David Redmon and Ashley Sabin made their documentary “Downeast” as the first of a four part series. The film follows a year-and-a-half in a small lobstering village that faces tough times because of the economic crisis. They cite Ilisa Barbash’s sheep-herding documentary “Sweetgrass” as an influence on their film.
“‘Sweetgrass’ inspired us to expand our understanding of storytelling and our visual and experiential sensibilities,” said the directors. “Yet, our film ‘Downeast’ ended up as a partial opposite of Ilisa and Lucien’s remarkable movie.”
“Downeast” is premiering at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, and the other three parts are in various stages of production.
“Part 2 is much more experimental, experiential, and sensory-based (similar to ‘Sweetgrass,’ but not an imitation of it),” they said. “Part 3 is complete – it’s a 70 minute, one-shot movie of the entire factory. Part 4 is in the works.
What it’s about: “Downeast” is an experiential story that unfolds over the course of a year-and-a-half during America’s economic crisis in the small lobstering village of Prospect Harbor, Maine. It observes the closing of the last remaining Sardine Cannery in the United States that shut down in April 2010. Months later, Boston-based entrepreneur Antonio Bussone purchased the plant, hoping to re-build it as a lobster processing facility and rehire the laid-off sardine workers (most of whom are women over 65 years old). Antonio’s troubles begin on the first day he arrives to Prospect Harbor during a town-hall meeting as the local politicians oppose his vision. Undeterred, Antonio moves forward, determined to build and operate one of the first lobster factories in the United States.
Directors Redmon and Sabin say: “Our approach is simultaneously hands-off and direct involvement. We repeatedly wait and observe by putting ourselves in the middle of the action or boredom (when possible). Regarding the movie, ‘Downeast’ is also about the complexities of starting a factory in the United States (in Maine), the strong personalities that reside on the working waterfront of Maine and the current climate of working people who are directly impacted by the decisions of a business owner, local politicians, the federal government, and private banks.
“David studied qualitative and visual sociology and Ashley studied art history. We make nuanced portraits to understand the tricky situations in which people find themselves during a journey and what happens when they navigate the situation. We hope audiences gravitate toward experiencing these stories with their bodies through tone, emotion and sensation. Some of our future stories will contain as few words as possible.”
What would you like Tribeca audiences to come away with? “We hope audiences tell us what they see in our story rather than us tell them what we see. We love to learn from, listen to, and understand our audience’s thoughts and questions. A perfect example is Michael Tully from Hammer to Nail. His reviews are always replete with surprise takes on the subtleties inside movies.
“We’re honored that Tribeca accepted Downeast. We think it’s an exceptional festival that discovers, values and highlights true gems. The Tribeca audiences are energetic and engaging. We’ve attended Tribeca since 2002 yet this is our first movie to screen in the festival. We hope audiences will appreciate the complexity of our story and find the pleasure in struggling to figure it out. Downeast is not a sterilized story.”
Indiewire invited Tribeca Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2012 festival.
Keep checking HERE every day up to the launch for the latest profiles.