WATERVILLE — Thousands of filmmakers and moviegoers are about to descend upon Waterville.

Organizers are gearing up for Friday’s night’s opening of the Maine International Film Festival, which will screen nearly 100 independent American-made and international films at Railroad Square Cinema and the Waterville Opera House.

“I really do think it’s the strongest one, overall, that we’ve had,” Ken Eisen, festival programming director, said of this year’s film lineup.

The 22nd annual 10-day festival starts at 6:30 p.m. Friday at the Opera House with the New England premiere of “Blow the Man Down,” a made-in-Maine movie written and directed by Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy. Filmed in and around Harpswell, Cundy’s Harbor, Bailey Island, Orr’s Island and Phippsburg, the movie is billed as a combination of dark humor, suspense and saltiness. A question-and-answer session with the producers will follow the screening, which then will be followed by an opening night party in Castonguay Square downtown. Music by Muddy Ruckus and a live-screen printing demonstration by Outbound Press will be featured.

On Sunday, writer-director Hilary Brougher will receive the festival’s most prestigious award — the Mid-Life Achievement Award — following a 6:30 p.m. showing of her new film, “South Mountain,” at the Opera House. A party for Brougher will follow at 8:30 p.m. at OPA, a downtown restaurant. Brougher is chairman of the film department at Columbia University School of the Arts.

The festival is a project of the Maine Film Center. Festival Director Mike Perreault, who also is executive director of the Film Center, said Thursday that Brougher is “a truly independent filmmaker” who exemplifies everything the festival hopes to embody. This will be the fourth time she has attended the festival.

Alan Sanborn, left, Maine International Film Festival technical director, and Mike Perreault, Maine Film Center executive director, unfurl movie posters in the lobby of the Railroad Square Cinema in Waterville on Wednesday. The 22nd annual event opens Friday. Morning Sentinel photo by David Leaming

“We’re really excited to honor her in this special way,” Perreault said.

Previous award winners include Sissy Spacek, Ed Harris, John Turturro, Bud Cort, Peter Fonda, Glenn Close, Lili Taylor, Terrence Malik, Keith Carradine, Lauren Hutton, Thelma Schoonmaker, Arthur Penn, Walter Hill, Jos Stelling, Malcolm McDowell, Jonathan Demme, Michael Murphy, Jay Cocks, Robert BentonGabriel Byrne and Dominique Sanda.

Festival tickets are available at miff.org or at Railroad Square.

Eisen, who has viewed all of the films and chose more than 50 for the festival, said what he would consider the festival’s film highlights may not be same as that of other moviegoers.

“One of the things I love about the festival is that everyone is going to have their own highlights, with that many films,” he said.

While some of the films feature major stars, he said, those featured at the festival are not those that will appeal to everyone.

“You haven’t seen an ad on TV for anything we’re going to be showing,” Eisen said. “These are not films designed to reach everybody; they’re not films made for everybody in the world, as a lot of expensive films are. I always just encourage people to go to anything that sounds good to them.”

The festival’s presenting sponsors are Colby College and Waterville Creates!. The centerpiece film is “The Gathering: Roots and Branches of Los Angeles Jazz,” directed and produced by Tom Paige. The movie celebrates and continues the legacy of under-recognized jazz genius Horace Tapscott and the South Central African American community around Leimert Park in Los Angeles, to which he devoted his life, according to Eisen.

The film’s world premiere is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Opera House and will be followed by a concert with Los Angeles jazz musicians who appear in the film — Jesse Sharps, Bobby West and Pete Jacobson — at 9 p.m. at the Me Lon Togo restaurant. Eisen said that while Tapscott is as accomplished a jazz musician as many more famous ones such as Miles Davis, he is not as recognized because he chose to devote his time to that particular area of Los Angeles. His music is accessible and enjoyable, according to Eisen.

Austin Frederick, left, and Daniel Ellison hang up movie posters for the Maine International Film Festival in the lobby of the Railroad Square Cinema in Waterville on Wednesday. The 22nd annual event opens Friday. Morning Sentinel photo by David Leaming

“It’s a pretty fascinating story about community and jazz and it’s kind of remarkable that it will premiere here and the musicians will be coming out from L.A., as well as the filmmaker,” Eisen said.

The festival also will feature the “New Argentine Cinema” section, with New England and U.S. premieres of films from Argentina. Eisen and his wife, actress Karen Young, who also is the festival’s shorts programmer, spend a lot of time in Argentina and with the film community there.

“I think there are some really exciting things happening down there, so it’s exciting to me to be presenting this section of Argentine film,” Eisen said.

Other festival features besides the shorts programs include the “Re-Discovery” film section, offered every year and highlighting films that have been newly restored; “A Tribute to Verna Bloom,” to be introduced by Jay Cocks; “A Tribute to Bernardo Bertolucci”; “Wind, Water, and Music: Ethnographic Iran,”; and the closing night film, “Luce,” directed by Julius Onah, to be shown at  7 p.m. July 21 at the Opera House, followed by a 9 p.m. party at Mainely Brews Restaurant and Brewhouse.

MIFFONEDGE will feature several artists and multiple interactive performances throughout the festival at Post Office Square, in the old post office building. It will open at noon Saturday and host an opening reception at 8 p.m. that day.

The 42nd annual Maine Student Film & Video Festival will be held at 12:30 p.m. July 20 at the Opera House and will be followed by a reception at 2:30 p.m. at Portland Pie downtown.

“A slate of some of the best filmmakers from around the state will show their works to the general public,” Perreault said of the student film and video fest.

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