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Camden Film Festival, a Key Stop on the Awards Circuit for Doc Contenders, Reveals 2023 Lineup (EXCLUSIVE)

The 19th edition of the Camden Intl. Film Festival, kicking off Sept. 14, will feature a handful of award-contending documentaries fresh off showings at Toronto, Sundance, South by Southwest, Berlin and Tribeca film festivals. The Maine-based film festival will unfold in a hybrid format, with both in-person events over a four-day period concluding Sept. 17, and online screenings available from Sept. 18 to Sept. 25 to audiences across the U.S.
 
This year’s CIFF highlights include the U.S. premiere of Oscar-winning director, Alex Gibney’s “In Restless Dreams: The Music Of Paul Simon,” a portrait docu about the songwriter; Oscar-nominated director Raoul Peck’s “Silver Dollar Road,” a documentary about a Black family’s decades-long fight to maintain waterfront land in North Carolina they’ve rightfully owned for generations against corrupt developers; Errol Morris’ “The Pigeon Tunnel,” an inventive interview with spy novelist John le Carré; and Oscar nominee Karim Amer’s “Defiant,” about Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and other key figures in the administration who are fighting to save their country against Russia’s invasion. Each of the four documentaries will have made their world premieres before CIFF, at the Toronto Intl. Film Festival.
 
CIFF will also feature a sneak peek of Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine’s “The Mission” about American missionary John Chau, who was killed by arrows while attempting to contact one of the world’s most isolated indigenous peoples. Additionally, the Maine-based fest will screen “Eastern Front,” an immersive portrait of the frontlines of the Ukraine-Russia war by auteur and exiled director, Vitaly Mansky. The docu premiered at the Berlin Intl. Film Festival in February.
 
Madeleine Gavin’s “Beyond Utopia,” which debuted in January at the Sundance Film Festival, will open CIFF. The film, about a high-stakes journey of families attempting to escape North Korea, garnered the Sundance Audience Award: U.S. Documentary.
 
Fellow Sundance 2023 favorite, Milisuthando Bongela’s “Milisuthando,” will also screen at CIFF along with Dawn Porter’s “The Lady Bird Diaries,” which debuted at SXSW.  
 
All told the 19th edition of CIFFF, which has become an Oscar campaign hotspot in recent years, will feature 33 features and 27 short docus from 28 different countries. Fifty percent of the entire program is directed or co-directed by BIPOC filmmakers; this is the seventh consecutive edition that the festival has reached gender parity within the program.
 
“As the development and distribution of independent documentary films become increasingly more difficult, we believe this program is a reminder of the incredible value of documentary film as a singularly powerful art form and its extraordinary ability to resonate with audiences,” says Ben Fowlie, executive and artistic director of the Points North Institute, and founder of the Camden Intl. Film Festival. “Through 60 different film experiences, we explore the beautiful relationship between content and form, examining the power of the image, engaging with the potential of the archive, and immersing ourselves in the personal stories that help us to reflect, reimagine, and relate to one another. Cinema is a beacon, and we are grateful to the filmmakers who have made these works and shared these stories.”
 
Martín Benchimol’s “El Castillo,” Paul B. Precadio’s “Orlando, My Political Biography,” Vlad Petri’s “Between Revolutions,” Boubacar Sangaré’s “A Golden Life,” and Mansky’s “Eastern Front” are among the five Berlin Intl. Film Festival docus screening at CIFF.
 
Similar to prior years, the festival will run concurrently with Points North Artist Programs. CIFF’s feature slate will include four alumni of Points North’s Artists Programs, all of which were supported through the Points North Fellowship, the organization’s longest running development program. The four docus are: Sierra Urich’s “Joonam,” which premiered at Sundance, Jude Chehab’s “Q” which premiered at Tribeca and won the Albert Maysles Award for best new documentary director, Pedro de Filippis’s “Rejeito” (“Tailings”), which premiered at Cinéma du Réel in Paris, and Brian Becker, Marley McDonald’s “Time Bomb Y2K” which will premiere on HBO later this year.

CIFF’s Filmmaker Solidarity Fund ,established in 2020, will provide honoraria of approximately $300 to all feature and short filmmaking teams participating in the virtual festival. Over the course of four years, the fund will have distributed nearly $70,000 to participating CIFF filmmakers.

