Rural Blog: ‘Look and See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry’ documentary premiers in New York Friday

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A film documenting the shifting values of rural America through the eyes of writer, farmer and activist Wendell Berry is set to premiere at the IFC Center in New York on June 30, reports Whitney Hale of the University of Kentucky.

“Look and See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry” is the first documentary about Berry, one of America’s most prominent living writers. It was filmed in and around Henry County, Kentucky, where Berry has lived and farmed since the mid-1960s, Hale reports.

Wendell Berry

“Often called ‘a prophet for rural America,’ Berry has long been a voice for the communities that are so often overlooked by the media. ‘Look and See’ subverts biopic conventions and immerses audiences into Berry’s world, providing a space for talking about the land and those who sustain it,” Hale writes.

“Filmed across four seasons in the farming cycle, ‘Look and See’ blends observational scenes of farming life and interviews with farmers and community members with evocative, carefully framed shots of the surrounding landscape. Thus, in the spirit of Berry’s agrarian philosophy, Henry County emerges as a character in the film — a place and a landscape that is deeply interdependent with the people who inhabit it. ‘Look and See’ frames a conversation that is more urgent now than ever, as we face a deeply divided nation where so many Americans are disconnected from the farmers who feed them.”

Robert Redford, Terrence Malick and Nick Offerman produced the film alongside Kentuckians Gill Holland, Owsley Brown III and Elaine “Cissy” Musselman. “Following the documentary’s award-winning premiere at the SXSW Film Festival, it was retitled and updated to reflect the conversations that have emerged since the election.

Local audiences may remember the film by its previous name, ‘The Seer,’ which was screened last July at the Kentucky Theatre” in Lexington, Hale explains. It has been updated and renamed since the presidential election. In addition to the New York premiere, the documentary will also be shown in Austin, Texas, this summer.

Berry is one of the most decorated living authors, having won countless awards, including the National Humanities Medal, the Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award, the Roosevelt Institute’s Freedom Medal and the Cleanth Brooks Medal for Lifetime Achievement, according to Hale.

Berry is also a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and in 2015 became the first living writer named to the Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame.

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The Rural Blog is a digest of events, trends, issues, ideas and journalism from and about rural America, from the IRJCI, based at the University of Kentucky. The Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues is an extension program for rural journalists and news outlets. It takes no positions on issues and advocates only for strong news coverage, responsible commentary and things that make them possible, such as open-government laws. For more information see www.RuralJournalism.org.

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