July 22--WATERVILLE -- When Pat Clark's son, David, got engaged seven years ago, she let him know the last few weekends in July were already taken by the Maine International Film Festival.
"Everyone knows this is what I do at the end of July," she said and laughed at the memory.
Clark, 65, of Unity, has attended the film festival faithfully for the past 16 years. She bought the first MIFF pass ever sold in 1998, which then cost $125.
By the end of this year's film festival, Clark estimates she will have watched at least 512 films at the festival since.
The annual festival's success and growth over the years surprised her, she said.
"That first year, I wasn't sure if it would happen again," she said.
She said one of the reasons she loves the festival experience is because she gets to make friends with other veteran attendees.
"We recognize each other from year to year," she said.
Festival Director Shannon Haines said she considered this year's festival a success, with more than 100 films shown and around 50 filmmakers present for question and answer sessions.
Haines said the number of filmmakers present has dramatically increased during her 11 years as director.
"That filmmaker-audience interaction is what really makes the festival experience," she said.
As Haines spoke, patrons continued to file past and pack the Waterville Opera House Sunday night for the final movie, "Short Term 12," excitedly comparing opinions on which films they saw.
The 2013 "Botso," a documentary about musician and sculptor Wachtang Botso Korisheli, won the audience favorite award this year with 30 votes.
Attendees voted on their favorite new, feature-length film, with 34 of the 41 eligible films receiving a vote.
Second place winner was "Tu Seras mon Fils," and the third place winner was "Sweet Dreams" with 27 votes.
Film organizers this year had to battle technical problems as Railroad Square Cinema switched to digital film. About 80 of the 100 films shown during the 10-day run are digital as opposed to the standard 35 mm.
Festival producers were also successful in presenting actor, producer and singer-songwriter Keith Carradine with the Mid-Life Achievement Award after years of trying to bring Carradine to Waterville, Haines said. The recognition is given annually to someone who has made significant contributions to the world of independent film.
Attendance was also up from the year before, Haines said. While film organizers did not have a final attendance count tallied by late Sunday, they estimated there were around 8,500 admissions to films, up slightly from the year before.
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