Highlights include new films by Oscar® and Emmy® winners and nominees Liz Garbus, Bing Liu, Sam Pollard, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, and Jimmy Chin; acclaimed directors Robert Greene, Penny Lane, and Nadia Hallgren
Stand-out emerging directors include Cannes winner Payal Kapadia, Berlinale winner Alonso Ruizpalacios, Sundance winner Jessica Beshir, and Jonas Poher Rasmussen whose Sundance-winning animated documentary film Flee on an Afghan refugee is closing night
The festival and its concurrent Artist Programs will constitute one of the largest gatherings of the documentary community since the start of the global pandemic's impact in Spring 2020.
SHOWTIME® Documentary Films is the 2021 Headlining Sponsor
CAMDEN, Maine – Monday, August 23, 2021 – The Camden International Film Festival (CIFF) has announced the slate of feature and short films for its 17th edition, which will take place in person from September 16-19 at venues in Camden and Rockland, Maine, and online from September 16-26 for audiences across North America. Longtime sponsor SHOWTIME Documentary Films returns as Headlining Sponsor of CIFF. The festival and its concurrent Artist Programs will constitute one of the largest gatherings of the documentary community since the start of the global pandemic's impact in Spring 2020.
A program of the Points North Institute, CIFF is one of the top documentary film festivals in the world. This year's festival will present 37 features and 33 short films from over 30 countries. Recognized as a growing platform for championing the next generation of nonfiction storytellers, 52% of the films presented this year are directed or co-directed by POC directors. Since 2017, the festival has been committed to gender parity across all sections and competitions. 57% of this year's slate of films have been directed or co-directed by women.
The festival will open with National Geographic Documentary Films’ Becoming Cousteau, from two-time Oscar nominated filmmaker Liz Garbus, about the iconic undersea explorer and filmmaker who tried decades ago to warn the world about the climate crisis. The festival will close its in-person festival on Sunday, September 19 with NEON’s Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner Flee. Recounted mostly through animation by director Jonas Poher Rasmussen, the film tells Amin Nawani's extraordinary journey as a child refugee from Afghanistan.
Festival highlights include SHOWTIME Documentary Films’ new feature about the most iconic figure in film history, The Real Charlie Chaplin, in which directors Peter Middleton and James Spinney were given access to a personal archive of the silent-movie star that includes previously unknown material, Robert Greene’s latest feature Procession which explores the intertwined stories of six survivors of childhood sexual abuse by Catholic priests, and National Geographic Documentary Films’ The Rescue by Oscar-winning directors Jimmy Chin and E. Chai Vasarhelyi about the famous 2018 rescue of 12 Thai boys trapped in a cave.
Nearly half of the feature films are presented as major premieres including the US Premiere of Payal Kapadia’s A Night of Knowing Nothing, which recently won the prestigious Oeil d'Or award for 'Best Documentary’ at Cannes, Hot Docs Grand Jury Winner, Ostrov - Lost Island by Svetlana Rodina and Laurent Stoop, and Penny Lane’s Listening to Kenny G.
“Much like our festival this year, our 2021 slate celebrates documentary as a reimagining of the ways we engage with stories from both near and far,” says Ben Fowlie, Executive and Artistic Director of the Points North Institute, and Founder of the Camden International Film Festival. “As programmers, we have been transformed by these films. And in a moment when we are all feeling the forced distance between us, we are grateful to the filmmakers who have made these works of art, and shared these stories with us. Cinema is a beacon, and there is no question that the near seventy films that will be presented both in person and online at CIFF are, all in their own way, a light in the dark.”
As a leading showcase of international work, CIFF will present five North American Premieres including the Netflix title A Cop Movie by Alonso Ruizpalacios, which took home the Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution at the 2021 Berlin Film Festival, Our Memory Belongs To Us by Rami Farah & Final Cut FOr Real’s Signe Byrge Sørensen, which received a DOX:AWARD Special Jury Mention at CPH DOX, Marie Amiguet’s The Velvet Queen, which recently premiered at Cannes, The Mushroom Speaks by Marion Neumann, and Roots (Koreni) by emerging filmmaker, Tea Lukač', set to premiere at Karlovy Vary Film Festival this month.
