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September 20, 2007

Storyteller's life provides rich material for documentary: 'The Times Are Never So Bad

The story was everything to Andre Dubus. The late Haverhill author won fans, awards and critical acclaim for his tales rich with New England characters and settings.

Ultimately, however, Dubus' own life - filled with love yet fraught with tragedy and loss, is more compelling than any narrative he could have concocted in his imagination.

Rhode Island filmmaker Edward Delaney takes on the author's life story in the documentary "The Times Are Never So Bad: The Life of Andre Dubus," opening the fourth Newburyport Documentary Film Festival on Sept. 28.

While the movie runs just 85 minutes, it represents volumes of interviews and research, originally amounting to 44 hours of footage.

"It was very difficult," said Delaney, who produced, filmed and edited the project.

"There were so many great stories. The first cut (of material) I felt I couldn't live without was almost three hours long. I just really wanted to get it under 90 minutes."

Delaney, a journalist and Roger Williams University professor, filmed here in the Merrimack Valley, where Dubus lived most of his adult life, and as far away as California. Among the local spots featured is Kelly's Restaurant in the Bradford section of Haverhill, known in Dubus' time as Ronnie D's bar.

Following the screening in Newburyport, Delaney and Dubus' children Suzanne of East Kingston, N.H., and Andre III, of Newbury, will host a question-and-answer session.

While the two Dubus children heard positive things from people who saw the film at a Rhode Island screening, neither has seen it yet.

"I know I don't want to see it for the first time with everybody else," said Suzanne, who will try to get a viewing before the festival. "You hate to blubber."

Andre III said, "I have the same fear. I might be bawling like a baby."

He, however, will watch "The Times Are Never So Bad" for the first time along with everyone else at the local debut.

"I am a big believer in the truth," said Andre III. "I hope it shows something true about my dad."

Andre Dubus died from an apparent heart attack at age 62, after being hit by a car more than a decade earlier and losing the use of his legs. He was married and divorced three times and fathered six children.

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