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In total, close to seventy fellows will be on the ground at CIFF via partnerships with other artist fellowships and labs from Bay Area Video Coalition, Hot Docs, POV, Chicken & Egg Pictures and the American Film Showcase.
 
The complete list of CIFF’s features and short films can be found below.
 
Features:
 
APOLONIA, APOLONIA
Lea Glob | Denmark
When filmmaker Lea Glob met Apolonia Sokol, she knew there was a film there, but neither of them knew that it would take over 13 years to make. The intimate friendship that ensued rendered a powerful portrait of how an artist is born.
 
THE ARC OF OBLIVION  
Ian Cheney | USA
THE ARC OF OBLIVION explores a quirk of humankind: in a universe that erases its tracks, we humans are hellbent on leaving a mark. Set against the backdrop of the filmmaker’s quixotic quest to build an ark in a field in Maine, the film heads far afield to illuminate the strange world of archives, record-keeping, and memory.
 
BETWEEN REVOLUTIONS
Vlad Petri | Romania, Croatia, Qatar Iran | US Premiere
In an epistolary exchange between Zohra (Tehran) and Maria (Bucharest), a space is created to read between the lines of their relationship, are they more than just friends? In parallel, the letters reveal a forgotten cultural bond between their countries.
 
BEYOND UTOPIA
Madeleine Gavin | USA, Korea, Laos, Thailand
A suspenseful look into the lived experience of fleeing North Korea. By embarking on this journey, defectors risk severe punishment and possible execution – all to abandon a paradise they’ve believed in their whole lives.
 
EL CASTILLO
Martin Benchimol | Argentina, France | US Premiere
Having worked as a housekeeper all her life, Justina inherits from her former employer an enormous castle in the middle of the Argentine pampas. The inheritance comes with a singular condition: she must never part with it.
 
THE CONTESTANT
Clair Titley | UK | US Premiere
The incredible true story of a man who lived for 15 months trapped inside a small room, naked, starving and alone… and completely unaware that his life was being broadcast on national TV in Japan, to over 15 million viewers a week.
 
EASTERN FRONT
Vitaly Mansky, Yevhen Titarenko | Latvia, Ukraine, Czech Republic, USA | US Premiere
Six months on the front lines of war with a Ukrainian medical unit.
 
FAUNA
Pau Faus | Spain | US Premiere
A science fiction fable about humans and animals, Fauna is the story of two worlds, seemingly antagonistic, that end up being two sides of the same coin. Two intertwined stories that illustrate the complex relationship between humans and nature.
 
A GOLDEN LIFE
Boubacar Sangare | Burkina Faso, Benin, France | North American Premiere
In Burkina Faso, in the gold-digging site of Bantara, Rasmané, 16 years old, descends more than 100 meters deep in artisanal mines to extract gold. Anxious about accidents, Rasmané makes his way in this world of fierce adults in the hope of one day becoming emancipated.
 
GRASSHOPPER REPUBLIC
Daniel Mccabe | USA | US Premiere
Filmed over the course of three seasons, GRASSHOPPER REPUBLIC follows a local grasshopper trapping team in verité style, as these modern-day prospectors push into remote forests seeking their fortune by capturing this elusive prey.
 
A HAWK AS BIG AS A HORSE
Sasha Kulak | France | North American Premiere
Lydia a queer ornithologist who lives in Shcherbinka, embarks on remaking David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, and decides to create Lara, a life-size silicone doll she has been made from scratch.
 
IN RESTLESS DREAMS: THE MUSIC OF PAUL SIMON
Alex Gibney | USA | US Premiere
The definitive musical biography of Paul Simon, one of the greatest songwriters (and performers) in the history of rock ‘n roll. Granted unprecedented access to the making of a new album, the filmmakers also show never-before-seen footage of Simon’s extraordinary career, from Simon & Garfunkel to the phenomenal global success of Simon’s solo album “Graceland.”
 
IN THE SHADOW OF LIGHT
Ignacia Merino Bustos, Isabel Reyes Bustos | Chile | North American Premiere
In a small town in Chile, rural life deals with the electric grid that provides power to the rest of the country. In the darkness, the threatening presence of the large-scale industrial complex reveals the workings of an unequal system.
 
