Thursday 20 June 2019
Farm Animals on Screen at the Edinburgh International Film Festival
The Biggest Little Farm
Los Angeles couple, John and Molly Chester, give up city life and buy a farm where they aim to grow every ingredient they might use in their kitchen and give their dog Todd the outdoor life he so obviously craves.
The Biggest Little Farm follows the family’s own story as they address the practical challenges of starting a sustainable, biodiverse farm on 200 acres of barren land. At the beginning of the film Molly can barely put a spade into the soil it is so dry and compacted, by the end of the film the soil is rich and dark and full of the microorganisms that make for a living and healthy soil to grow crops.
The challenges are many (including drought, wildfires, floods and pests), but the Chesters are ambitious and determined and have a great helper in Alan, an expert in sustainable agriculture and an international team of volunteers. Alan helps them to plan and plant a large orchard containing various varieties of fruit trees. He advises them on livestock farming, which will not only produce food to sell, but which will also through dung production improve the quality of the soils.
The ground in the orchard is planted with ground cover plants, which offer food for the farm animals (who, remember, are fertilising the soil) and which also enable the soil to absorb rain waters (in an excessive rain storm, all the sorrounding farms lose topsoil in the floods, but the Chesters land is fine and the rain that the plants can't use filters through to their underwater aquifer, which allows them to water their crops in dry times).
As the farm is organic, the most persistant problem is what to do with pests. Alan the agricultural advisor (who died during the time of making the film) had said that everything would balance out eventually but at times it seemed this was never going to happen. But eventually listening to Alan and watching how Todd the dog seemed to observe everything so carefully, the Chesters found ways to deal with pests, including taking the chickens into the orchard to eat the snails and encouraging birds of prey onto their land to control the gopher populations. They even learned to live in some degree of balance with the troublesome coyotes.
This is a wonderful film, a moving story of one family's journey to fulfil their dream and an inspiring tale of how farming in balance with nature can have amazing effects in regenerating the land. It's an ideal film for young people to watch to learn about sustainable farming.
The Chester's farm Apricot Lane Farms is a biodynamic and regenerative farm. Regenerative farming is one of the themes of the film 2040, also screening in this year's film festival, which I reviewed here.
The Biggest Little Farm is screening as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2019 at 1530, Saturday 22 June at Odeon Lothian Road and 2040 Monday 24 June at Vue Omni Centre. You can book tickets here.
Screening as part of the Black Box strand of experimental films, Vulture is a visual meditation on farming as a dying way of life, intercut with scenes of a flying vulture with a child's voice over about vultures (the only spoken words in the film). This film was shot and processed with various means including flower and plant processing carried out as blooming occurred. So the pictures seem faded and distressed, giving a sense of things fading away.
Vulture is screening as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2019 at: 2030, Friday 21 June and 2015 Thursday 27 June, both at Filmhouse. You can buy tickets here.
You can read my earlier reviews from Edinburgh International Film Festival 2019, by following the links below:
Boyz in the Wood a group of teenage boys get lost in the Scottish Highlands.
2040 - can technology offer solutions to our current climate and ecological crises?
Bait - Cornish fishermen try to adapt to a changing world
How to Fake a War (on my Shapeshifting Green blog) what happens when a rock star decides to meddle in international affairs?
Disclaimer: I have a press pass for the film festival and attended free press screenings of these films.