For years now, Antonio Bussone, a Massachusetts businessman whose tumultuous attempt to bring a lobster processing plant to Gouldsboro came to a messy end marred with lawsuits and the plant’s demise, has been surrounded by controversy in Maine. The latest trouble for Bussone comes from Rockland, where the city has filed a lawsuit against Bussone claiming he failed to pay for use of the municipal fish pier, and that his business, Rockland Lobster, formerly Live Lobster Co., was operated as a sham.
Back in September, I had the pleasure of seeing a documentary at the Camden International Film Festival titled “Downeast,” chronicling Bussone’s rocky journey into Gouldsboro. Bussone’s Live Lobster Co. was met with mixed feelings from the townspeople, who were reeling from the economic effect of the Stinson Seafood plant’s closure.
The documentary, by David Redmon and Ashley Sabin, tells the story of Live Lobster Co. from a different perspective – Bussone’s. Where others closed their doors to the two young filmmakers, or put their guard up, Bussone seems to have given them an all-access pass to both his personal and professional life. If transparency is any indicator of honesty, then Bussone should have no trouble.
“Downeast” paints Bussone as a good man. Is he business savvy? Not particularly. Is he a little naïve? At times, yes. But were his intentions sincere in trying to bring jobs back to Gouldsboro? From everything I’ve seen and read, absolutely.
In addition to Bussone’s story, “Downeast” is a portrait of the people and politics of rural Maine during tough economic times. The people in Redmon and Sabin’s documentary are the hardworking Mainers that everyone in the state should be proud of. They’re the type of people out-of-staters associate with the state when they hear “Maine.” Not only do these people want to work, they love to work. It’s a shame, however, that many of them aren’t able to do what they love, as seen in “Downeast.”
There’s no doubt that with the latest lawsuit against Bussone, his character is going to come under fire. We’re going to see anonymous comments from people who don’t know this man, who may only be vaguely familiar with his story, vilifying him on message boards. I don’t know Antonio Bassone. I’ve never met him, and I’m not going to pass any judgments one way or the other. I’m a film critic. What I can tell you is “Downeast” gives Antonio Bussone a fair shake when it seems as though he cannot buy a break, in addition to just being some fine filmmaking.
No matter Bussone’s fate in this state, “Downeast” is an important documentary, and should be required viewing for all Mainers.