WORDS: Karin Holzknecht, PHOTO: Julianna Rozek
A bunch of keen beans met up on Sunday to see a movie called Good Things Await, and helped our club live up to the 'cultured' part of its name by participating in one of the most cultured festivals in Victoria, the Melbourne International Film Festival (or MIFF).
We gazed around at the geometric lighting of the Victorian Treasury Theatre while waiting for the film to start and also decided that the comfy lecture theatre chairs would be quite nice installed at Burnley. Then the lights dimmed, and with a big pink OINK our viewing experience began.
OINK is a short film following a New Zealand pig farmer as he walks around his farm. He moves pigs from one concrete steel-barred shed to another, visits the birthing suite, gathers piglets into a barrow and throws them into pens with piles of fresh straw and primes sows with bags of semen - all the while giving out his honest unassuming philosophy on his style of farming and how demand drives supply. White Balance Films, who made OINK, are apparently going to further explore the themes of this short film and another called I Kill, and produce a feature length film called We Kill trying to break down the barrier between packaged meat and the living animal (here's the source for my rumour mill).
It certainly made an interesting juxtaposition for the main feature film, Good Things Await. The film opens with beautiful bucolic scenery accompanied by the a cappella Danish crooning of a choir. A herd of cows, the last of the original Danish red cattle breed, are shown moving through long grass backlight by a mellow sun. And then one bellows, and you see the hooves of her about-to-be-born calf poking out from under her tail, and a very tense breach-birth sequence ensues involving a rope, one camera man and the bellows of an anguished cow. Apart from giving my knuckles a good whitening it certainly served as a character introduction to Niels, the elderly biodynamic farmer who runs the place.
The film ostensibly follows Niels' struggles to keep farming biodynamically despite rules and regulations attached to his 'organic' status and reduction of carbon emissions, and the slow demise of the buildings on the farm due to lack of funds - while managing to feel like a long slow walk through a year with the cows. Niels' philosophical musings about how everything is interconnected and how the flowers act like a parabolic dish and how everything passes through the spirit of a worm combine with the seasonal shots and some great close-ups on PLANTS to convey a real sense of ecology. You could be a little unsure about his reasoning sometimes, but there's no doubting Niels loves his cows and the feeling is mutual. There are lots of tender, funny moments courtesy of the interactions between farmer and farmed. And ultimately it's an uplifting film because despite all the struggles and people not getting it, Niels really believes that his way of farming belongs to the future, rather than the past.
Having canvassed the masses, my conclusion is: 4 out of 5 carrots (thanks Jenny!). But don't take my word for it, why not see it for yourselves? See trailer tease below.
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