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January 28, 2019

John Ford film festival takes place in theaters, venues across the state

Photo / Peter Van Allen
Photo / Peter Van Allen
Statue honoring the famous filmmaker and Maine native John Ford in Portland. Independent theaters from Bar Harbor to Rockland, and other venues stretching to Lewiston will all play a part in an ambitious film festival celebrating Maine native John Ford.

Independent theaters from Bar Harbor to Rockland, and other venues stretching to Lewiston will all play a part in an ambitious film festival celebrating Maine native John Ford.

The "John Ford | 125 Years" project is being put on by the Maine Film Center, based in Waterville.

Ford films will be shown in the Alamo Theater in Bucksport, the Colonial in Belfast, the Criterion in Bar Harbor, Eveningstar in Brunswick, Lincoln in Damariscotta and Strand in Rockland. Other venues are the Waterville Opera House, Bates College in Lewiston and the Maine Historical Society in Portland.

Other participants in the festival include Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor, Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, Waterfall Arts in Belfast, and the cinema studies departments at Bates, Bowdoin, and Colby colleges.

Mike Perreault, executive director of Maine Film Center, said Monday that the statewide presentation "is both relevant and fit."

"[Ford's] a native Mainer, a widely celebrated and prolific figure whose films — especially the Western — inspired so many who followed him," he said in an email.

The festival was months in the making, with a lot of work to coordinate all the venues.

"We are thrilled to partner with so many excellent arts and education organizations and local theaters across Maine — they do incredible work to enrich their communities and provide essential spaces for discovery and connection," he said. "We hope this robust and diverse series of films attracts visitors to travel the state to attend screenings of their favorite Ford films."

He added that the economic impact of film festivals in general supports local businesses — "filmgoers not only attend screenings but visit, eat and shop in the local communities where they take place."

"Our flagship celebration, the Maine International Film Festival [which takes place in Waterville over 10 days in July], creates $750,000 in economic activity for local businesses each July, and we are eager to see this series benefit local communities during the tourism off-season."

"Each screening will offer opportunities for open discussion inspired by that film," he said. "Just as important, we hope creative people of all ages in Maine can look to Ford and recognize their own potential to begin their work right here in our state."

He said that the inspiration for the festival arose from the film center's collaboration with Emmy-winning producer Tom Wilhite on several past Maine International Film Festivals.

'A towering Maine figure'

Illustration / Edward Kinsella
Illustration / Edward Kinsella
An image of Oscar-winning film director and Maine native John Ford, created for the "John Ford | 125 Years" film festival.

Perreault said that organizers also hope that the films — which present many of Ford's most well-known works — "will spark dialogue about many of his characters and themes, most quite relevant in today's political and cultural contexts."

The Maine Film Center works to honor the history and enable the practice of film, provide quality and thought-provoking exhibitions, and inspire the next generation of Maine filmmakers.

Ford was born in Cape Elizabeth Feb. 1, 1894, the son of Irish immigrants, and grew up on Munjoy Hill in Portland. He won four Academy Awards as "best director" — a standing record.

He directed more than 140 silent and sound films that cover a diverse array of subjects and categories.

"Consciously or not, many filmmakers today have been influenced by Ford; his westerns in particular are touchstones for cinematic language and storytelling," Perreault said in a news release about the festival.

"Ford's a towering Maine figure so we all agreed this milestone shouldn't pass without recognition from his home state," Perreault said. "Another MFC program is our annual Maine Student Film & Video Conference, which brings together 250 middle and high school filmmakers and educators. It's powerful inspiration for these students to learn that such a historic filmmaker emerged from right here in our state."

What's showing

Courtesy / Maine Film Center
Courtesy / Maine Film Center
A publicity still from John Ford’s “Stagecoach,” which will be shown in Bar Harbor on Sunday, Feb. 3.

Ford made nine pictures in Arizona's Monument Valley, "single-handedly establishing that location as synonymous with Hollywood westerns," the release said.

Three of the Monument Valley westerns — generally considered among his best — will play: "The Searchers," Saturday, Feb. 2, in Rockland; "Stagecoach," Sunday, Feb. 3, in Bar Harbor; and "My Darling Clementine, Monday, Feb. 4, in Brunswick.

All four films for which Ford won the Oscar as Best Director are included in the series: "The Grapes of Wrath," Tuesday, Feb. 5, Lewiston; "The Quiet Man," Wednesday, Feb. 6, Damariscotta; "How Green Was My Valley," Saturday, Feb. 8, Belfast; and "The Informer," Sunday, Feb. 9, Waterville.

During World War II, Ford was a commissioned Naval Reserve officer, supervising a team of filmmakers in the OSS Field Photographic Unit and overseeing production of more than 80 training and documentary films, including two Oscar winners he directed: "December 7" and "The Battle of Midway," on which Ford earned a Purple Heart while photographing the actual battle. Shortly after his discharge from active military service Ford made "They Were Expendable," about PT boat warfare in the Pacific, produced with extensive Navy Department support. Ford's screen credit was "Directed by John Ford, Captain, USNR."

It will be shown Thursday, Feb. 7, Bucksport.

Within Hollywood, Ford was considered a staunch "Roosevelt Democrat," but in 1947 Ford referred to himself as a "Maine Republican."

"Regardless of political affiliation, John Ford | 125 Years will revisit Ford's most seminal works and offer audiences the opportunity to re-examine his films in the context of today's cultural and political landscape," the release said.

Closing out the festival on consecutive nights in Waterville, on Saturday, Feb. 8, and Sunday, Feb. 10, are two films that present the same story but from very different perspectives.

"The Informer," based on Liam O'Flaherty's novel of the same name, set in 1920s Dublin during the aftermath of the Irish Civil War, will be shown Feb. 9. Jules Dassin's "Uptight," which transfers settings and characters from O'Flaherty's book to the 1960s Black Power Movement, will be shown Feb. 10.

A full schedule with times and specific locations, can be found at www.Ford125.com.

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