Chappaquiddick, the upcoming movie that revisits Sen. Edward M. Kennedy’s infamous 1969 car crash on the Island, will open the 2018 Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival on March 15.

A discussion with the film’s director, John Curran, and actor Jason Clarke, who stars as Mr. Kennedy, will follow the opening night screening.

“We’re really excited,” MVFF artistic director Brian Ditchfield told the Gazette Tuesday. “It’s rare that you find a great dramatic film that also has local resonance, and so we thought it was the perfect film to open the festival.”

He added that the film festival was excited to bring Mr. Curran and Mr. Clarke to the Island. Mr. Clarke, an Australian actor who also starred in Zero Dark Thirty, among other films, “was fabulous in [Chappaquiddick],” Mr. Ditchfield said.

The film is scheduled for wide release in the U.S. on April 6. It revisits what happened on July 18, 1969, when Mr. Kennedy drove off the Dike Bridge on Chappaquiddick. Mary Jo Kopechne, 28, was a passenger in the car and drowned in Poucha Pond. After failing to report the incident immediately, Mr. Kennedy later pleaded guilty at the Edgartown courthouse to leaving the scene of accident and received suspended sentence.

The new film looks at the car crash and the aftermath that unfolded, largely on the Vineyard, which included a media firestorm and the Kennedy family dealing with what they saw as a public relations nightmare for Mr. Kennedy.

The movie filmed briefly on the Vineyard in September 2016, including scenes of Mr. Clarke riding the Chappy ferry, which was made to look as it did in the 1960s.

Mr. Ditchfield said the film goes beyond the car crash itself, and “really dives into Ted Kennedy’s relationship with his father. It’s not exactly positing any new theories about what may or may not have happened, but sort of diving into more biography about Senator Kennedy himself,” he said.

After opening the festival on Thursday March 15, Chappaquiddick will be shown again on Saturday, March 17, Mr. Ditchfield said.

Tickets for individual films will be available for purchase soon, Mr. Ditchfield said, and the rest of the schedule will be released shortly, likely later this week.

“We’re really trying to play films that appeal to various groups on the Island,” Mr. Ditchfield said. The schedule will include free children’s movies all weekend and free workshops for children, he said, as well as other films with Island flavor, including a program of short Vineyard documentaries. A documentary about Island painter Allen Whiting titled A Painter Who Farms will also show at the festival.

The festival runs in Chilmark from March 15 to March 18. For information visit