Tribeca, continued

I'm sitting at a computer in the press lounge for the Tribeca festival, which seems like a logical place to write this latest dispatch, a review of Downeast, a new documentary by David Redmon and Ashley Sabin. Most of the film takes place in Prospect Harbor, ME, once the home of the Simon Sardine Cannery, the last remaining sardine canning factory in the U.S. until its closing a few years ago. Now the town is filled with unemployed septuagenarians, mostly women, whose lives have lost focus and who are facing life without money, insurance, the usual things that come with having a job. The worst loss, though, is of a sense of purpose. As one of the workers says half-jokingly, "I'm too old to be trained."

At the outset of the film, Antonio Busone, a transplanted Italian businessman who owns a small chain of lobster processing plants, is trying to place a new factory in the town, guaranteeing that he will hire largely from that pool of former cannery workers. He is waiting for a $200,000 federal job creation grant; all that is needed is the approval of the Board of Selectmen. Unfortunately for Busone, the head of the Board is Dan Rice, a lobster buyer whose business would be endangered by the new factory. More than that, Rice is one of those Tea Party-types who would rather let his own constituents suffer than approve government spending.

At first it looks as if this conflict will be the center of Downeast. Unfortunately, one of the downsides to making documentary films is that you have no way of knowing what the outcome of you hard work will be until you are in the editing room. I suspect the filmmakers had no clue that Busone's entire company would become the victim of a chain of events that would see his bank freeze all his assets as a response to a client's bounced check, triggering a slow-motion meltdown that ends in utter catastrophe.

Redmon and Sabin tell this story intelligently, but the film's 76-minute running time doesn't leave room for much backstory or many explanations, and the suddenness of the collapse is even more shocking to us than  to the participants. It would be helpful if the directors could go back and insert more detail before the film gets a wider showing. As it is, they have the skeleton of a fascinating film, filled with grace notes like the shower of sparks cascading from a metal grinder as the old factory space is renovated. Regrettably, like those sparks, the film fades out much too soon.


Anonymous said…
Anonymous said…
Wow, you Mainers are posting this Bangor news article everywhere! Attack Antonio! Attack Antonio! Oh, wait, they haven't seen the movie... Self-centeredness is a strategic breeding ground for righteous indignation and superior ignorance. And your IP address also suggests a lot about you. AT