WATERVILLE — Take a chateau in Normandy, a stunning actress who appeared in “Downton Abbey” and a handsome actor from “Game of Thrones,” and you’ve got the ingredients for a love story guaranteed to sweep you away.

But “Around the Sun,” to be shown Thursday and Saturday at the Maine International Film Festival, is not your cookie-cutter, boy-meets-girl, fall-in-love, mass-produced blockbuster movie.

Instead, it is a slow-paced, thoughtful, intelligent independent film about love and reason and the realization that humans are not the center of the universe.

Exquisitely shot in and around a chateau in France, the story follows Bernard, a film location scout played by Gethin Anthony, as he tours the grounds and buildings with Maggie, the chateau’s representative, portrayed by Cara Theobold. (Anthony played the would-be king usurper Renly Baratheon in “Game of Thrones,” while Theobold played kitchen maid Ivy Stuart on “Downton Abbey”).

Over the course of an afternoon and evening, they move through the rooms of the chateau, conversing about its history, the universe and other lofty matters.

Written by Jonathan Kiefer and directed by Oliver Krimpas, the film focuses on the dialogue between Maggie and Bernard, which is at times poetic and at others, probing, dreamy, even Shakespearean. The screenplay was inspired by “Conversations on the Plurality of Worlds,” a popular science book written in 1686 by French author Bernard le Bouvier de Fontenelle. Written while Fontenelle stayed in a similar chateau, the book offers an explanation of the heliocentric model of the universe.


Cara Theobold and Gethin Anthony appear in “Around the Sun,” which is having its New England premiere at the Maine International Film Festival in Waterville. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Kiefer

The film is making its East Coast and New England premiere in Waterville at the film festival. Kiefer said he tailored the story to the chateau, which was owned by a British couple who welcomed the cast and crew to stay there. They filmed over 15 days in the fall of 2017.

“It was a very brisk production and very lovely to be on that set,” Kiefer said. “The whole crew was great, and it’s such an enchanted place. The couple was so generous to us, just really lovely people.”

Kiefer was speaking Wednesday afternoon in Waterville, a half-hour after arriving in the city following a red-eye flight from San Francisco. It was a first visit to Waterville for Kiefer, of Oakland, California. Krimpas was on a flight from his home in London, expecting to arrive in Waterville later in the evening.

Both will be present at the screenings of “Around the Sun,” at 3:15 p.m. Thursday and 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Railroad Square, where they will take part in a question-and-answer session after the showings.

Screenwriter Jonathan Kiefer becomes animated while talking Wednesday about his film “Around the Sun,” which is having its New England premiere at the Maine International Film Festival in Waterville. Morning Sentinel photo by David Leaming

Kiefer and Krimpas, also producers of the film, have known each other for years, from the time Kiefer was a film student at Boston University and played the lead role in a film Krimpas, then a graduate student at BU, made as his thesis film.

Krimpas said in an email sent Wednesday while he was aboard his flight to the U.S. that he had always felt the spine of “Around the Sun” was the idea of connection and how difficult that is when the universe, or universes, have other plans.


“And there is the idea of the infinite possibilities of the universe, something I’ve always been fascinated with since stargazing in Greece, where I grew up — so clear, especially when you’re out on a boat in the clear pitch black. And I’ve always relished knowledge for it’s own sake, so the film’s unabashed embrace of the truly geeky was something I was very enthusiastic to explore.”

Like Kiefer, who also has two children, Krimpas said his children were just getting into stargazing and astronomy while the film was getting off the ground.

“The feeling I got when working with the script during its development and auditions was that it was also all a bit unreal, dreamy,” he said in his email. “So we filmed it in a way that the camera always floats along with, or around, our characters, never static, always part of their experience. And the visual palette was meant to match that. A lot of this was serendipity: we were delayed so had to film in November, when the sun was very low in the sky, so for most of the exterior shots there’s almost a buttery soft feel to the light. And all those warm, autumnal colours were right on the money for what I was going for, so hats off to Mother Nature for the production design.”

Screenwriter Jonathan Kiefer speaks Wednesday about his movie “Around the Sun,” which will have its New England premiere during this year’s Maine International Film Festival in Waterville. Morning Sentinel photo by David Leaming

He noted that the film’s lead character, Maggie, talks about how, if there are infinite universes, then there are infinite possibilities for two souls to connect.

“I love the paradox of that: that there are infinite ways to miss out, but that connecting is also by definition an inevitability,” he wrote. “There’s something very comforting for me in that notion.”

Both Kiefer and Krimpas said they are honored to be showing their film, which was an official selection of the Cleveland International Film Festival, at MIFF.


“Its reputation speaks for itself, so it’s a real honour to be selected,” Krimpas said. “New England has had a place in my heart ever since I went to film school at BU in the early 90s, so it’s amazing to be bringing the film back here.”

Kiefer grew up in Middletown, Connecticut, where he loved watching films and was interested in science fiction and astronomy. He became involved in high school theater and later would work in film, become a journalist and film critic and make short films. “Around the Sun” is his first full-length film.

He said he is anxious to meet audiences and see other films at the festival. He and Krimpas were able to bring “Around the Sun” to Waterville after making a connection with the festival’s programming director, Ken Eisen, who also is a festival founder, according to Kiefer.

“I got this feeling that this is a festival where the program is very personal,” he said. “It has a very curatorial feel to it. You can tell there’s a passion for cinema here. I feel truly honored.”

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