JOONAM
Sierra Urich | USA
Spurred by a provocative family memory and a lifetime of separation from the country her mother left behind, a young filmmaker delves into her mother and grandmother’s complicated pasts, and her own fractured Iranian identity.
 
KNIT’S ISLAND
Ekiem Barbier, Guilhem Causse, Quentin L’helgoualc’h | France | North American Premiere
In the guise of avatars, a film crew enters an online video game. They come into contact with a community of players and meet their stories, fears, and aspirations.
 
THE LADY BIRD DIARIES
Dawn Porter | USA
From award-winning filmmaker Dawn Porter comes a groundbreaking documentary film that uses Lady Bird Johnson’s audio diaries to tell the story of one of the most influential and least understood First Ladies in history.
 
THE LAST YEAR OF DARKNESS
Ben Mullinkosson | China, USA
THE LAST YEAR OF DARKNESS revolves around a small club called Funky Town, the go-to party space for a group of twenty-year-old DJ’s, drag performers, lovers, ravers and skaters in China. In this unassuming corner bar hidden by Chengdu’s construction cranes, five locals escape their stress, even if it’s only for the night. But as the sun rises and the cranes begin to move again, our protagonists are forced to face what brought them to the party in the first place.
 
MACHTAT
Sonia Ben Slama | Tunisia, Lebanon, France, Qatar | US Premiere
Mahdia, Tunisia. Fatma and her daughters, Najeh and Waffeh, work as “machtat”, traditional wedding musicians. While the eldest, divorced, tries to remarry to escape the authority of her brothers, the youngest seeks a way to breakup with her abusive husband.
 
MANIFESTO
Angie Vinchito | Russia | North American Premiere
This found footage film is composed entirely of often-shocking videos that Russian teenagers have posted on social media.
 
MILISUTHANDO
Milisuthando Bongela | South Africa, Colombia
Explored through the memories of Milisuthando, who grew up during apartheid but didn’t know it was happening until it was over, the story is a meditation on power, intimacy, difference, and the weight of loving and fearing your enemy in a time of decolonisation.
 
THE MISSION
Jesse Moss, Amanda McBaine | USA
A missionary’s obsession with the remote Sentinelese people proves fatal.
 
NON-ALIGNED: SCENES FROM THE LABUDOVIĆ REELS
Mila Turajlić | Serbia, France, Croatia, Montenegro, Qatar | US Premiere
Using a trove of unseen archives and the diaries of the cameraman who filmed them,
Non-Aligned reveals the behind-the-scenes of a political dream; Ciné-Guerrillas plunges us into the impact of cinema joining the struggle against colonialism.”
 
ONE WITH THE WHALE
Peter Chelkowski, Jim Wickens | Sivuqaq (St Lawrence Island), USA, UK, Portugal | World Premiere
A heartwarming, yet thrilling tale of an Alaskan family’s struggle to recover from animal activists’ online assaults against their teenage son, the youngest person to ever harpoon a whale for his village.
 
 
ORLANDO: MY POLITICAL BIOGRAPHY
Paul B. Preciado | France
In this maximalist celebration of trans* and nonbinary lives, director Paul B. Preciado employs an all-ages cast of players to embody Virgina Woolfe’s gender-bending protagonist, Orlando.
 
PIGEON TUNNEL
Errol Morris | UK
Academy Award-winning documentarian Errol Morris pulls back the curtain on the storied life and career of former British spy David Cornwell — better known as John le Carré, author of such classic espionage novels as The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Constant Gardener.
 
Q
Jude Chehab | USA, Lebanon
God works in mysterious ways and so do women. For 50 years, a secretive matriarchal religious order has stolen the hearts of thousands of women. Q unravels the unspoken ties of devotion that have bonded the filmmaker, her mother, and her grandmother to the group, stealing not only her mother’s heart but her soul.
 
QUEENDOM
Agniia Galdanova | France, USA
Gena, a queer artist from a small town in Russia, dresses in otherworldly costumes and protests the government on the streets of Moscow. She stages radical performances in public, which becomes a new form of art and activism – and puts her life in danger.
 
REJEITO (TAILINGS)
Pedro de Filippis | Brazil, USA | US Premiere
After the largest mining dam breaks in history, further dam collapses threaten millions in Brazil. A state counselor confronts the modus operandi of the government, while dam refugees resist the abuses of the mining companies in their threatened communities.
 
