WATERVILLE — A successful 20th annual Maine International Film Festival wrapped up Sunday night by honoring outgoing festival director Shannon Haines, introducing the new director, Mike Perreault, and announcing that “The Sounding” received the Audience Award for Best Film.

Haines has been festival director for 15 years and announced on the Waterville Opera House stage Sunday night that the 20th festival would be her last. The festival drew about 9,000 people during its 10-day run.

Festival programmer Ken Eisen, also a festival founder, said Monday that Haines was admired and respected by everyone involved.

“I said last night that, for me as director of programming, she was always the most supportive director for what I wanted to do than anyone could possibly have, and I’m tremendously grateful for that,” Eisen said. “I’m also sure that was true for everyone else, from whatever capacity.”

Haines said Monday that what she has always loved most about MIFF is the way it “builds community and encourages dialogue, and this year’s 20th anniversary festival was a true embodiment of that spirit with all of our returning guests on top of dozens of new filmmaker guests. It was a great year to go out on.”

Haines said she was really excited to pass the reins over to Perreault, the new projects manager at the Maine Film Center, of which she is former director.

“He has worked with me for five festivals now and is one of the smartest and most capable people I know, so I feel like the future of MIFF is in great hands,” Haines said. “I think that MIFF has a huge impact on Waterville that goes beyond filling the restaurants and hotels, which is obviously a great thing, but the entire atmosphere changes in Waterville during MIFF. There is a strong sense of community and engagement and excitement that I don’t think exists at other times of year. It has been an honor and a privilege to be part of this incredible event for the past 15 years, and I look forward to continuing to support the festival in my new position at Waterville Creates! I also look forward to actually getting a chance to see the movies next year.”

Haines will remain involved with the festival in her role as president and chief executive officer of Waterville Creates! Eisen said that he and she had discussed the fact that, because the Waterville Creates! job is full-time, she would eventually have to relinquish her job as film festival director.

On Sunday night, Haines received gifts from the festival board of trustees and staff, as well as a moose award made by her mother, Laurel McLeod, who creates moose-themed awards for festival achievement award winners. Haines started volunteering at the festival when it began under its first director, Joan Phillips-Sandy, and then Haines became volunteer coordinator before being named director.

Perreault last year was the Opera House venue manager at the fest, according to Eisen.

“He had a lot of experience working with us and has done a fantastic job, and we feel really good going ahead with him,” Eisen said.

“The Sounding,” shot partly on Monhegan Island off the coast of Maine, was co-written and directed by Catherine Eaton, who also starred in the film. It is about a woman raised by her grandfather on an island in Maine and the woman, Olivia, has never spoken. As her grandfather reads Shakespeare aloud to her on his deathbed, he can read no longer and she picks up the book and starts reading aloud — in the language of Shakespeare. Eisen said that, as the festival’s opening night film, “The Sounding” set the stage for a compelling festival.

“It really kick-started us in lots of ways — people just really loved the movie,” Eisen said.

“Lives Well Lived,” produced and directed by Sky Bergman, was runner-up for the audience award. It was about Bergman’s 103-year-old Italian grandmother whom she started filming five years ago as her grandmother cooked and worked out at the gym.

Eisen said there were a lot of highlights to the festival and everyone seemed to have a favorite film or event.

“It was our 20th annual and one of the special things about it is we did invite back many guests from past festivals. That made for a really special festival as well.”

Actor Michael Murphy, screenwriter Jay Cocks and his wife, actor Verna Bloom, and actor Karen Young, Eisen’s wife, were among returning guests.

Actor and model Lauren Hutton on Thursday was awarded the Mid-Life Achievement Award, the festival’s most prestigious accolade.

“She was wonderful — very unusual — a real, one-of-a kind person and certainly nobody’s stereotype of a model,” Eisen said. “Just very much her own self. She was a wonderful guest.”

He said Hutton said this was the first film festival she had ever attended, though she had been in 60 films. Hutton was at the festival a week.

“She was lots of fun,” Eisen said.

He said the festival was graced with beautiful Maine weather which helped film enthusiasts enjoy the state and that is part of what festival organizers try to do — pay attention to guests.

“We really value our guests and we want them to be here and stay and get to appreciate Maine,” he said.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

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Twitter: @AmyCalder17