College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences

USM to Present Nine Portland Children’s Film Festival Events

USM University of Southern Maine "Imba Means Sing" African Children's Choir Erin Levin

More than 1,000 people recently enjoyed the high-energy performance of the Grammy Award-winning African Children’s Choir, presented by Portland Ovations at Merrill Auditorium. Now area residents will be able to experience what life in Uganda and on tour is like for the children who make up the choir through the showing of a unique documentary film. 

Sponsored by the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences (CAHS) at the University of Southern Maine (USM), “Imba Means Sing” will be shown in rough-cut format in an upcoming, free program that is part of the weeklong Portland Children’s Film Festival. In addition, Erin Levin, the documentary’s producer, will be present to discuss her making of the film and what is happening with the 20 children it features. 

The program is one of nine Portland Children’s Film Festival (PCFF) presentations sponsored and organized by CAHS as part of its mission of community outreach, according to Lynn Kuzma, CAHS dean. 

“Now in its third year, the Portland Children’s Film Festival is a very successful annual event that has come to mean a great deal to the Portland community,” Kuzma said recently. “By participating with the festival, our college, and USM in general, is working to fulfill our goal of being actively involved with Maine’s cultural and professional center. 

“More importantly, we are welcoming many children and families to the university environment and the stimulating and creative activities that occur here,” she continued. “We hope that some day they will return to become our scholars and supporters.” 

A number of the programs with which CAHS is involved are international in scope, in keeping with the college’s strong academic interest in international relations and film and the increasing diversity of the greater Portland area, the USM dean noted. The college has both an international relations program through its Political Science Department and a new cinema studies minor through its Department of Communication and Media Studies. 

The CAHS-sponsored films include an Australian documentary on being 11 years old, a Japanese sci-fi animation, a Spanish mystery adventure, two French animation films and two Middle Eastern films. In addition, the college is sponsoring the invitation-only PCFF Red Carpet Event, which is the culmination of the Young Filmmakers Competition with award presentations. 

“Maine has tended to be isolated both geographically and culturally through much of its history, but that is changing very rapidly,” said Kuzma, who also is a USM associate professor of political science. “Not only are these various film programs very entertaining and appropriate for children and families, they also open our eyes to new cultures and ways of seeing the world.” 

“Imba Means Sing” is unique in that it is a documentary shot through the eyes of the child choir members as they travel from their homes through three countries, ultimately to gain the award of a life-changing superior education. Coming from extreme poverty, the children experience the world in ways many Americans can’t imagine. The film, which will premiere later this year, is being shot over two years in five countries. 

Erin Levin, the documentary’s producer, is a Peabody and Emmy Award-winning humanitarian journalist and filmmaker who gained a strong affection for Africa through her Peace Corps experience. Her production and outreach experience includes working for ABC, CNN and with non-profits around the world. 

Details of the program are:

  • Portland Children’s Film Festival: “Imba Means Sing,” an independent documentary feature film about the African Children’s Choir; featuring discussion with producer Erin Levin; sponsored by the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences at the University of Southern Maine; 2 p.m., Saturday, April 6, at Rines Auditorium, Portland Public Library, Portland; free and open to the public. FMI: www.portlandchildrensfilmfestival.com

The two Middle-Eastern films include a documentary “Flying Paper,” also sponsored by the World Affairs Council and the Maine Model UN Program. The film, in Arabic with English subtitles, tells the story of resilient Palestinian youth in the Gaza Strip on a quest to shatter the Guinness World Record for the most kites ever flown.

“Wadjda,” also in Arabic with English subtitles, is a PG-rated film about a young girl who defies tradition by trying to win money for a bicycle through a Quran-recitation contest. The award-winning film is the first feature film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia and was written and directed by a woman.

Details of the remaining CAHS-sponsored programs are:

  • Portland Children’s Film Festival: Flying Paper”; Arabic documentary with English subtitles, for children age 8 and above; 71 minutes; 5:30 p.m., Thursday, April 3; Rines Auditorium, Portland Public Library, Monument Square, Portland; Resilient Palestinian youth in the Gaza Strip go on a quest to shatter the Guinness World Record for the most kites ever flown, despite the ongoing blockade in Gaza. Free

  • Portland Children’s Film Festival: “Zip & Zap and the Marble Gang”; Spanish family drama with English subtitles, rated General audience; 97 minutes; two showings: 5:45 p.m., Friday, April 4; 4:15 p.m., Saturday, April 5; Talbot Lecture Hall, Luther Bonney Hall, USM Portland campus, 85 Bedford St., Portland; Two of Spain’s most beloved comic-book characters, the naughty twins, Zip and Zap, are sent to reform school where they uncover a mysterious secret that sends them into the adventure of their lives; Tickets: $8 http://www.brownpapertickets.com/ 
  • Portland Children’s Film Festival: “Mia and the Magoo”; Animated movie in English, rated PG (Parental Guidance) by renowned French animator, Jacques-Rémy Girerd; 92 minutes; 12 p.m., Saturday, April 5; Talbot Lecture Hall, Luther Bonney Hall, USM Portland campus, 85 Bedford St., Portland; The film is a fable-like journey of a young girl who must overcome her fears on a quest to find her father and save the world from destruction; Tickets: $5 http://www.brownpapertickets.com/

  • Portland Children’s Film Festival: “Summer Wars”; Japanese animated movie in English and in Japanese with English subtitles, PG; 114 minutes; two showings, 7:45 p.m., Friday, April 4, Aikido of Maine, 226 Anderson St., Portland, and 2 p.m., Saturday, April 5; Talbot Lecture Hall, Luther Bonney Hall, USM Portland campus, 85 Bedford St., Portland; Described as an intriguingly intelligent, cyberpunk/sci-fi story, the film is about a teenage math prodigy who finds himself confronting a malicious artificial-intelligence program that is hijacking a globe-spanning virtual world used by millions of people and governments. Tickets: $5 http://www.brownpapertickets.com/

  • Portland Children’s Film Festival: “Approved for Adoption”; Animated documentary in French with English subtitles; ages 12 and up; 75 minutes; 12:45 pm, Sunday, April 6, Nickelodeon, 1 Temple St., Portland; A talented cartoonist, Jung Henin was one of thousands of Korean children adopted by Western families after the end of the Korean War. He tells his story using his own animation, intercut with snippets of super-8 family footage and archival film to create a clear-eyed, unflinching, yet humorous memoir; Tickets: $5 http://www.brownpapertickets.com/ 
  • Portland Children’s Film Festival: “Wadjda”; Coming-of-age family drama, Arabic with English subtitles, rated PG; 100 minutes; 3 p.m., Sunday, April 6, Space Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland; A groundbreaking film, this is the first film to feature a female director, Haifaa Al Mansour, and a female lead. A determined young girl competes in a Quran recitation contest to win a bike, even though women aren’t allowed to ride bikes in public. Tickets: $10 adults, $7 children http://www.brownpapertickets.com/

For more information about the Portland Children’s Film Festival, go to http://www.portlandchildrensfilmfestival.com/