“The Catch” is one of the several Maine-made films being featured at the Maine International Film Festival. Photo courtesy of MIFF

A thriller-drama film that tells a story based in the lobstering communities off the coast of Maine is included in the lineup for the annual Maine International Film Festival.

“The Catch,” directed by Matthew Ya-Hsuing Balzer, of Los Angeles, will premiere at the festival, known as MIFF, on July 12 at the Skowhegan Drive-In Theater.

MIFF aims to bring films from around the world to Maine from July 9 to 18; around 50 films will be shown during the festival, which is an increase from last year, though typically around 100 movies are shown each year.

The cast includes Katia Winter, Bill Sage, James McMenamin and Jere Burns. The film was shot in Gloucester and Rockport, Massachusetts.

“The Catch” follows a woman who returns to her estranged family in coastal Maine and hijacks a drug shipment which “puts her life and family in danger.” Inspiration for the story, Balzer said, comes from a 2009 shooting on Matinicus Isle when a July 20 confrontation between two lobstermen erupted in gunfire.

“The shooting up in Matinicus was the inspiration for this story,” Balzer said. “There are unofficial rules up there that you can’t fish in the water around the island if you’re not from the island. From that story I created something very different along those lines.”

Growing up in Massachusetts, Balzer said he spent a lot of time at a family friend’s camp in Vinalhaven and wanted to make the movie in Maine. Multiple interviews were conducted in the state for the indie film, including early-morning meet-ups with lobstermen to get out on the water and share stories. He added that, at one point, he was eyeing Harpswell for the location of the movie.

“That research all became part of the script, I really wanted to tell this authentic Maine story,” Balzer said. “We had to shoot in Massachusetts because of the tax incentive, but we did our best to try to replicate that feel of Maine because it is distinct.”

“I grew up in a small town outside of Boston, not a fishing town like the movie but similar,” Balzer said. “Everybody knows everybody, a lot of generations exist, and a lot of people never leave. When you grow up in a town like that there are two experiences: a great sense of support or it feels suffocating.”

Balzer said that, for him, his feelings were the latter and the film reflects part of his own story.

After meeting with the communities in Rockport and Gloucester, many opened their doors to Balzer and his team to help with the film.

“We made a film about a fishing community in a fishing community with the help of the community,” Balzer said.

This will be the second time Balzer’s been on the MIFF program; four years ago, his short film “The Colonial,” was shown.

“I’m looking forward to continuing to share this film with other communities,” Balzer said. “With Maine in particular, I hope it’s well received and we did it right by Maine and we did it right by these communities.”

The other films in the MIFF lineup for this summer that were either filmed or produced in Maine, or are set here, include “The Bride in the Box,” directed by Doug Bost, and “Fighting Indians,” directed by Mark Cooley and Derek Ellis.

Another film, “Bread in the Bones,” is sponsored by Maine Grains in Skowhegan.

Based in Waterville, MIFF is a project of Maine Film Center and sponsored by Colby College, Waterville Creates and the Lawry Family Foundation.

MIFF for 2021 kicked off Friday at the Waterville Opera House with the New England premiere of “Nine Days,” directed by Edson Oda. The film schedule, tickets for individual showings and festival passes are available through MIFF’s website — miff.org.

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