It comes as a complete shock to me that the best movie I have seen this year is a documentary by the name of Farmland. I usually don't watch documentaries and those I do watch have mostly bored me. I am a man who likes to see actors playing roles and movies being a great escape.
For these reasons I was not eager to watch Farmland after I had been invited to a special screening of the film. But I had said I would be there so I made myself go. After only a few minutes of the film had been shown I knew I was in for a cinematic treat.
Director James Moll went across the country finding young farmers/ranchers to interview and showcase for his film. He selected (1) Leighton Cooley, a poultry farmer in Georgia; (2) Brad Bellah, a cattle rancher in Colorado; (3) David Loberg, a corn and soybean farmer in Nebraska; (4) Sutton Morgan, an organic farmer in California; (5) Margaret Schlass, a vegetable farmer in Pennsylvania; and (6) Ryan Veldhuizen, a hog farmer in Minnesota.
Each of these individuals get equal screen time to tell their story. They speak with a naturalness that is unexpected. Each story appears to be heartfelt and impressive. How Moll found people so at ease in front of the camera is truly amazing.
The film intercuts between the selected cast and lets their stories play out over the course of the film. There are parts that are humorous, some that are sorrowful, some that are dramatic, and some that are pure patriotic Americana. All of it is impressive. The audience gets to know these people and share their joys, hopes and pains.
Being a farmer or a rancher looks to be hard work but to the person, these six individuals make it look like the greatest profession on earth. They have a sense of mission in what they are doing and they convey this sense to the camera and thus to the audience.
Moll not only presents a great story, or in this case stories, he also dresses the entire production up with a rousing musical score by Nathan Wang and magnificent photography by Harris Done. It is a presentation that is outstanding in very facet of its creation.
Farmland is not rated but it would certainly be a "G" as there is nothing controversial in the film.
There is an unexpected emotional punch in the stories of these young American men and women. Their sincerity and open honesty about their careers seep into your heart and brain while they talk. And after you have watched their stories you have a renewed optimism in the future of our country.
The film is playing in selected theaters around the country. If it is not playing at a theater near you, ask for it. It is something your entire family will enjoy.
I scored Farmland a growing 8 out of 10.
Interview with Leighton Cooley, one of the stars of Farmland.
Jackie K Cooper
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