REAL DIRT ON FARMER JOHN,THE
Taggart Siegel shot footage of John Peterson over 25-years of their evolving friendship, using multiple media, from Super8 home movies to modern video, allowing him to capture his alternately humorous, heartbreaking and spirited life with raw drama and intimacy. Siegel charts Farmer John's journey from farm boy to counter-culture rebel to the son who almost lost the family farm to a beacon of today's booming organic farming movement. Farmer John is also an outrageous artist, a maverick environmentalist, a homespun rebel, a pink-boa-wearing eccentric, a playful provocateur -revolutionising his family farm and redeeming his own life.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Farmer John, tilling the soil of his ancestors in Northern Illinois, drives tractors and loves big machinery. He also loves boa feathers and glitz. Sometimes he mixes the two. But that's just the beginning of this wonderfully eccentric, yet somehow innocent tale, of a man on the land who harvested a whole new life out of the one he inherited. The film is made partly as extensively photographed as it by John's mum use of a home movie camera since 1950. Taggart Siegel took over some 25 years ago, documenting John's life through their friendship. Anyone's life might seem special under these circumstances, but that doesn't take away from Farmer John's self analysis. But the film also puts the man in context of his society over the past three generations.
The insights into how small communities can generate rumours that swell to accusations and fester fear and aggression is reminiscent of the days of Salem - no kidding. There is deep irony in how his neighbours' negativity towards him (their fear born of ignorance) ultimately led to John's decision to be an organic farmer.
His story is almost a text book example of how hardship can strengthen character, and how necessity is the mother of invention. Inspiring, instructive, humorous, dramatic and moving, The Real Dirt on Farmer John is something special.
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REAL DIRT ON FARMER JOHN,THE (PG)
CAST: Documentary featuring John Peterson, Anna Nielson, Lester Peterson,
NARRATION: Farmer John Peterson
PRODUCER: Teri Lang
DIRECTOR: Taggart Siegel
SCRIPT: Farmer John Peterson
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Taggart Siegel
EDITOR: Greg Snider
MUSIC: Mark Orton
RUNNING TIME: 82 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Gil Scrine Films
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Touring nationally in selected cinemas, starting in Melbourne on October 24, 2007