For the 18th year in a row, actors, directors and film enthusiasts will descend on Waterville for the Maine International Film Festival.

MIFF is Maine’s largest and longest-running film festival. Founded in 1998, the festival is a project of the Maine Film Center. Festival director Shannon Haines said films shown must have never been screened in Maine before the event, making it a unique chance to see lesser known but no less important films.

This year, there will be a large section of rediscovered and restored classic films shown, as well as five feature-length films either made or set in Maine.

One in particular, “Tumbledown,” written by Maine native Desi Van Til and directed by Mainer Sean Mewshaw, will open the festival 6:30 p.m. Friday. “Tumbledown” is a romantic comedy set in the mountains of western Maine near Farmington and Weld. Starring Rebecca Hall and Jason Sudeikis, it tells the story of a young widow named Hannah who is attempting to write her husband’s biography while living in a cabin at the foot of Tumbledown Mountain.

In total, the festival will include more than 100 films and host more than 70 guests. New this year will be a world filmmakers forum, with filmmakers from Argentina, Mexico, France and Turkey.

Each year, the festival also presents a Mid-life Achievement Award. This year, actor Michael Murphy, who has been in upwards of 100 films and television shows, is being recognized. Murphy, a Los Angeles native, now lives part of the year in southern Maine. He most recently starred in the film “Fall,” directed by Terrance Odette, which explores themes of forgiveness, redemption and sin. The film is scheduled for a showing at 6:30 p.m. July 16 and will be followed by the award ceremony.

Haines said one thing that makes the MIFF so successful is the strong culture of film in the Waterville area.

“We’ve really cultivated the audience here, especially because we attract audiences from all over the state and all over the northeast,” she said. “People plan their vacations around this festival. Part of it is the allure of Maine, but the other is this unique cultural experience they can have while here.”

Dick Dyer, director of marketing and development at the Waterville Opera House, echoed Haines’ sentiments. He said Waterville’s proximity to five colleges and its emphasis on arts, makes it the perfect place to hold an international film festival.

“There’s this nucleus of energy around the arts in Waterville … and it’s pretty powerful,” Dyer said.

Haines recommends people check out the films and information about the festival online before attending and determine what type of ticket they would want to purchase. The festival offers three types of passes: a single film pass, a 10-film punch card and an all-access pass. She also recommends people watch films they may not consider at first.

“[I recommend people] take a chance and go to see things they might not normally go to see,” she said. “Film gives people a chance to explore different cultures, landscapes, language and broaden their worldview. “

Screening venues this year include Railroad Square Cinema, which will have three screens; the Waterville Opera House; and Common Street Arts. The first film starts at 6:30 p.m. Friday, and the festival will continue through July 19.

For more information about the festival, films included in this year’s schedule or to purchase tickets, visit the MIFF website, email or call 207-861-8138.

Natalie Feulner is a journalist and “semi-crunchy” cloth diapering momma to a rambunctious toddler named after a county in California. She drinks too much tea and loves to climb rocks but not at the...