Storyforms, CIFF’s exhibition of immersive documentary experiences and installations will include a collection of work by Simon Liu, a film artist whose work has been featured at festivals and museums across the world for its exploration of his place of origin in Hong Kong through alternative documentary forms, diary films, and multi-channel video installations.
In total, nearly fifty filmmakers are expected to converge in Maine for the festival, and films will be exhibited in person in four venues, including the festival’s recently built Shotwell Drive-In and a new pop-up cinema housed inside a 12,000 square foot boat barn located on the edge of the Atlantic designed with social distancing in mind.
Organizers also announced that it will continue with its Filmmaker Solidarity Fund, a one-of-a-kind funding model established in 2020 that redirects 50% of all revenue from CIFF’s virtual pass and ticket sales back to participating filmmakers.
A complete list of the program’s feature films can be found below.
2021 Camden International Film Festival Features
A COP MOVIE
Alonso Ruizpalacios | Mexico | North American Premiere
The Mexico City police department is one of the world’s most controversial institutions. A COP MOVIE blends documentary and narrative storytelling to shed light on the causes of the impunity crisis that plagues the city’s justice system.
A NIGHT OF KNOWING NOTHING
Payal Kapadia | India, France | US Premiere
A university student in India writes letters to her estranged lover while he is away. In them, a glimpse into the drastic changes taking place around her emerge, shining light on a convoluted contemporary India.
Tasha Van Zandt | United States, Canada, Antarctica
Expanding across both poles, AFTER ANTARCTICA follows legendary polar-explorer Will Steger’s lifelong journey as a witness to change in the arctic. Thirty years after his historic coast-to-coast expedition across Antarctica, Steger traverses the ice one last time.
ALL THESE SONS
Bing Liu, Joshua Altman | United States
On Chicago's South and West sides, gun violence is destroying countless lives. Two men dedicate their lives educating, empowering and healing young Black men at high risk for being victims-or perpetrators-of shootings.
Felix Dufour-Laperrière | Canada | US Premiere
Based on a true story of "invented islands," ARCHIPELAGO uses drawings and speeches to interrogate what is real, dreamed or in-between. The film ventures into physical, imaginary, linguistic, and political territories, to examine a place and its inhabitants.
Jessica Kingdon | United States
ASCENSION is an impressionistic portrait of China’s industrial supply chain that reveals the country’s growing class divide. Through staggering observations of labor, consumerism, and wealth, the documentary examines what living the so-called “Chinese Dream,” looks like today.
Liz Garbus | United States
BECOMING COUSTEAU takes an inside look at the beloved adventurer, his iconic films and inventions, and the experiences that made him the 20th century’s most unique and renowned environmental voice — and the man who inspired generations to protect the Earth.
Sam Pollard, Rex Miller | United States, United Kingdom
Known to most for his stellar sports career, CITIZEN ASHE uncovers tennis legend Arthur Ashe’s personal evolution, chronicling how his activism grew to embrace not only the Civil Rights movement and African-Americans, but all oppressed peoples throughout the world.
Parker Hill, Isabel Bethencourt | United States
In a small military town in Texas, three wild-spirited teenage girls have a fever-dream summer. This debut feature film offers a glimpse into authentic American girlhood, where the strictures of adolescence clash with the growing desire for agency.
Ernst Karel, Veronika Kusumaryati | United States, West Papua
Constructed from audio archival footage of the 1961 Harvard-Peabody Expedition into Netherlands New Guinea, EXPEDITION CONTENT reflects on a colonial encounter with the indigenous Papuans, presenting parallaxing images of history and colonialism through field recording and ethnographic film.
Drew Xanthopoulos | United States
Two biologists set out on an undertaking as colossal as their subjects—deciphering the complex communication of whales. Dr. Michelle Fournet and Dr. Ellen Garland journey to opposite hemispheres to uncover a culture eons older than our own.
