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Look and See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry

Distributed by Tugg, Inc., 855-321-8844
Produced by Terrence Malick, Robert Redford, Owsley Brown III, Gill Holland, Elaine Musselman, and Nick Offerman
Directed by Laura Dunn, Jef Sewell
DVD , color, 82 min.
College - General Adult
Agriculture, Environmentalism, Farming

Reviewed by Susan J. Martin, Head, Acquisitions Services University of Chicago

Date Entered: 2/7/2018

Laura Dunn and Jef Sewell’’s documentary, Look and See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry is an exploration of Wendell Berry - writer, farmer, activist, and poet, that flows more like a poem than a traditional biography. Dunn meanders through Berry’s life and the agrarian issues that have shaped it. It is a portrait of rural America and a disappearing way of life.

We never see Berry except in vintage film footage and photographs. Berry refused to appear in the film, but instead lends his voice reading a poem or part of an essay which often times is the narration, moving the viewer along. We do, however, meet Wendell’s wife and daughter who provide the biography of the portrait as they speak about who he was and still is. By removing his current-day self from the film, Berry allows us to focus on his words and work more fully.

Dunn and Sewell pay close attention to the small details which enhance the film’s experience. For example, the documentary is beautifully shot by cinematographer, Lee Daniels. The rural Kentucky countryside and farmland softly rolls by framed in early morning fog or winter frost. Kerry Muzzey’ original score is subtle and lyrical. Each film “chapter” is exquisitely illustrated by a wood engraving depicting rural farm life. These engravings were created especially for the film by artist and wood engraver, Wesley W. Bates.

This film is recommended. It would be a wonderful enhancement to courses or discussions on the American Agrarian movement, American agricultural history, environmentalism, agricultural business, and industrialism.