SILVER DOLLAR ROAD
Raoul Peck | USA | US Premiere
From Academy-Award Nominee Raoul Peck, SILVER DOLLAR ROAD follows the story of the Reels family as told by the matriarch Mamie Reels Ellison and her niece Kim Renee Duhon, two fierce and clear-eyed women bending to safeguard valiantly their ancestors’ land and their brothers and uncles Melvin and Licurtis, who were wrongfully imprisoned for eight years – the longest sentence for civil contempt in North Carolina history.
 
A STORM FORETOLD
Christoffer Guldbrandsen | Denmark | US Premiere
With Trump‘s political godfather, Roger Stone, as its central character, this film documents how Trump‘s presidential period found its logical endpoint with the January 6th Insurrection. Director Guldbrandsen set out to follow the ‘Make America Great Again’ movement, and became a close witness to the historical events at the center of American democracy.
 
THREE PROMISES
Yousef Srouji | Palestine, Lebanon, United States | US Premiere
While the Israeli army retaliates against the Second Intifada in the West Bank in the early 2000s, a mother films her family’s daily life, punctuated by time spent shielding her family from harm in the basement. Now, her son revisits this past, delivering a heart-breaking portrait of the anguish of parents who are forced to choose between their children’s physical safety and the emotional upheaval of leaving home.
 
TIME BOMB Y2K
Brian Becker, Marley McDonald  | USA
As the clock counts down to the dawn of the new millennium, America is forced to contend with the largest technological disaster to ever threaten humanity. Crafted entirely through archival footage, Time Bomb Y2K examines how we grapple with existential threats in an increasingly technological world.
 
Shorts:
 
45th PARALLEL
Lawrence Abu Hamdan | UK | 2022
 
A ROBUST HEART
Martin Benchimol | Argentina, USA, UK | 2023 | US Premiere
 
ALL THAT IS SACRED
Scott Ballew  | USA | 2023
 
ALPHA KINGS
Enrique Pedráza-Botero, Faye Tsakas | USA | 2023
 
AMMA KI KATHA
Nehal Vyas | India, USA | 2023 | World Premiere
 
ANTI-COSMOS
Takashi Makino | Japan | 2022
 
BAY OF HERONS
Jared Lank | USA | 2023 | US Premiere
 
BEHIND THE SUN
Bentley Brown | USA, Saudi Arabia | 2023 | US Premiere
 
BLOOM
Helena Girón, Samuel M. Delgado | Spain | 2023 | US Premiere
 
CAMP COURAGE
Max Lowe | USA | 2023 | World Premiere
 
CLOSURE
Abigail Jakub | USA | 2022
 
DARKROOM
Asli Baykal | Turkey, USA | 2023
 
EAT FLOWERS
River Finlay | USA | 2023
 
ELEPHANT
Wes Sterrs | USA | 2023 | World Premiere
 
EVER SINCE, I HAVE BEEN FLYING
Aylin Gökmen | Switzerland | 2023 | US Premiere
 
FALLING
Anna Gyimesi | Hungary, Belgium, Portugal | 2023 | North American Premiere
 
INCIDENT
Bill Morrison | USA | 2023
 
LET’S GO TO THE MINES
Advik Beni | South Africa, USA | 2022 | World Premiere
 
LITTLE BOY LOON
Kevin Bay, Julia Thompson | USA | 2023 | World Premiere
 
MAS Y MAS Y MAS FLORES
César Martínez Barba | Mexico, USA | 2023 | World Premiere
 
MAST-DEL
Maryam Tafakory | UK, Iran | 2023 | US Premiere
 
SO THAT TONIGHT WE MIGHT SEE
Bea Hesselbart | USA | 2023 | World Premiere
 
SUDDENLY TV
Roopa Gogineni | Sudan, Qatar | 2022
 
TITO
Kervens Jimenez | Haiti | 2023 | North American Premiere
 
WAKING UP IN SILENCE
Mila Zhluktenko, Daniel Asadi Faezi | Germany, Ukraine | 2023
 
WELCOME TO KING FRIDAY’S DUNGEON
Destiny Arturet | USA | 2022 | World Premiere
 
WHAT THE HANDS DO
Bing Liu | USA | 2023 | World Premiere

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