Jessica Beshir | Ethiopia, United States, Qatar
The highlands of Harar are immersed in the rituals of khat, a leaf Sufi Muslims chewed for centuries for religious meditations – and Ethiopia’s most lucrative cash crop. This intimate tapestry journeys into the dreams of youth under a repressive regime.
Jonas Poher Rasmussen | Denmark
On the verge of marrying his husband, Amin shares the hidden story of fleeing his country (Afghanistan) as a refugee for the first time.
KÍMMAPIIYIPITSSINI: THE MEANING OF EMPATHY
Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers | Canada | US Premiere
Witness the partnership of community members with substance-use disorder, first responders, and health professionals in the Kainai First Nation, as they use harm reduction practices to bring hope and change to Blackfoot people.
LAKE FOREST PARK
Kersti Jan Werdal | United States | World Premiere
Filmed on location in Northwest Washington, LAKE FOREST PARK (un)winds the tale of a group of young friends coping with the secret of a classmate’s death. The film explores collective and individual grief tinged with existential confusions.
LAST DAYS AT SEA
Venice Atienza | Philippines, Taiwan | US Premiere
12-year-old Reyboy is about to leave the isolated fishing village of his boyhood to attend high school in the city. Director Venice Atienza witnesses his last days at sea, before the precious moments of his childhood become memories.
LISTENING TO KENNY G
Penny Lane | United States | US Premiere
An examination of the most popular instrumentalist of all time, Kenny G, and why he is polarizing to so many.
MAGALUF GHOST TOWN
Miguel Ángel Blanca | Spain, France, Switzerland | US Premiere
Magaluf, Mallorca, is a peaceful seaside town that turns into one of the world’s most heavily overcrowded tourist destinations in summer. How do the locals survive in this low-cost tourist paradise?
NO KINGS (SEM DEUS SEM DEMÔNIO)
Emilia Mello | Brazil
In the place where conventional authority structures dissolve, a tomboy, a sea captain, an independent pregnant mother, and two wayward fishermen must find their place. An ode to nature, interdependence, and the freedom of one of Brazil’s last Caiçara communities.
NORTH BY CURRENT
Angelo Madsen Minax | United States
Filmmaker Angelo Madsen Minax returns to his rural Michigan hometown after the death of his young niece. What begins as a film investigating a broken criminal justice system transforms into an excavation of generational addiction, Christian fervor, and trans embodiment.
OSTROV - LOST ISLAND
Svetlana Rodina, Laurent Stoop | Switzerland | US Premiere
On Ostrov island in the Caspian Sea, Russian inhabitants abandoned by the state struggle to survive. Ivan regularly risks life and freedom attempting escape. He laughs, dances, and struggles, hoping that one day, Putin will find mercy and send help.
OUR MEMORY BELONGS TO US
Rami Farah, Signe Byrge Sørensen | Denmark, France | North American Premiere
Three Syrian activists are reunited on a theatre stage in Paris. 10 years after the revolution, they revisit traumas and memories of a ferocious war.
PAPER & GLUE
JR | United States, France
An inside exploration into the work of legendary French artist JR, whose large-scale photographs have covered structures across the globe for two decades. The film discusses how art unites communities.
Robert Greene | United States
In the American heartland, six survivors of childhood sexual abuse by Catholic priests become a makeshift family as they collaborate to create staged scenes depicting rituals of power in the church.
Tea Lukač | Serbia, Croatia | North American Premiere
Seven different groups of passengers embark on a journey down the edge of a vast forest. Containing elements of documentary, ethnography, and fiction, ROOTS is a strangely wondrous and often exhilarating film.
Jordan Lord | United States
A family confronts their widely different understandings of systems that entangle them while navigating a 5-year bankruptcy, the wake of Hurricane Katrina, a father's career as a debt collector, Agent Orange, and the life-altering expense of college education.
SILENCE OF THE TIDES
Pieter-Rim De Kroon | The Netherlands, Germany | US Premiere
A poetic film that inhales and exhales along with the tides of the Wadden Sea as it explores the delicate relationship between man and nature.
