Michelle Smith was attending the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Massachusetts, when the legally blind teenager with Asperger’s syndrome met filmmaker Garrett Zevgetis. He was captivated by the then-teenage Smith’s quirky, cheerful personality and embarked on a six-year filming process capturing her transition from curious teenager to adult grappling with the reality of being blind in the U.S.

The documentary he created will be among the films shown this week at the Camden International Film Festival.

“Best and Most Beautiful Things,” which premiered at the 2016 SXSW Festival, tells the story of Smith, a Bradford native now living in Bangor. Beyond exploring what life is like for young blind people, the film also shows Smith’s gradual embrace of her out-of-the-mainstream sexual identity, discovering a lifestyle and a community that has helped her come out of her shell. Shot in a vivid, impressionistic style, “Best and Most Beautiful Things” is an unexpected story about an extremely unique person — as well as a chance to see Bangor, which features prominently in the film, on the big screen. It screens at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17, at the Camden Opera House.

This is a special year for festival organizers Ben Fowlie and Caroline von Kuhn, as the pair transformed the Points North Forum — a series of documentary film workshops held concurrently with the festival — into the Points North Institute, a year-round hub for documentary filmmaking in Midcoast Maine. The Points North Forum will continue during the festival, but the institute’s expanded focus will offer year-round programming and education for aspiring nonfiction filmmakers.

There are 40 feature-length documentary films and 38 short films that will be shown over the course of the Camden International Film Festival’s four days from Sept. 15 to Sept. 18, spanning a wide gamut of topics, countries of origin and filmmaking styles. A few highlights include the following:


7:30 p.m. Sept. 15, Camden Opera House

Inspired by a best-selling book by the same name, director Morgan Spurlock’s newest feature explores the lives of man’s greatest parasite. Equal parts history and horror, Spurlock journeys around the world to bring viewers face to face with rats while delving into our complicated relationship with the creatures. Spurlock — known for “Supersize Me” and his CNN show “Morgan Spurlock Inside Man” — will be in attendance at the screening, the festival opener.

“Life Animated”

4 p.m. Sept. 16, Strand Theatre, Rockland.

Academy Award-winning director Roger Ross Williams tells the inspirational story of Owen Suskind, a young man with autism who was unable to speak as a child until he and his family discovered a unique way to communicate by immersing themselves in classic Disney animated films. The film uses a combination of animation and live-action to tell this heartwarming tale.

“Gulistan, Land of Roses”

2:30 p.m. Sept. 17, Farnsworth Art Museum, Rockland

This documentary tells the story of the PKK — the Kurdistan Worker’s Party, an all-female guerrilla movement bent on defending Kurdish territory in Iraq and Syria and defeating ISIS.

“Sacred Cod”

3:30 p.m. Sept. 17, Strand Theatre

This documentary about the collapse of the cod population in New England delves into the role of overfishing, the impact of climate change and the measures scientists and policymakers are taking to restore the region’s iconic species. The film highlights the fight of one community to adapt to a changing way of life while examining how depleted cod populations elsewhere are rebounding. The filmmakers will be in attendance for a panel discussion after the screening.

“Contemporary Color”

9 p.m., Sept. 17, Strand Theatre, Rockland

In 2015 musician David Byrne recruited 10 of the country’s elite color guard teams — flag-flipping, colorfully-costumed teams usually seen at sporting events — to collaborate with bands and artists to create a one of a kind of artistic event. The resulting documentary features musicians like St. Vincent, Adam Horovitz of the Beastie Boys, Tune-Yards, Nelly Furtado, Dev Hynes, Nico Muhly, Blood Orange and more.

Dirigo Docs shorts program

10 a.m. Sept. 18, Rockport Opera House

The six documentary shorts that comprise this all-Maine program include “Alison and NuDay Syria,” about a Maine woman who collects donation to send to Syrian refugees; “Ashley Bryan’s World,” about the Islesford painter; “Bird Carver,” about professional wood carver Steven Valleau of Southwest Harbor; “First Light,” about the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission; “Guided,” about Maine Wilderness Guide Ray Reitze; and “The Long Haul,” about a solo female lobster fisherman.

“Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You”

3 p.m. Sept. 18, Camden Opera House

The creator of such groundbreaking 1970s television shows as “All In The Family,” “The Jeffersons” and “Maude” is the subject of this hilarious but fascinating documentary. Lear, now in his 90s, is no less dynamic than he was in his TV heyday.

For a full schedule of films, visit pointsnorthinstitute.org. Festival passes and individual tickets are available at the CIFF box office on Bayview Street in Camden; a festival pass including all screenings is $95, an all-access pass including preferred seating and parties each night is $195.

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Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native and proud Bangorian, covering business, the arts, restaurants and the culture and history of the Bangor region.