The Camden International Film Festival and the University of Maine’s Continuing Education Division co-sponsored a screening of two Maine documentary films at the Collins Center for the Arts on Thursday.
The films are a preview for the UMaine Camden International Film Festival course, offered in the fall 2013 semester.
“Downeast” and “Betting the Farm” are focus on life in rural Maine. Short Q-and-A sessions with experts, filmmakers and CIFF founder and director Ben Fowlie followed the screenings.
“It’s played all over the world, and we did a screening for it throughout the state in about 13 communities this winter,” Fowlie said of “Downeast,” which premiered at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. “We’re really trying to get it out to audiences.”
In “Downeast,” directors David Redmon and Ashley Sabin follow Antonio Bussone, an Italian immigrant and businessman, as he struggles to open a lobster-processing factory in the closed Bumble Bee sardine cannery in Gouldsboro, Maine. The closure of the sardine cannery in 2010 caused many longtime employees to lose their jobs, most of them women in their mid-60s whose careers spanned decades.
Throughout the film, Bussone deals with opposition from some members of the community, including Dana Rice, a lobster dealer and chairman of Gouldsboro’s board of selectmen.
The poor economic situation of Gouldsboro and the surrounding area is a recurring theme throughout the film.
Following the screening, UMaine film and English professor Tony Brinkley and District 37 Rep. Ralph Chapman, a research scientist who serves on the Joint Standing Committee on Marine Resources, took part in a short Q-and-A session to discuss the economical, political and environmental issues within the film.
“There’s an investment in Maine in keeping people poor for those who benefit from the status quo,” Brinkley said, referring to the recurring theme of poverty within the film. “On the other hand, if you live comfortably there, you do well and you want to keep the status quo. One of the ways to live comfortably is to live comfortably in the context of poverty.”
“Betting the Farm,” directed by Cecily Pingree and Jason Mann, follows three Maine dairy farmers and their desire to create independent milk company MOOMilk — Maine’s Own Organic — after contracts with a national milk company expired.
The film offers a close look at the triumphs and struggles of farming in America today.
After the screening, Mann took part in a Q-and-A session with owners of Chase’s Organic Dairy Laura and Vaughn Chase, owners of Windy Acres Farm Janet and Richard Lary, and owners of Tide Mill Organic Farm Aaron Bell and Carly DelSignore.
The film premiered at the 2012 American Film Institute’s Silverdocs Documentary Festival in Silver Springs, Md.
UMaine has offered the Camden International Film Festival course in the fall semesters for several years. It is a three-credit course offered by UMaine’s Continuing Education Division that meets for four Saturday classes during the fall semester. CIFF attendance is required, and students have an opportunity to engage with filmmakers and discuss documentary filmmaking in an open forum. Students also gain admission to panel discussions, workshops and special events.
The CIFF is in its ninth season. This year, the festival will run Sept. 26-29, with screenings at locations in Camden and Rockland. The schedule for documentary films offered at the festival will focus on an array of subjects from around the world.
The festival includes intimate Q-and-A sessions with filmmakers, panel discussions and the Points North Documentary Forum, which offers a unique opportunity for established and emerging filmmakers to reflect on the business and future of documentary film.
Another highlight of the CIFF is the Points North Pitch, which provides an opportunity for documentary filmmakers to pitch their film ideas to a panel of funders, editors and producers.
Winners of the “Best Pitch” award have been given a cash prize and tuition scholarships in previous years. “Betting the Farm” was a previous winner of this award.
The film screenings are located at Camden’s Opera House, Bayview Street Cinema, Rockland’s Strand Theatre and Farnsworth Art Museum.
For more information about the Camden International Film Festival, visit camdenfilmfest.org. To learn more about the UMaine CIFF course, call Marlene Charron at 207-581-4095. To register for the course, call 207-581-3143.