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INDEPENDENT LENS: Look & See: Wendell Berry’s Kentucky

Airs Monday, Jan. 13, 2020 at 11 p.m. on KPBS TV

Tanya and Wendell Berry, 1970s. Henry County, Kentucky.

Credit: Courtesy of James Baker Hall

Above: Tanya and Wendell Berry, 1970s. Henry County, Kentucky.

A Lyrical Portrait of the Writer, Poet, Farmer and Environmental Activist

"Look & See: Wendell Berry’s Kentucky" is a cinematic portrait of the changing landscapes and shifting values of rural America in an era of industrial agriculture, as seen through the mind’s eye of writer, farmer, and activist Wendell Berry.

Through his poetic and prescient words and the testimonies of his family and neighbors — all deeply affected by the industrial and economic changes to their agrarian way of life — we see the changing landscapes of rural America and the redemptive beauty in taking the unworn path.

Often called “a prophet for rural America,” Berry has long been a voice for communities frequently overlooked by the media.

Directed by Laura Dunn and executive produced by Terrence Malick and Robert Redford, "Look & See: Wendell Berry’s Kentucky" premiered on INDEPENDENT LENS in 2018.

Look & See: Wendell Berry's Kentucky - Trailer

"Look & See: Wendell Berry’s Kentucky" is a portrait of the changing landscapes and shifting values of rural America through the voice of writer, farmer, and activist Wendell Berry. Centered in his native Henry County, Kentucky, Look & See is an elegy to a lost way of life that was once the bedrock of America--the culture of agriculture.

In 1965, after living in California, Europe and New York, Wendell Berry returned home to Henry County, bought a small farmhouse and began a life of farming, writing, and teaching. 

Photo credit: Courtesy of James Baker Hall

Wendell Berry with son Den Berry, 1970s. Henry County, Kentucky.

This lifelong relationship with the land and community would come to form the core of his prolific writings.

A half century later, Henry County — like many rural communities across America — has become a place of quiet ideological struggle.

In the span of a generation, the agrarian virtues of simplicity, land stewardship, sustainable farming, local economies, and rootedness to place have been replaced by a capital-intensive model of industrial agriculture characterized by machine labor, chemical fertilizers, soil erosion, and debt — all of which have frayed the fabric of rural communities.

Writing from a long wooden desk beneath a forty-paned window overlooking the land, Berry has watched this struggle unfold, becoming one the most passionate and eloquent voices in defense of agrarian life.

Photo credit: Courtesy of James Baker Hall

Wendell Berry writing in Henry County, Kentucky. 1970s.

Filmed across four seasons in the farming cycle, "Look & See: Wendell Berry’s Kentucky" combines observational scenes of farming life and interviews with farmers and community members with lyrical and evocative shots of the surrounding landscape. 

Thus, in the spirit of Berry’s agrarian philosophy, Henry County itself emerges as a character in the film, a place and a landscape that is deeply interdependent with the people that inhabit it.

By popular demand, here's a list of the poems heard in "Look & See."

Watch On Your Schedule:

The full episode is no longer available for streaming on demand.

Episodes are available to stream on demand for a limited time after broadcast.

Join The Conversation:

Follow @WendellDaily on Twitter.

INDEPENDENT LENS is on Facebook, Instagram, and you can follow @IndependentLens on Twitter. #IndieLensPBS

"Look & See: A Portrait Of Wendell Berry" is on Facebook, and you can follow @twobirdsfilm on Twitter. #WendellBerry

Nick Offerman On The Film "Look & See"

"Look & See" is a cinematic portrait of the changing landscapes and shifting values of rural America in the era of industrial agriculture, as seen through the mind’s eye of writer, farmer and activist, Wendell Berry. The first documentary about Berry, undoubtedly one of America’s most significant living writers, "Look & See" was filmed in and around the rolling hills of Henry County, Kentucky – where Berry has lived and farmed since the mid-1960s. Filmmaker Laura Dunn skillfully weaves Berry’s poetic and prescient words with gorgeous cinematography and the testimonies of his family and neighbors, all of whom are being deeply affected by the industrial and economic changes to their agrarian way of life. Join producer Nick Offerman as he discusses the film.

Credits:

Directed by Laura Dunn. Co-Directed by Jef Sewell. Produced by Laura Dunn and Jef Sewell. Director of Photography: Lee Daniel. Co-Produced by Owsley Brown IIIGill Holland, Elaine Musselman and Nick Offerman. Edited by Laura Dunn. Executive Producers: Terrence Malick and Robert Redford. Original Music by Kerry Muzzey. Visual Design by Jef Sewell. Sound by Justin Hennard. Associate Producer/Field Producer: Lynsey Jones. Wood Engravings by Wesley Bates. Lois Vossen is executive producer for INDEPENDENT LENS.

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