WATERVILLE — This year’s Maine International Film Festival in Waterville will include the world premiere of the film “American Thief,” which will serve as the event’s centerpiece.

Written by Miguel Silveira, Michael Stolnicki and Missy Hernandez, the film is described as a “documentary-narrative hybrid, filmed and scripted around true events between 2015 to 2019.”

Set in the height of the 2016 presidential campaign, “American Thief” follows two teenage hackers — Diop, who is determined to expose government surveillance programs, and Toncruz, who wants to avenge his father’s murder by using technology.

As Diop’s and Toncruz’s stories unfold, the audience is introduced to Paul Hunter, a video blogger who shares his political conspiracy theories with his internet viewers, and Josephine, an artificial intelligence programmer.

Ken Eisen, the film festival’s program director, said he wanted to feature the film at the festival after he saw it in February.

“I was blown away,” Eisen said during a telephone interview Saturday. “We scheduled it a long time ago, and we knew we would feature it in a prominent way.” 

Eisen said the film is an ideal centerpiece feature.

“It’s tremendously vital and intriguing and very open-ended,” Eisen said. “And it’s really exciting to screen a film that the audience can truly discover. I’m really excited for people to see it.” 

The film is scheduled to premiere Saturday, July 11, at 8:45 p.m., with the filmmakers in attendance.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s film festival, which runs from July 7 to 16, will be held at the Skowhegan Drive-In Theatre at 201 Waterville Road.

Normally, the festival, known as MIFF, is held at the 810-seat Waterville Opera House and at the three-screen Railroad Square Cinema, also in Waterville. The Skowhegan Drive-In Theatre can accommodate about 350 cars.

Parts of this year’s film festival will also be available online for audiences to stream.

Organizers said this year’s festival is being dedicated to the memory of George Floyd, the 46-year-old black man who died May 26 while in police custody in Minneapolis and to all people of color who have died due to racial violence.

Festival organizers said they are in the process of finding a charity that supports the training, development, production, funding and distribution of black films and filmmakers. Those who attend the film festival and others may donate online or at the box office.

MIFF is a project of the Maine Film Center, a Waterville-based nonprofit organization that seeks to educate and entertain through art and film. The center also operates Railroad Square Cinema.

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