Monday, April 23, 2018

"Look and See: Wendell Berry's Kentucky": a poet returns to the family farm and laments the corporatizing of agriculture

Look and See: Wendell Berry’s Kentucky”, directed by Laura Dunn (and Jef Sewell) with Terrence Malick and Robert Redford as executive producers, aired Monday April 23 on PBS Independent Lens (link). 

Berry, after teaching in New York, resettled in his home of Henry County, KY (SW of Cincinnati), on the edge of the Bluegrass area. The film appeared to show tobacco farming early, to demonstrate the manual labor of farm life.  But soon he talked about soybeans and corn.

The film goes on to cover consolidation of farms.

Later Earl Butz, secretary of Agriculture under President Ford after Nixon, appears, who would get into a public fight with the poet over the corporatization of American agriculture.

As the film progresses (following the chapters of Berry’s book) there is more questioning of falsely individualistic values, the idea that if you stayed on the farm you weren’t “smart” enough to become a salaried professional, or a licensed one. In the meantime, in the tone of the film, corporations make the farmers into indentured servants.  Is this film an ode for socialism?  Or is more along the lines of “The Survival Mom”, about real self-sufficiency and localism.

But it was during the Reagan years that I recall that farm prices dropped and started forcing farmers to sell to big companies.

The brief  film has a pace and music score that reminds one of Mallick’s “Tree of Life”. 
The film as shown seems to be a condensation of “Look and See; A Portrait of Wendell Berry” (82 min).

Remember how the "Dick and Jane" series starts with "We Look and See". 

Picture: March for Science

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