Camden International Film Festival’s 19th year

For locals: CIFF films to catch this week

Festival runs September 14-17, 2023
Thu, 09/14/2023 - 11:30am

    CAMDEN—The way PenBay Pilot has historically covered the Camden International Film Festival (September 14 -17) is to focus on films that local residents would be willing to take time out of their schedules to see. We talked with Cam Howard, the program coordinator at CIFF about the overall program this year about some staff picks in “Best of Fest” and a few blocks of “Shorts” films to check out.

    “I think this year’s program came together in a very interesting way,” said Howard. CIFF which is known for sleecting boundary-pushing documentaries across the world, is now in its 19th year.

    “People have come to expect from CIFF that there will be films to watch that are a little more out-of-the-box,” said Howard. “We’ve got some films coming right out of the Toronto Film Festival, some distributors like National Geographic, and a lot of films that we love that have already been playing at film festivals around the world.”

    Best of Fest

    See all films here.

    Howard suggested two films that would resonate with Mainers: Joonam and Arc of Oblivion .


    Sunday, September. 17, 10 a.m. Journey’s End, Rockland

    In this documentary memoir, debut director Sierra Ulrich “feels her way through her relationships with her mother, Mitra, and grandmother, Behjat, who emigrated from Iran to Vermont, USA.”

    “The daughter Sierra is the first generation of her family to be born in the United States and the film is all about her trying to learn Persian so she can communicate with her grandmother,” said Howard. “And in trying to learn the language, she comes up against all of these significant roadblocks about what it means to be politically displaced.”

    The Arc of Oblivion

    Sunday, September. 17, 4 p.m. Camden Opera House

    Filmmaker Ian Cheney explores “life’s most existential questions: what it means to be human on this planet, whether anything really lasts; life and death and our place within the universe and in the arc of history.”

    “Ian Cheney has really grown up with CIFF and we’ve really grown up with his career,” said Howard. “It’s all about him thinking through why humans have such an impulse to leave something behind when we die and the lengths we go to in order to leave some kind of archive or trace of ourselves. And the framing device he uses to build that arc is reminiscent of Noah’s Ark out in Waldoboro.”


    CIFF Shorts

    See all short films here.

    The Shorts Program features blocks of short curated films, which have been historically free to the public with the exception of the Maine-themed Dirigo Docs. Howard chose two blocks that would appeal to locals: Where the Mountains Meet The Sea and the Dirigo Docs.

    Where the Mountains Meet The Sea

    Friday, September 15, 10 a.m. Camden Opera House

    There are three shorts in this program, All That is Sacred, Camp Courage, and What The Hands Do.

    “The films in that block are all world premieres, focusing on relationships with the outdoors,” said Howard. “Bing Liu’s film, What The Hands Do, is all about rock climbing and social justice. Max Lowe’s Camp Courage is about displaced Ukrainian refugees who travel to a summer mountaineering camp in the Alps and the third film in that block is so timely. Scott Ballew’s All That is Sacred is all about an arts community that sprung up in the 1960s in Florida and Jimmy Buffet was part of that community. “

    Dirigo Docs

    Sunday, September 17, 1 p.m., The Strand Theatre

    There are seven short films in this block. You can see all of them here.

    “These are all of our Maine-based films and this year we really took to the woods,” said Howard. “Many of these films are about the cycle of life, birth, and a couple of projects that deal with grief in beautiful ways. For example, Eat Flowers is really going to resonate with locals. It’s about local photographer Cig Harvey who was grappling with the death of a dear friend and the film is a celebration of her life.”

    Tickets for individual feature-length films and Dirigo Docs are $15.  Visit CIFF for more info on the rest of the Festival’s various events and programs.

    Kay Stephens can be reached at