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Susan Axelrod

Susan Axelrod's food writing career began in the kitchen; she owned a restaurant and catering business for 15 years before turning to journalism. By day, she is the social media editor for Portland Press Herald. To relax, she bakes, gardens and hikes with her husband and their two dogs, preferably followed by a cocktail or a Maine beer. Susan can be contacted at 791-6310 or On Twitter: @susansaxelrod

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Posted: April 22, 2014

Maine filmmakers get real with indie drama ‘Beneath the Harvest Sky’

Written by: Susan Axelrod

I never expected to learn about an intriguing movie set in Maine from a potato chip brand. A press release from Terra Chips was how I first heard about “Beneath the Harvest Sky,” an indie drama that captivated audiences and critics at the Toronto International Film Festival in September.

In the tradition of coming-of-age movies like “The Outsiders” and “Stand By Me,” “Beneath the Harvest Sky” tells the story of two teenage boys — best friends — eager to escape their rural hometown of Van Buren, Maine and move to Boston, but they have wildly differing ideas about how they can get together enough money to make the move. Dominic is hard working and ethical; Casper is a charismatic trouble-maker who gets into international drug smuggling with his father. Their struggle is set against the background of the autumn potato harvest.

The film’s U.S. premiere will be at the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival in New York City, beginning on April 18. But before it is released nationwide, it will open right here in Maine, beginning on April 25 at the Bangor Mall Cinema. The film will open elsewhere on May 2.

That’s how the filmmakers, Bar Harbor residents Gita Pullapilly and Aron Gaudet planned it. The movie is fictional, but the backdrop is very real and very Maine — it was filmed in and around the town of Van Buren in Arrostook County, much of it on the LaJoie family potato farm. The LaJoies, who provide Terra Chips with most of the blue potatoes for their blue potato chips — thus, the promotional tie-in — were significant to the filmmakers in getting the details right.

In September, Gaudet and Pullapilly told Filmmaker Magazine:

We interviewed potato farmers, high-school teens and teachers, law enforcement, inmates in the jail, anyone that could tell us what life was like in these small rural towns along the Maine/Canada border. I can safely say at least 85% of what happens in the film came from a real story we were told during our research. And then we wrote to real locations that we would visit. It was always funny when a cast member would arrive in northern Maine, and instantly start to recognize locations from the script. We strove for authenticity above all else.

For more about filming the movie in Maine, see “How a Small Northern Maine Town Became a Feature Film Location” on

Gaudet and Pullapilly, named among “10 Directors to Watch” by industry magazine Variety in December, 2013, also made the 2009 documentary “The Way We Get By,” about the Maine Troop Greeters — three senior citizens who spent years greeting military flights in and out of Bangor International Airport.

Win tickets to Tribeca

Terra Chips is giving away a trip for two to New York City that includes 2 festival tickets to watch the U.S. premiere of “Beneath the Harvest Sky.”

Enter to win a trip to the Tribeca Film Festival

Here’s when and where you can watch “Beneath the Harvest Sky” in Maine, beginning April 25:

Bangor — Bangor Mall Cinema
Q&A with filmmakers Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly, April 25, evening screenings

Bar Harbor, ME – Reel Pizza Cinerama
Q&A with filmmakers Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly: April 27, both screenings

Belfast — Colonial Theater

Brunswick — Frontier Cinema & Cafe

Bucksport — Alamo Theatre (3 days only)

Caribou — Caribou Cinemas

Houlton — Temple Theatre

Portland – Nickelodeon Cinemas
Q&A with filmmakers Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly: April 26, evening screenings

Waterville — Railroad Square Cinema

The film will also be on all cable Video on Demand, iTunes, Amazon Instant and other digital platforms as of April 15.

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