A lyrical portrait of an excommunicated Amish woodworker struggling with spirituality, poverty, and life as an outcast from his strict, insular community.
Director: Lance Edmands
Running time: 18 minutes
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Lance Edmands speaks about the inspiration for the film:
“Growing up in Maine, I’ve always been drawn to the stories and landscape of my home state. Although I live in New York now, my work in film has frequently brought me back there to capture the unique stoicism and rugged individualism of the region. When I first came across a profile of Kenneth in the local newspaper, I immediately wanted to meet him. So one day when I was in Maine visiting my family, I drove up to his workshop in Thorndike and spent some time with him.
I was inspired by his radical commitment to living life his own way. I knew that I had to capture his story on film. In a world where everyday life has become increasing complex and polarized, Kenneth’s simple lifestyle and constant questioning of the world around him displayed a refreshing perspective. While he appears to be a traditional Amish man from the outside, he completely resists the stereotypes and expectations of someone living the ‘plain’ lifestyle. His story shows us how commitment to your personal truth can sometimes be a profound choice.”
On challenges faced:
“My goal was to give ‘The Seeker’ a unique feeling. Almost like a tone poem that reflected on some of life’s big philosophical questions in a patient, contemplative way. I tried to use the tools of cinema to tell the story emotionally, rather than simply to illustrate a thesis. We did something rather rare in documentary and shot on 16mm film. We did this to mirror Kenneth’s commitment to using older technology, and we felt that the grainy, nostalgic aesthetic of film seemed to fit perfectly with his throwback way of life.
We also used these very unique Panavision anamorphic lenses, but there were only two of them in the set. They were at the extreme ends of the spectrum, one very wide and one very telephoto. As a result, the visual language was a big challenge to figure out on the fly. But, in the end, it was the best possible choice, as I felt like we were more patient and more present as a result.”
Advice to aspiring filmmakers:
“When it comes to documentary, always have a plan, but be willing to throw it away at the last minute. I find there is a constant tension between wanting to be prepared and rigorous. While at the same time, being totally flexible and open to spontaneity. I tried to set up a structure ahead of time about how I thought Kenneth’s story should be told. When we got to the farm, it was clear that we’d have to pivot in the moment and follow whatever demands were made of him that day.
That included tending to certain animals or simply reacting to the weather. Being at this big farm all by himself with so many responsibilities meant that we had to plan around all those things. But I would say it’s key to give yourself room to be free within the structure you create. It’s like jazz. There is the backbone melody of your story, and you just kind of riff around that and try and get lost while keeping an eye on the overall composition.”