Following hot on the heels of AJ Schnack's laudatory post about the Camden International Film Festival today, I'll weigh into the mix, too. Thom Powers introduced me to festival founder, Ben Fowlie, and festival producer, Leah Hurley, this past spring when they came to New York to co-host a screening of Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly's crowd-pleasing and deeply moving documentary, The Way We Get By, with Stranger Than Fiction and P.O.V.
This film had been a work-in-progress screening at last year's CIFF. Realizing that they had the burgeoning programming chops and the potential to nurture important films such as this one, Fowlie and Hurley were intent on upping the ante a bit and really putting their small, regional nonfiction festival on the map as a circuit destination. I heard from many local supporters during the fest this year that, indeed, they were well on their way to doing just that; it was a thrilling event for the whole community to have access to a such a powerful slate of films. Man, the people are friendly there! (Pictured, still of downtown Camden from the film Peyton Place, shot on location there in 1957.)
For the first time this year, they had juried competitions with cash prizes, starting with a best feature category and an emerging vision category. Next year, they will also include an Audience Award, a truly meaningful prize to any filmmaker. Fowlie and Hurley also brought on producer, Dominic Musacchio, to help put on the inaugural Points North forum, bringing a few select industry guests and independent filmmakers together to talk about the current state of things. It was informal and it was real and it was pertinent. But more than that, it was fun. I'm one of those who think the panel presentation format should be put out to pasture. I have come to loathe the words "paradigm shift" and other phrases of that ilk that have nothing to do with a filmmaker's daily existence. There was an engaged, smart local audience and we let them into the conversation.
So this year CIFF caught fire and I'm so glad I got to be a part of that. It's exciting to have another domestic nonfiction fest in such a beautiful spot, run by such talented people. I call "the princess room" at The Inn at Camden Place. The ducks and swans are awaiting my return next year.