From James Brown to General Tso: 10 films to see at the Camden International Film Festival this year

Photo from Bridget Besaw, director of "Growing Local," which screens at CIFF this year.

Photo from Bridget Besaw, director of “Growing Local,” which screens at CIFF this year.

The thing that festival director Ben Fowlie likes to point out about the Camden International Film Festival — the tenth edition of which kicks off on Thursday, Sept. 25 — is that it’s entirely possible the average festival-goer could end up sitting next to the maker of the film they’re watching.

“It’s uncommonly intimate,” said Fowlie “We are showing 33 features and 30 of them have q&a panels accompanying them. That can’t be replicated at a big festival.”

In addition to the many screenings of films both feature-length and short, CIFF also offers a chance for young filmmakers to network with industry professionals and even get a shot and getting their films produced and distributed. Last year, CIFF and its Points North Documentary Forum partnered with the New York Times to allow filmmakers to pitch a doc idea for the NYT’s Op-Docs series; this year Points North partners with Al Jazeera to do the same.

Below is a list of ten films — short and long, Maine-related and not — that are just some of the highlights of what’s showing at CIFF this year. For more information and a full schedule, visit

The Hermit — Screens at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland as part of “Dirigo Shorts”

In May 2013, one of the most compelling stories to ever come out of Maine surfaced: the wild tale of the North Pond Hermit, Christopher Knight, who’d lived in complete solitude in the Maine woods for 27 years. Filmmaker Lena Friedrich — a French-American also seen in films including “Inglourious Basterds” — premieres her short documentary, interviewing various people associated with the Knight case (including BDN photographer Troy Bennett).

Growing Local — Screens at 5 p.m. Sunday at Strand Theatre in Rockland as part of “Dirigo Shorts”

Maine filmmaker Bridget Besaw shot three vignettes illustrating Maine’s thriving farm culture. “CHANGING HANDS: Rocky Ridge Organic Dairy” details the struggles of a Maine dairy farm to adapt to a changing industry; “PIG NOT PORK: Farmers Gate Market” showcases Maine’s burgeoning local meat scene; and “SEEDING A DREAM: Sheepscot General Store & Uncas Farm” shows how Maine farmland is being transformed.

The Search for General Tso — Screens at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Strand Theatre

General Tso’s Chicken is on the menu at Chinese restaurants all across the nation. Filmmaker Ian Cheney — a part-time resident of Waldoboro and the director of documentaries “King Corn” and “The City Dark” — investigates the history of this iconic dish, as well as the history of Chinese food, immigration and how foodways change over the years.

Wild Home — Screens at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Strand Theatre

Aislinn Sarnacki’s article about Bob and Julie Miner, who run a wild animal sanctuary in Mt. Vernon in Kennebec County, told a story about the lions, tigers, monkeys, kangaroos and other creatures at the park. Director Jack Schuman illuminates the story further, detailing Bob Miner’s life as a Vietnam Vet suffering from PTSD, and how the animals helped him.

Desert Haze — Screens at noon Saturday at Bayview Street Cinemas, Camden

The evocative documentary tells a mostly visual story of the American west and the history of human occupation of the great western deserts, from archaeological digs to cowboys to astronauts training for missions to Mars. Directed by Belgian documentarian Frederik Nicolai.

Mr. Dynamite — Screens at 8:45 p.m. Saturday at the Strand Theatre

This Mick Jagger-produced James Brown doc — directed by Oscar-winner Alex Gibney — will screen at CIFF this year, a full month before it premieres on HBO on Oct. 27. Made with the cooperation of Brown’s estate, it features rare and never-before-seen footage, interviews and photos from throughout Brown’s career, as well as  interviews with Jagger, Questlove, Chuck D, Al Sharpton, Maceo Parker, Bootsy Collins and many more.

Happiness — Screens at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Camden Opera House

A few years after his documentary “Babies,” which followed four babies in the first years of their lives in the U.S., Japan, Namibia and Mongolia, filmmaker Thomas Balmès debuts “Happiness,” about the country of Bhutan, long dubbed the happiest nation in the world. Balmes takes a look at how the people of Bhutan adapt their “happy” culture to modern technology and communications.

Point and Shoot — Screens at 9 p.m. Friday, Strand Theatre

In 2006, shy 26-year-old Matt VanDyke left home in Baltimore and set off on a self-described “crash course in manhood.” He bought a motorcycle, embarked on a trip through North Africa and the Middle East, and found himself joining in the fight against dictator Muammar Gaddafi, whose forces later captured him. Two-time Academy Award nominated documentary filmmaker Marshall Curry captures his story.

Silenced — Screens at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Strand Theatre

Academy Award nominated documentarian James Spione investigates what really happened inside the U.S. security establishment after Sept. 11. After the Edward Snowden whistleblowing revelation, what happens to people who want to tell the truth? The film features interviews with four prominent government whistleblowers.

A festival pass is $85; an all access pass which includes parties is $175. Individual screenings are $10.

Emily Burnham

About Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native, UMaine graduate, proud Bangorian and a writer and editor for Bangor Metro Magazine, the Weekly and the Bangor Daily News, where she's worked since 2004. She reports on everything from local bands to local food to all the cool things going on in the Greater Bangor area. In her quest for stories, she's seen countless concerts and plays, been lobster fishing, interviewed celebrities, hung out with water buffalo and played in a ukulele orchestra. She's interested in everything that happens in Maine. Albums for review are accepted digitally only; please no CDs.