SONGS THAT FLOOD THE RIVER
Germán Arango Rendón | Colombia
Oneida was still a child when she learned the Afro-Colombian tradition of singing “alabados” to accompany the dead on their journey to purgatory. Today, Oneida’s compositions unite millions through the reconciliation process of one of history’s longest wars.
Courtney Stephens | United States
Amateur travelogues by women in the 1920s-50s are woven into this meditation on the traveler’s gaze. A mountaineer, a divorcee on a tour of biblical gardens, an antique merchant, and others are revealed through their own optical autobiographies.
THE FAITHFUL: THE KING, THE POPE, THE PRINCESS
Annie Berman | United States, Portugal, United Kingdom | World Premiere
A lollipop officially licensed by the Vatican sparks a filmmaker’s 20-year exploration of memorabilia, memory, and legacy within the orbits of three of the biggest cultural icons of our time: Pope John Paul II, Elvis Presley, and Princess Diana.
THE MUSHROOM SPEAKS
Marion Neumann | Switzerland | North American Premiere
As if in an uprising of spores, the encounters of this film explore the theme of renewal, and question what connects us when the world seems to be falling apart. THE MUSHROOM SPEAKS traces possible alliances with the fungal reign.
THE REAL CHARLIE CHAPLIN
Peter Middleton & James Spinney | United Kingdom
This kaleidoscopic documentary portrait explores the many facets of a complex figure whose life was as extraordinary as his art. For decades he was the most famous man in the world, but who was THE REAL CHARLIE CHAPLIN?
Jimmy Chin, E. Chai Vasarhelyi | United States, United Kingdom
THE RESCUE chronicles the against-all-odds story of the 2018 rescue of 12 Thai boys and their soccer coach, trapped deep inside a flooded cave. E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin reveal the perilous world of cave diving, bravery of the rescuers, and dedication of a community that overcame insurmountable odds to save these young boys.
THE VELVET QUEEN
Marie Amiguet, Vincent Munier | France | North American Premiere
In the heart of the Tibetan highlands, photographer Vincent Munier brings writer Sylvain Tesson on his quest to find the snow leopard. Through their journey, the duo finds a common appreciation, and celebrate the beauty of the world.
Max Lowe | United States
In 1999, climber Alex Lowe was lost in a deadly avalanche on Mount Shishapangma. This profoundly intimate film from eldest son Max, turns the lens on his own family and captures their intense personal journey toward understanding as they finally lay him to rest.
Tommy Hyde | United States | World Premiere
Underdog is the curiously optimistic story of Doug Butler—a hardscrabble Vermont dairy farmer who risks losing the only home he's ever known to chase his dreams of dog mushing in Alaska.
The Camden International Film Festival Shorts are listed on the website
About the Points North Institute
Established in 2016, the Points North Institute is the launching pad for the next generation of nonfiction storytellers. Building on the success of the Camden International Film Festival, Points North’s mission is to bring together a unique, interdisciplinary community of filmmakers, artists, journalists, industry leaders, and audiences, forming a creative hub on the coast of Maine where new stories and talent are discovered, collaborations are born, and the future of nonfiction media is shaped. Programs include the annual Camden International Film Festival and Points North Forum, as well as a year-round calendar of artist development initiatives that nurture the careers of diverse nonfiction storytellers and help them develop a stronger artistic voice.
Founded in 2005 and recognized as one of the top documentary film festivals in the world, the Camden International Film Festival (CIFF) brings the finest nonfiction cinema to the coast of Maine, showcasing documentary films and immersive works from around the globe each fall.
The 2021 Camden International Film Festival will take place September 16-26 in person and online. Major support for this year’s CIFF and Artist Programs has been provided by SHOWTIME® Documentary Films, National Endowment for the Arts, Ford Foundation, John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, LEF Foundation, CNN Films, National Geographic Documentary Films, MSNBC Films, XTR, A&E IndieFilms, ESPN, Netflix, Doha Debates, Kickstarter, and Participant Media.