Look & See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry

A cinematic portrait of farmer and writer Wendell Berry. Through his eyes, we see both the changing landscapes of rural America in the era of industrial agriculture and the redemptive beauty in taking the unworn path.


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  • ★★★★½ review by Ken Rudolph on Letterboxd

    Wendell Berry is an 83 year old Kentucky farmer, author, poet and home spun philosopher. This documentary tells his story...small family farmer, nature lover, opponent of agribusiness and the government subsidies that encourage farm consolidation, crusading proponent of organic, back to the soil rural life. The film also tells the story of other farmers and their progeny, gradually forced off the land by economic necessity.

    Personally, I'm traditionally as urban as it gets (although I did have my quasi-hippie return to the land period in the 1970s when I was in my 30s.) Yet through the power of Berry's words and film maker Laura Dunn's gorgeous imagery, I was overcome by a feeling of nostalgia for the beauties of the countryside and the romance of being one with nature. Every frame of this film is a beautiful visual...from the etchings which adorn the inter-titles, to the "Koyaanisqatsi-ish", stop-motion scenes of overpopulated, mechanized urban life, to the sun-dappled forests and loamy farmland scenes that could have been taken from one of executive producer Terrence Malick's films. I wonder if Berry's poetic narration extolling his rural philosophy actually makes any sense in today's world. But I sure wish it did; and I love this film for introducing me to Berry's world.

  • ★★★½ review by Brian McLain on Letterboxd

    This is not so much about Berry as it is about his agrarian views. This film does a good job of visually representing his poetry - it’s lush and solemn... and very appealing. But it’s also a little (a lot) idealist... i’ve watched as a number of my own friends have abandoned the suburbs for the country, with visions of chickens and vegetable gardens dancing in their heads... but then reality sets in and that old farmhouse needs repaired, and those animals get up really early and need you to get up too; and there’s bugs and disease on those vegetables and the fence needs mending and oh, vacation? You can’t take vacation! You can’t even make it to church because the goat is about to give birth and you HAVE to be there... and then I remember why i’m thankful for the suburban life. And while I like - and even agree - with a lot of what Berry says - it looks even more appealing when you characterize the suburban life as mechanical, mindless and you’re just another cog in the wheel of the man’s machine. But that, of course, doesn’t have to be true - it can be - but it’s often not. So I grow my herbs in my raised beds, and I go to the farmer’s market and buy my local eggs and I sit and read about life in Port William and dream about how nice life would be there, and how fun it would be to live next door to Burley Coulter... and then I go outside and grill some hotdogs with the neighbors and watch the kids chase each other around the neighborhood and remember that, oh yeah, the suburbs are pretty swell too.

  • ★★★★ review by Andrew C on Letterboxd

    Gentle and informative short documentary about farming in modern day America, and the difficulties the agricultural community faces.

    Similar to the recent nonfiction work Hillbilly Elegy, it laments on the slow death of rural towns and independent farms, through the pensive and heart-filled words of Wendell Berry.

    Thank you PBS for the 1000th time, for airing American film of this caliber on a weekly basis.

  • ★★★½ review by CINEMADHESIVE on Letterboxd

    "I'm a dandelion man, myself."

  • ★★★★½ review by zackclemmons on Letterboxd

    Wendell Berry's poems are best when you hear his real voice. I've always been struck, inspired, by the integrity of his life and work, and the film did a nice job adding the details of the narrative of his life. Erin and I left thinking about the possibility of a farming life, so the film did its work.

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