[Frameworks] Films on Farming

Sarah Neely sarah.neely at stir.ac.uk
Fri Nov 18 12:23:55 UTC 2016

I'm not sure if it has been mentioned yet, but Scottish experimental filmmaker, Margaret Tait's wonderful film following the seasonal changes on an Orkney croft, Land Makar (1981) (Makar is the Scots word for poet) http://movingimage.nls.uk/film/3700,
is definitely worth looking at.  It is both a portrait of the crofter, Mary Graham Sinclair, and the landscape where she lived and worked.

Tait was from Orkney and her family were well-known agricultural merchants.  Mary Graham Sinclair was a neighbour of Tait's and she knew her very well, which comes across in the film.

All the best,
Sarah Neely

On 17 Nov 2016, at 16:28, Linda Fenstermaker <lindafenstermaker at gmail.com<mailto:lindafenstermaker at gmail.com>> wrote:

Thank you all for the inspiring links and title suggestions. Dave, I agree that this is a relatively unexplored subject for experimental makers, which is why I put out a call to see if others knew of more films that dealt with farming than I did. I am also a filmmaker that works on a small scale vegetable farm in the Northwest and am constantly inspired by the work and surroundings. I am interested in where films inspired by farming falls between landscape film, documentary and experimental works. Thanks again for all the leads!

Linda Fenstermaker

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Dave Tetzlaff <djtet53 at gmail.com<mailto:djtet53 at gmail.com>>
To: Experimental Film Discussion List <frameworks at jonasmekasfilms.com<mailto:frameworks at jonasmekasfilms.com>>
Date: Mon, 14 Nov 2016 19:44:30 -0800
Subject: Re: [Frameworks] Films on Farming
> Mala Leche (2003) by Naomi Uman

'Mala Leche' is a racist/classist/xenophobic POS about a Mexican immigrant family living in a slum in California.

The film about farming is just ‘Leche’ (1998) a totally romanticized vision of life on a rural Mexican dairy farm, then the home of the family later featured in ‘Mala Leche’.
The companion pieces are opposites, ‘Leche’ dreamy-positive; ‘Mala Leche’ fetid-negative, but each, in their own way, ideologically clueless and corrupt.

A wonderful, unorthodox (if not exactly experimental) farming related short film: Chuck Statlers ‘Ain’t We Having Fun’ — scenes from the annual turkey festival in Worthington, MN.

Back in the previous decade when I was attending UFVA regularly, I saw several experimental shorts about animal rights issue in terms of animal farming and slaughter made by a PhD student than at Kansas named Mark von Schlemmmer. I just Googled him, and he’s teaching at Central Missouri know. He has a Youtube page at: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL7691C304BAC252F5
As I recall the pieces, what they lack in polish may be made offset for your purpose by the subject and the passion applied to it.

It seems to me a lot of the requests here for ‘experimental films about [topic X]’ are for topics not only where few, if any, experimental films exist, but also, like ‘farming’, the sort of concrete subjects experimental films rarely if ever actually address or illuminate even when some element of that topic has been in front of the lens.

That said, ‘farming’ strikes me as a kind of rich but unexplored territory for inspiration or connection or material for many of the kinds of things experimental makers do.
It’s certainly true that most makers have lived in and taken images from cities. When leaving the urban, experimental work has most often been wrapped up in Romantic concepts of ‘nature’. (I had to laugh at Adam’s reference to "tilling fields & harvesting crops and working the soil’.) Farming’ is pretty much marked by taming nature and bending it to a sort of broad social will, with as much high tech as any big industry. So if an experimental maker got out to farmland as it actually is, there’d be all kinds of objects and actions that could serve as ostrananie to city folks, and be grist for the mill of creative eyes and minds: giant combine machines and elevators and irrigation systems, de-tasseling brigades… Someone could do a cool ‘found footage’ piece cu from the TV ads that play in Iowa, both local spots and big-budget high-production-value campaigns for hybrid seed brands, fertilizer, herbicides and insecticides…. "Whether you incorporate you atrazine or add it later, we have the right stuff for you!"

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