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Deep thoughts

A stunning Maine-based doc highlights third Camden International Film Festival
By CHRISTOPHER GRAY  |  September 26, 2007

Camden International Film Festival | in Camden and Rockland | September 27-30 | detailed listings on p 37 | $8 per screening; $10 for "Made in Maine" showcase
One of the largest and best-curated documentary film festivals in the region, this year’s Camden International Film Festival is expected to bring about 4000 local and visiting film buffs to the Camden/Rockland area from September 27 through 30.

Nightly features and the entire Sunday lineup will screen at the Strand Theater in Rockland, while many of Friday and Saturday afternoon docs will show at the Bayview Street Cinema in Camden. Beside a handful of high-profile regional premieres and a program of locally-made documentaries at the Farnsworth Art Museum on Saturday morning, it’s an unassuming feature in a weak time slot (Friday at noon) set in Farmington that deserves to steal the show this year.

Knee Deep, a relentlessly surprising feature by Michael Chandler, plays like a rural film noir directed by Errol Morris. In its stab at explaining an attempted murder in Franklin County, the film coherently lays out a story that doesn’t make any sense, while leaving ample room to explore themes of urban development, the rural work ethic, and the curious overlap between truth and mythmaking. It’s also hilarious and full of memorable characters, and we can hope the film will receive a great deal more local attention and screenings.

Among the other films we were able to screen in advance:

Despite a limp ending, Greensboro: Closer to the Truth also does a fine job considering the blur between fact and perspective in reconstructing a gunfight between the Ku Klux Klan and Communist workers in 1970s North Carolina, and its unresolved aftermath.
Kamp Katrina is a unflinching, verité-style document of a woebegone tent community in New Orleans’s Upper 9th Ward. Editor and Camden native Tim Messler will host a post-screening Q&A.

Row Hard No Excuses observes the sometimes-questionable drive of two middle-aged American men’s attempt to win a trans-Atlantic rowing race. Followed by a Q&A with director Luke Wolbach and rower Tom Mailhot.

The Union: The Business Behind Getting High is a film you can expect to hear more about. Screening for just the third time in America and similar in aesthetic to the popular 2004 feature The Corporation, the doc does an even-handed, fairly comprehensive, and entertaining job of explaining both the US and Canadian government’s divergent marijuana policies.

The closing night feature is Jennifer Baichwal’s award-winning Manufactured Landscapes, which follows photographer Edward Burtynsky as he documents images of industrial decay in China. After a fascinating ten-minute opening shot, the film raises a question it doesn’t answer: What are we to make of the disconnect between Burtynsky’s intentions and his incredibly beautiful images?

Also not to be missed are the Maine premiere of the hot documentary Helvetica (an exploration of global visual culture on the 50th birthday of the sleek, ubiquitous typeface), Election Day (which follows a disparate group of voters on the day of George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection), and Jiska Rickels’s 4 Elements (a four-chapter “meditation on mankind’s timeless connection to the natural world”).

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