People gather July 7 for opening night of the Maine International Film Festival at the Skowhegan Drive-In Theatre. MIFF wrapped its 10-night run on Thursday. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

The 23rd annual Maine International Film Festival came to a close Thursday night with 225 people turning out at the Skowhegan Drive-In Theater for a screening of Andrew Cohn’s comedy “The Last Shift.”

The film follows a white, Midwestern, working-class man, played by Academy Award nominee Richard Jenkins, who discovers unsettling truths about himself and the world around him when he starts training Jevon, a bright, young black man who will replace him at a fast-food restaurant.

“Last night was great really. It was definitely a nice way to close up the festival,” Festival Director Mike Perreault said during a phone call Friday. “And the film spoke in a pretty powerful way to what’s going on right now not just in Maine or the country but across the entire world.” 

In light of recent protests against police brutality, this year’s festival was dedicated to people of color who have lost their lives because of racist violence.

In addition to placing an emphasis on featuring Black filmmakers, all donations that were made to the festival will go to the Black Public Media’s COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund.

Black Public Media, formerly known as the National Black Programming Consortium, is an organization that develops, produces, funds and distributes media content about the African American and global Black experience.


As of Friday afternoon, Perreault said the festival had raised more than $2,800 for the BPM fund, with a few more donations expected.

“I’d say we’ll be in the $3,000 ballpark range, and we’re really proud of that,” Perreault said. “It’s going to a really important cause and a cause that we believe in here at MIFF.” 

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 10-day festival had to change venues and cut down the program.

MIFF is typically held at the 810-seat Waterville Opera House and Railroad Square Cinema, which has three screens, in Waterville. The drive-in theater at 201 Waterville Road in Skowhegan can accommodate about 350 cars.

Modifying the festival is something Perreault said wasn’t easy but ended up working out.

“I think we made the best of a really challenging situation,” Perreault said. “Our staff is so hard working and flexible so we were really able to implement this huge change to fit our festival format.” 


Festivalgoers also responded well to the health and safety guidelines that were implemented this year.

“The audience had a great time,” Perreault said. “They were really amazing about wearing a mask, social distancing from one another, just following all of the proper precautions that we asked them to. But even while doing that, they were still able to connect with each other, and a lot of people hadn’t seen each other in months so that was really great to see.” 

The success of this year’s festival has brought a whole new sense of excitement to festival staff, according to Perreault.

“We all feel really energized by this response,” Perreault said. “Overall it was a really successful festival, and of course we’re looking forward to plan for next year.” 

The festival is a project of the Maine Film Center, a local nonprofit that seeks to educate and entertain through art and film. The center also operates Railroad Square Cinema in Waterville.

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