WATERVILLE — Edda Briggs can’t imagine a summer without attending the Maine International Film Festival.

“I’ve been coming for decades,” she said. “I love it. This is my summer vacation. Honestly, I look forward to this all year. I moved to Waterville about five years ago from Hallowell and I think it was partly because of the Maine International Film Festival.”

Edda Briggs, front, has been attending the Maine International Film Festival for many years with her children. Two daughters, Deni Merrill, left, and Greta Thiele, now work for the Maine Film Center, which hosts the 10-day event in Waterville. Saturday was the second day of the festival, which runs through July 16. Amy Calder/Morning Sentinel

Hers has been a life of loving cinema, from the time she was very little, growing up in the suburbs of New York City and watching movie channels on television. As a teenager and college student, her taste in film began to change.

“I was a more discerning filmgoer and then something happened and I became obsessed with really good cinema and I became a student of cinema,” she said. “I’ve taken film classes and I like to read about film and I like to pair books with movies. To me, as a singer, one of the essential things about the best films is the musical score.”

Briggs, who sings with the Colby Kennebec Choral Society, was sitting Saturday afternoon on the second floor of the Paul J. Schupf Art Center, the new home of the Maine Film Center and film festival. It is the first time all of the films are being screened under one roof, in the three new cinemas and the Waterville Opera House which is accessible via a skywalk.

Waiting to see the film, “Karaoke,” Briggs reflected on the many years she lived in Hallowell, raised her children there and traveled to Waterville with them to watch movies at Railroad Square Cinema, the former festival venue. They also attended the annual film festival, which hosts about 100 films during its 10-day fun and draws actors, producers, directors, cinematographers and film enthusiasts from all over the world. This is its 26th year.


Briggs owned a bookstore, RiverBooks, in Hallowell for 25 years before retiring six years ago. Her daughters, Deni Merrill and Greta Thiele work for the Maine Film Center and were busy Saturday at MIFF.

Briggs, who has a bachelors degree in history and a masters in library studies, said she watches about 30 films during the 10 days and the programming is superb.

“If I could have nothing but music, movies and books, that’s all I need,” she said.

The Ragtime Destroyers play Dixieland music Friday as moviegoers take their seats for the opening of the Maine International Film Festival in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Merrill, 31, is a senior patrons services assistant and a venue manager for the film festival and Thiele, 26, is a patrons services assistant. Merrill, who has worked at the film festival for eight years, said she loves the new venue.

“It’s really nice,” she said. “This is the first MIFF in the new building and it’s much more convenient, having it all in one space.”

Thiele was selling concessions. She said that even though she is working, she can sneak into the cinemas now and then to see a film. Asked how many she gets to view over 10 days, she smiled.


Maine International Film Festival attendees take their seats Friday for the premiere and festival opener, “Hangdog,” at the Waterville Opera House in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

“It used to be all that I could afford, but now that I work here, all I can squeeze in, timewise,” she said.

Deborah Dunn, 74, comes all the way from the Republic of Georgia each summer to patronize the festival and visit family in Maine. While she grew up in Augusta, she has lived in Georgia about 10 years where she coaches college students who are doing their teaching practicum. Dunn said the new festival venue is much easier and convenient for older people.

“It’s so much fun,” Dunn said of the event. “When I tell my friends on phone calls, it’s always F-U-N, with capital letters.”

Zach Wallace was working outside the Schupf Center under a tent, coordinating the lineup of film patrons. He called it the central hub, where passholders get in first, then people who bought tickets ahead of time, and then those who were buying at the door.

“I think this is the most organized year so far,” Wallace said. “Everything, so far, has gone very smoothly, especially now that we’re all in one condensed area.”

Opening night was Friday and featured “Hangdog,” a Maine-based film that drew about 400 patrons to the opera house in a celebratory atmosphere, according to Mike Perreault, the festival’s executive director.

“We more than doubled attendance last year,” he said.

The new venue allows patrons to see more than one or two films a day without rushing and they have easy access to dining and shopping downtown, according to Perreault, who emphasized the many Maine-made films at the festival.


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