2013 is already shaping up to be a banner year for Maine film, with two full-length features in the works — Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly’s “ Blue Potato” and Lance Edmands’ “Bluebird” — and several documentaries already out there, including Jason Mann and Cecily Pingree’s “ Betting the Farm” and Ryan Brod and Daniel Sites’ “Hardwater.”
One of these films, “Downeast,” took directors David Redmon and Ashley Sabin nearly three years to complete, as they documented the attempt by Italian immigrant Antonio Bussone to reopen the former Stinson Seafood sardine cannery in Gouldsboro as a lobster processing plant, and save more than 100 local jobs.
“Downeast” screened at the 2011 Camden International Film Festival as a rough cut and then again in its final version at the 2012 festival, after the filmmakers changed the tone of the film dramatically as Bussone’s Live Lobster company was sued and the factory was shuttered for good. CIFF is taking “Downeast” on the road this month and next, with multiple screenings statewide, including at 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 19, at the Camden Opera House.
“In 2011, it was a very different film, because it was still unfolding, and they were just editing constantly, trying to keep up with the changes in the story,” sad Ben Fowlie, executive director for the CIFF. “Now, you spend an hour and a half watching how this community changes as the fate of the plant changes. It’s really powerful.”
The film also was screened at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City, in the World Documentary Competition. Audiences there responded to the film’s poignant look at the end of an era in a rural Maine community. Maine audiences that have seen the film respond to much the same thing, but with the added heft of it being a world they’re obviously familiar with.
“It’s been very emotional. Maine audiences really connect with it because the people in the film, who are mostly women, are real Mainers. We know these people,” said Fowlie. “[Sabin and Redmon] really did a remarkable job in capturing them.”
Fowlie believes it’s important for people to see films like “Downeast” and “Betting the Farm” that depict the struggles of everyday people in accurate and, at times, deeply poetic ways.
“The great thing about these films is that they are telling a much larger story than just what you see on camera,” said Fowlie. “Whether it’s the Stinson plant or farming in Maine, there’s a conversation you can have about how the ways people make a living are changing. It gets people engaged in a dialogue.”
“Downeast” will screen at 7 p.m. Jan. 19 at the Camden Opera House; 7 p.m. Jan. 20 and 24 at the Colonial Theatre in Belfast; 7 p.m. Jan. 22 and 2 and 7 p.m. Jan. 23 at the Lincoln Theatre in Damariscotta; 8 p.m. Jan. 25 and 2 and 8 p.m. Jan. 26 at the Frontier Cafe in Brunswick; 3 p.m. Feb. 2 at the Harbor Theatre in Boothbay Harbor; 2 p.m. Feb. 3 at Reel Pizza Cinerama in Bar Harbor and 8 p.m. Feb. 8 at the Brewer Performing Arts Center, via River City Cinema.