TheFranco-American Collection will be screening the documentary Down by The River’s Edge Thursday May 1st at 9 am in room 170 of USM LAC.
The movie includes images and stories shared by papermakers who were deeply affected by the 2009 closing of Otis Mill where over 200 papermakers lost their jobs. The documentary is also a treasured collection of heartfelt stories recounted by retired paper makers, from the 1890’s through the 1920’s, of their immigrant fathers and grandfathers seeking employment at the Otis Mill in the village of Chisholm, Maine; wedged between the Western Foothills of Maine and the powerful Androscoggin River. The film also details the French-Canadian immigration during the early 1850's, to Farmington, where they first came to work as seasonal farm laborers, walking down through the Old Canada Road.
Men left their families behind sometimes for years, leaving their homes in Quebec, and the Maritime Provinces of Canada; across the Atlantic from Italy, Czechoslovakia and Ireland seeking and finding employment in the developing paper industry until earning enough money to bring their families to the region. Their lives woven into the trinity of their new community; the Otis Mill, the Androscoggin River and the St. Rose of Lima Church, where these new immigrants practiced their devout Roman Catholic faith and built the brick and mortar of their new community.
Film maker, Susan Gagnon, who filmed and wrote the script, narrates a collage of images from her childhood living in a three-decker tenement building, a stone’s throw away from the Otis Mill where all the men in her family worked.
Here in Lewiston-Auburn we tend to associate Franco-Americans with the textile and shoe industries. But, as this movie demonstrates, Franco-American communities exist all across the State of Maine, and they were drawn here for a variety of reasons – from the farm-laborers and paper-mill-workers depicted here, to shipbuilders, lumberjacks and everything in between. Down by The River’s Edge is a nice insight into a different aspect of Franco-American history.
The event is part of the Franco-American Collection’s Spring Lecture series, organized in partnership with USM LAC faculty and made possible by support from the University of Maine System’s Diversity Committee.
The movie screening (1 hour) will be followed by a Q & A with the film-maker, Susan Gagnon.
The event is free and open to the public.