WATERVILLE — The Maine International Film Festival opens today with Academy Award nominee Karen Black bringing her Maine-made film, “Vacationland,” to the Waterville Opera House.

The 6:30 p.m. world premiere of the film kicks off 10 days of showcasing about 100 independent American and foreign-made films at both the Opera House and Railroad Square Cinema.

Thousands of people from all over the world are expected to attend the 15th annual festival, which features not only films, but also concerts, receptions, parties and discussions with actors, producers, writers and filmmakers.

“We have an incredible selection of Maine-made films this year, which I think we can all be really proud about,” said Shannon Haines, the festival’s executive director.

Black and the entire cast of “Vacationland,” filmed in western Maine, will be on hand for opening night ceremonies and will take part in a question-and-answer session following the showing.

An opening night party will follow at 9 p.m. at Amici’s Cucina restaurant at 135 Main St., downtown.

“All parties and receptions are free and open to the public, as space allows,” Haines said. “One of our main goals is to make everything as accessible as possible.”

Black, a prolific actress who also is a producer, singer, songwriter and screenwriter, has appeared in “Easy Rider,” “The Great Gatsby” and “Nashville,” as well as many other films.

In addition to “Vacationland,” the festival will feature several other Black films, including “Maria My Love,” “Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean,” “The Day of the Locust,” “Five Easy Pieces” and the short film “Help,” which was directed by Black.

Festival programmer and co-founder Ken Eisen says Black’s performance in “Vacationland” is “really quite wonderful.”

“I think it’s a terrific film and I think the people are really going to enjoy it. I really love the film and I’m excited to see how the opening night audience reacts to it.”

Haines, Eisen, Mayor Karen Heck and Darrell Bulmer, acting director of the Maine Arts Commission, are among speakers who will welcome film enthusiasts at tonight’s opening.

Festival events traditionally hosted at the Opera House were moved to other venues last year while it was being renovated. With the renovation now complete, festival events return. A new screen and new sound equipment, as well as permanent film projection equipment, were included in the renovations.

“We’re so excited to be in the newly renovated Opera House and have our audience members there,” Haines said Wednesday.

Opera House Executive Director Diane Bryan said she and others are delighted to have the film festival back in the 810-seat theater.

While the Opera House hosted a re-opening in April, the film festival is the first major event to take place there since the renovation. Bryan and others on Wednesday were tidying up and getting ready for tonight’s celebration.

“We will be ready Friday — we’re trying very hard to clean up for company,” Bryan quipped.

The Opera House will host 31 films and a concert over the 10 days.

Films also will be shown at Railroad Square today, including a 6 p.m. screening of the German film, “Sleeping Dogs,” and the Maine Short Film Program at 6:15 p.m. The 11 short films run anywhere from two minutes to 30 minutes, Haines said. Later films include “Punishment Park” at 9:15 p.m. and “A Real Life” at 9:30 p.m.

Saturday’s events include the world premiere of “Like the Water,” a Maine-made feature to be shown at 6:30 p.m. at the Opera House. The cast and crew will be present and attend a reception at Selah Tea Cafe at 8:30 p.m. Selah Tea is at 177 Main St. downtown.

Then on Sunday, Black will host her film “Five Easy Pieces,” at 6:30 p.m. at the Opera House with an 8:30 p.m. party for Black at Mainely Brews Restaurant & Brewhouse, 1 Post Office Square, afterwards.

Several other events will be hosted Sunday, including a Boom Varietal concert at 3:30 p.m. at the Opera House and a 5 p.m. Malbec Wine Tasting at Riverside Farm Market, 291 Fairfield St., Oakland.

Sunday also will feature Mon-noM with Carl Dimow & the Casco Bay Tummlers Live in Concert at Railroad Square at 6:30 p.m. and a film tribute to American painter Alex Katz at Common Street Arts, 16 Common St. downtown, at 7 p.m.

“It’s going to be a busy, busy day for us,” Haines said.

The Opera House on Tuesday will be the setting for a ceremony to present Academy Award-winning film editor Thelma Schoonmaker with the film festival’s prestigious Mid-Life Achievement Award.

The 6:30 p.m. event will include the screening of “Goodfellas,” a film edited by Schoonmaker and directed by Martin Scorsese.

The festival also will offer showings of restored and classic film prints including “Once Upon a Time in the West” and “Letter from an Unknown Woman.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

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