WATERVILLE — The Maine Film Festival is still two weeks away, but Mary Carpinito is already excited.
The co-owner of the downtown eatery Amici’s Cucina, Carpinito knows full well the impact the annual event has on the city.
“We definitely get a lot of business from it,” said Carpinito, who will host two festival receptions at the restaurant. “The more business we have in downtown Waterville, the better off we all are.”
Aside from being an economic boost, the festival starting July 12 creates a flurry of excitement during its 10-day run as thousands of film enthusiasts from around the world gather at both Railroad Square Cinema and the Waterville Opera House to view 100 independent American and foreign films.
They stay at area hotels, eat at local restaurants and shop locally. Carpinito said she sees a dramatic increase in business during the festival run.
A restaurant patron from Oklahoma was in town during a prior festival, learned about it and is returning this year to attend, according to Carpinito.
“The people that come are wonderful,” she said. “We have extra staff on hand. We prepare for it.”
Christian Savage, program assistant at the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce, said his organization sees a huge influx of visitors to the Waterville area during the festival. They not only sleep, shop and eat here, they also take advantage of recreational activities, both in and outside of Waterville during their stay.
“It definitely benefits the entire region,” Savage said.
Actors, film directors, writers and producers share their craft with audiences in various festival venues, including public receptions and question-and-answer sessions before and after movie screenings.
Festival Executive Director Shannon Haines is on the home stretch as the festival nears, finalizing schedules for about 50 visiting filmmakers and wrapping up other details.
“I know I say this every year, but it feels like one of the most exciting festivals to date,” she said.
The festival is a project of the Maine Film Center, of which Haines also is executive director, and is sponsored by Colby College and Bangor Savings Bank.
Keith Carradine, actor, producer and songwriter, will receive the festival’s 2013 Mid-Life Achievement Award.
The award ceremony will be 6:30 p.m., July 15, at the Waterville Opera House and will coincide with a screening of Carradine’s 1976 film, “Nashville.”
Carradine won both an Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Original Song, with “I’m Easy,” which was featured in the film. He was nominated for a Tony Award this year for his role in the Broadway show, “Hands on a Hardbody.”
Other Carradine films to be showcased during the festival are “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” and “Thieves Like Us.”
Honoring Carradine also has been a longtime goal of festival officials. He is a great actor, whose music is nearly as important to him as his acting, according to festival programmer Ken Eisen.
“His new film, ‘Ain’t Them Bodies Saints,’ is a wonderful film,” he said.
Mid-Life Achievement winners include Ed Harris, Sissy Spacek, Lili Taylor, John Turturro, Peter Fonda, Jonathan Demme, Thelma Schoonmaker, Terrence Malick, Malcolm McDowell, Jay Cocks, Bud Cort, Walter Hill and Jos Stelling.
Carradine’s appearance will accompany a festival highlight honoring the late director Robert Altman, “Celebrating Robert Altman.”
Altman’s widow, Kathryn, as well as Carradine and other actors who appeared in Altman’s films — Michael Murphy, Allan Nicholls and Mike Kaplan — will introduce and discuss Altman’s films.
“He is one of the greatest directors of all time, and to be able to celebrate him in this way is a huge honor for us,” Haines said.
Altman films to be shown include “Short Cuts,” “Luck,” “Trust & Ketchup: Robert Altman in Carver Country,” “McCabe and Mrs. Miller,” “Kansas City,” and “A Prairie Home Companion.”
Annie Ross, who starred in “Short Cuts,” and created its soundtrack, will perform in concert at 8 p.m., Wednesday, July 17 at the Opera House. She is one of the early practitioners of the singing style vocalese, in which original lyrics are set to an instrumental jazz solo.
Another festival highlight is the return of Oscar winning director Demme, recipient of the festival’s 2002 Mid-Life Achievement Award. Demme will present a program of music films, “Demme Does Music.” His documentary “Enzo Avitabile Music Life” will premiere at the festival on opening night. Demme films including “Stop Making Sense” and “Storefront Hitchcock,” will be shown at the festival.
Another special guest this year will be Ernest Thompson, Academy Award-winning writer of the screenplay for “On Golden Pond,” which was adapted from his Belgrade Lakes-inspired play. The movie was filmed in New Hampshire, where Thompson, formerly of the Waterville area, lives. His new film, “Time and Charges,” will premiere at the festival, and he will host a free workshop.
“That’s going to be a homecoming and a really exciting event,” Eisen said. “It’s our centerpiece film this year.”
Maine-made films always are a focus of the festival. This year, two works in progress will be featured.
The first is a 30-minute film, “Hermythology,” a preview for Lene Friedrich’s in-progress documentary by Lene Freidrich, “The Hermit of North Pond,” about Christopher Knight’s 27 years in the Maine woods around Smithfield.
Also featured is “Lost on a Mountain in Maine,” about 12-year-old Donn Fendler’s experience on Mount Katahdin in in 1939, by Waterville native Ryan Cook and Derek Desmond, of New Hampshire.
“They’ve (Cook and Desmond) shot 20 minutes of footage, which I’ve seen, and which is spectacular,” Eisen said. “It’s a Hollywood-looking movie. It’s very, very professional looking and attractive.”
“The Guide,” shot in the winter in Rangeley and Rumford, is written and directed by John Meyers. Jason Mancine of Jay composed and recorded the film score over a five month period in his studio, and Nancy Bessey, of Rangeley, is executive producer.
“This is a really gripping, dramatic movie, which is a genuine homegrown article,” Eisen said.
The festival has a new film shorts programmer, Eisen’s wife, Karen Young, an actress and frequent festival guest.
The star of films including “Heading South” and “Bonne Anee,” Young, also played an FBI agent in the HBO series, “The Sopranos.”
The re-discovery, or retrospective, portion of the festival will feature eight older films, including “Leave Her to Heaven,” a film noir set in Maine and shot partially in Maine, in Technicolor.
“This was very unusual in 1945 when Hollywood didn’t film much on location at all,” Eisen said. “It’s a really fascinating, interesting film and I’ve been wanting to show it for years. We’ve got a fantastic 35mm print.”
The festival will also honor film editor Pam Wise, whose work includes the films “Secretary,” and “Transamerica.”
“She’s a really, highly regarded editor and she does make more edgy movies,” Eisen said.
The closing night film, “Short Term 12,” is about kids in group homes — a serious topic examined with sensitivity.
“It is an amazing, amazing film that is both really emotionally strong and yet, very, very, very funny,” Eisen said.
Those attending the festival start arriving in the city a few days before opening night. Area businesses will be ready.
“We get a lot of people that are from away that are here for the festival,” said Darlene Ratte, assistant general manager for Best Western Plus on Upper Main Street. “Most of the time, we find that they come for two or three or four days, which is excellent. It’s longer than just a one-night stay. Several people come from various parts of the U.S., and some from different countries.”
Nicole Desjardins, director of sales and marketing for Hampton Inn on Kennedy Memorial Drive, said July is a peak time for the hotel, so it is busy, but some of those attending the festivial stay there and book their rooms a year in advance.
“They come for MIFF every year,” she said. “One is a sponsor. They’re great people. They come every year and they want the same room.”
Amy Calder — 861-9247