The Biggest Little Farm

The Biggest Little Farm (John & Molly Chester) – In limited release*, The Biggest Little Farm is an impressive documentary about sustainable farming and the price a couple pays to resurrect dead land and make it a paradise.  As boring as that sounds, Farm is actually a tense drama about dreams, fears, commitment and the power of nature.

John and Molly Chester got tired of city life and decided to follow Molly’s dream of owning a farm to raise her family.  But they go way more than they bargained for.  The land they bought in Ventura County, California, was dead, the victim of drought, neglect and a poor economy.  With the help of an agricultural guru who truly believed that sustainable farming and a return to basics was the formula for resurrection, the couple poured everything into their big, little farm.

Through physical and mental challenges, they imported animals, planted various crops, and fought fire and rain to make the dream come true.  In the process, they encounter nature’s wrath and unanticipated barriers, eventually prevailing (please excuse the spoiler) and present to the audience a formula for global hope.

As a film, this is almost as good as a documentary gets.  On the surface, it looks like a relentless quest with a satisfying, if difficult, journey.  It has been very popular on the film festival route, premiering at Telluride and making a splash at the prestigious Toronto Film Festival.

But I was left with several questions.  The film starts with animation telling us how the couple decided to seek their dream.  It mentions that they finally attracted the money to fund their quest.  But it doesn’t say how, from whom, or from what source.  Why not? Where did their funding come from – not only for the project but also for the film?  Were those dollars tied to the production of the documentary?  Is there an agenda?  Maybe the answers aren’t sinister but why the secrecy?

For production value and certainly as an interesting documentary, this movie is worth the time and effort.  There are ways that this could have been turned into a feature film rather than a documentary.  But it likely would not have attracted much commercial success.  If you get a chance to see this movie … or when it eventually makes its way to Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime … you should see it.


*(Opened May 10 in Los Angeles and New York; May 17 in Austin, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Minneapolis, Nashville, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco and Washington D.C. Additional markets throughout May and June)

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