Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Video: Look & See — A Portrait of Wendell Berry (Trailer)

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LOOK & SEE revolves around the divergent stories of several residents of Henry County, Kentucky who each face difficult choices that will dramatically reshape their relationship with the land and their community.

In 1965, Wendell Berry returned home to Henry County, where he bought a small farm house and began a life of farming, writing and teaching.  This lifelong relationship with the land and community would come to form the core of his prolific writings. A half century later Henry County, like many rural communities across America, has become a place of quiet ideological struggle. In the span of a generation, the agrarian virtues of simplicity, land stewardship, sustainable farming, local economies and rootedness to place have been replaced by a capital-intensive model of industrial agriculture characterized by machine labor, chemical fertilizers, soil erosion and debt – all of which have frayed the fabric of rural communities. Writing from a long wooden desk beneath a forty-paned window, Berry has watched this struggle unfold, becoming one of its most passionate and eloquent voices in defense of agrarian life.

Filmed across four seasons in the farming cycle, LOOK & SEE blends observational scenes of farming life, interviews with farmers and community members with evocative, carefully framed shots of the surrounding landscape.  Thus, in the spirit of Berry’s agrarian philosophy, Henry County itself will emerge as a character in the film – a place and a landscape that is deeply interdependent with the people that inhabit it.

About the film

LOOK AND SEE is a cinematic portrait of the changing landscapes and shifting values of rural America in the era of industrial agriculture, as seen through the mind’s eye of writer, farmer, and activist, Wendell Berry.

The first documentary about Berry, undoubtedly one of America’s most significant living writers, LOOK AND SEE was filmed in and around the rolling hills of Henry County, Kentucky – where Berry has lived and farmed since the mid-1960’s. Filmmaker Laura Dunn skillfully weaves Berry’s poetic and prescient words with gorgeous cinematography and the testimonies of his family and neighbors, all of whom are being deeply affected by the industrial and economic changes to their agrarian way of life.

Often called “a prophet for rural America,” Berry has long been a voice for the communities that are so often overlooked by the media. LOOK AND SEE subverts biopic conventions and immerses audiences into Berry’s world, providing a space for talking about the land and those who sustain it.

It’s a conversation that is more urgent now than ever, as we find ourselves in a deeply divided nation where so many Americans are disconnected from the farmers who feed them.

Robert Redford, Terrence Malick, and Nick Offerman served as producers on LOOK AND SEE, which, following its award-winning March 2016 premiere at the SXSW Film Festival, was retitled and updated to reflect the conversations that have emerged since the election.

Dunn was awarded the IFC “Truer than Fiction” Independent Spirit Award for her previous film, The Unforseen, which was also executive produced by Redford and Malick. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, and was broadcast on the Sundance Channel.

Email subscribers to Vox Populi may watch the video trailer by clicking on the title of this post. The full-length film can be seen at selected theaters at these locations or downloaded at the producer’s website. It is also available through Netflix.

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As a young man, Wendell Berry left a career in academia and returned to work the land in Henry County.

2 comments on “Video: Look & See — A Portrait of Wendell Berry (Trailer)

  1. johnlawsonpoet
    March 25, 2018

    Berry’s an interesting figure: very environmentally conscious, but he also idealizes rural life in a way that’s uncomfortably reminiscent of the Southern Agrarians–Tate, Ransom, Robert Penn Warren, etc. Their book, I’ll Take My Stand, propagated a citizen-farmer, Jeffersonian vision that deluded the South into secession and that continues to inspire the poisonous alt-right and militia types nationwide. I often feel that Berry can easily be misread in the same way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Vox Populi
      March 25, 2018

      I agree, John. Wendell Berry is claimed by everyone: liberals, conservatives, old hippies, environmentalists, activists, farmers, organic foodies, vegans, the tobacco industry, and the white rural working class… His appeal is to basic traditions of America — decency, democracy, hardwork, respect for the land, love of family and community — so this broad appeal is legitimate. He’s also a very fine poet and prose writer, so he has a strong following among literary people like us…

      Like

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