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Florida Film Festival review: DOWNEAST

April 7, 2013



When I scheduled this film on my phone, autocorrect wanted to change it to “downcast” – clearly, Siri knew more than I did about what audiences are in for with this documentary. Downeast tells the too-familiar story of a town sent into an economic death spiral by the closure of a local business. In this case, it’s Stinson Seafood, the last American sardine-canning concern, which closed and put most of Gouldsboro, Maine, out of work. When a Boston-by-way-of-Italy businessman comes into town with a plan to buy the cannery and open a lobster-packing plant, it seems prayers have been answered. All the ways in which they are not unfold in this spare 78-minute doc. Capitalism: It’s a bitch.

Downeast is hard to watch, not just because of the soul-crushing subject matter but also because filmmakers David Redmon and Ashley Sabin allow the information to unfold from the mouths of the natives, with very little exposition and no narration. (Although it must be said that Redmon and Sabin specialize in depressing tales: See their 2007 Kamp Katrina and last year’s Girl Model.) The gut-punch story is leavened somewhat by slow-paced but visually poetic oceanside sequences.

The two screenings of Downeast will be preceded by American Tintype, a lovely four-minute short about an archaic form of art photography by local-until-last-month filmmaker Matt Morris.

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