BAR HARBOR — Montreal filmmaker Pierre Marier was looking for stories of French-Canadian Americans when he came across “My Blood is Quebecois,” a prison essay by Raymond Luc Levasseur.
Levasseur is a Maine native who spent 20 years in prison for his involvement in bombings and bank robberies perpetrated by the United Freedom Front (UFF) in the 1970s and ’80s. Marier got in touch with Levasseur, who was paroled in 2004 and is back in Maine, and made a film about him.
Both Marier and Levasseur plan to visit Bar Harbor Sept. 16-17 for a screening of “An American: A Portrait of Raymond Luc Levasseur” and question-and-answer sessions as part of Reel Pizza’s Maine International Film Festival (MIFF)-By-The-Sea.
“Everybody here in Quebec has an uncle or aunt in the U.S.,” Marier told the Islander. “In the ’60s and ’70s, we began to lose contact with them, many of them integrated into the American melting pot. Slowly they lost the language, religion.
“So I wanted to find out what’s become of those still in touch with their Quebec roots. What kind of Americans are they? Do they define themselves as a group? How do they vote? What do they think of Canada? Do they still speak French?”
Marier found that Franco-Americans became all different kinds of Americans, from the far left to the far right. He ran across the essay by Levasseur, who described himself as a political prisoner. “It was intriguing. I wanted to know more about him. He had two important trials, but his case was unknown here in Quebec.”
The first part of the film shows Levasseur walking through the abandoned mills and shoe factories in Sanford where many of his family members worked. Growing up there and being marginalized as a Quebecois “frog,” he said, was the root of his radical politics.
“Think how many French Canadians lived here,” he says in the film. “The history of that, these people’s lives, is not documented.”
“In one way, Raymond Luc is completely representative of a generation of French Canadians in Maine,” Marier said. “Those people from the baby boom who lost the language, lost the Catholic religion. In another way, he’s completely marginal. He joined the Vietnam Veterans against the War and the radical student movement. And then, after a short stay in prison, chose direct action to show his opposition to U.S. foreign policy in Central America and South Africa.”
Levasseur has been a polarizing figure since some consider him a domestic terrorist. After his release, an invitation to speak at a University of Massachusetts conference drew protests.
The UFF bombing targets were the Suffolk County Courthouse in Boston, corporate offices and military facilities. They called in warnings, Levasseur said, and injuries were reported at the first bombing but not at subsequent ones.
He “went underground” for a full decade until the FBI caught up with him in 1984. He represented himself in his trial and was convicted of charges related to the bombings and robberies.
In 1987, he and the six other members of the UFF were acquitted on a charge of seditious conspiracy.
“He paid for what he did,” Levasseur’s uncle in Sanford says in the film. “Why he did it, I still don’t know.”
See the full schedule for MIFF-By-The-Sea at reelpizza.com.