji | Palestine, Lebanon, United States | US Premiere
While the Israeli army retaliates against the Second Intifada in the West Bank in the early 2000s, a mother films her family's daily life, punctuated by time spent shielding her family from harm in the basement. Now, her son revisits this past, delivering a heart-breaking portrait of the anguish of parents who are forced to choose between their children’s physical safety and the emotional upheaval of leaving home.
TIME BOMB Y2K
Brian Becker, Marley McDonald | USA
As the clock counts down to the dawn of the new millennium, America is forced to contend with the largest technological disaster to ever threaten humanity. Crafted entirely through archival footage, Time Bomb Y2K examines how we grapple with existential threats in an increasingly technological world.
2023 Camden International Film Festival Shorts
Lawrence Abu Hamdan | UK | 2022
A ROBUST HEART
Martin Benchimol | Argentina, USA, UK | 2023 | US Premiere
ALL THAT IS SACRED
Scott Ballew | USA | 2023
Enrique Pedráza-Botero, Faye Tsakas | USA | 2023
AMMA KI KATHA
Nehal Vyas | India, USA | 2023 | World Premiere
Takashi Makino | Japan | 2022
BAY OF HERONS
Jared Lank | USA | 2023 | US Premiere
BEHIND THE SUN
Bentley Brown | USA, Saudi Arabia | 2023 | US Premiere
Helena Girón, Samuel M. Delgado | Spain | 2023 | US Premiere
Max Lowe | USA | 2023 | World Premiere
Abigail Jakub | USA | 2022
Asli Baykal | Turkey, USA | 2023
River Finlay | USA | 2023
Wes Sterrs | USA | 2023 | World Premiere
EVER SINCE, I HAVE BEEN FLYING
Aylin Gökmen | Switzerland | 2023 | US Premiere
Anna Gyimesi | Hungary, Belgium, Portugal | 2023 | North American Premiere
Bill Morrison | USA | 2023
LET’S GO TO THE MINES
Advik Beni | South Africa, USA | 2022 | World Premiere
LITTLE BOY LOON
Kevin Bay, Julia Thompson | USA | 2023 | World Premiere
MAS Y MAS Y MAS FLORES
César Martínez Barba | Mexico, USA | 2023 | World Premiere
Maryam Tafakory | UK, Iran | 2023 | US Premiere
SO THAT TONIGHT WE MIGHT SEE
Bea Hesselbart | USA | 2023 | World Premiere
Roopa Gogineni | Sudan, Qatar | 2022
Kervens Jimenez | Haiti | 2023 | North American Premiere
WAKING UP IN SILENCE
Mila Zhluktenko, Daniel Asadi Faezi | Germany, Ukraine | 2023
WELCOME TO KING FRIDAY’S DUNGEON
Destiny Arturet | USA | 2022 | World Premiere
WHAT THE HANDS DO
Bing Liu | USA | 2023 | World Premiere
About Points North
Established in 2016, the Points North Institute is the launching pad for the next generation of nonfiction storytellers. Building on the success of the Camden International Film Festival, the Points North Institute’s mission is to bring together a unique, interdisciplinary community of filmmakers, artists, journalists, industry leaders, and audiences, forming a creative hub on the coast of Maine where new stories and talent are discovered, collaborations are born, and the future of nonfiction media is shaped. Programs include the annual Camden International Film Festival and Points North Forum, as well as a year-round calendar of artist development initiatives that nurture the careers of diverse nonfiction storytellers and help them develop a stronger artistic voice.
Founded in 2005 and recognized as one of the top documentary film festivals in the world, the Camden International Film Festival (CIFF) brings innovative nonfiction cinema to the coast of Maine, showcasing 50+ documentary films and immersive works from around the globe each fall.
The 2023 Camden International Film Festival will take place September 14-17, with the virtual festival extending through September 25. Major support for this year’s CIFF and Artist Programs is provided by YETI, National Geographic Documentary Films, MSNBC Films, RandomGood Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, The deNovo Initiative, LEF Foundation, Netflix, Nia Tero, Bright West Entertainment, ESPN Films, Topic Studios, Kanopy, Perspective Fund, and Media Courthouse Documentary Collective.