Frontline: Season 16, Episode 12

The Farmer's Wife (21 Sep. 1998)

TV Episode  -   -  Documentary
8.8
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"The Farmer's Wife" takes us deep inside the world of Juanita and Darrel Buschkoetter, a remarkable young Nebraska farm couple, to tell a compelling love story. It follows the Buschkoetters... See full summary »

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Title: The Farmer's Wife (21 Sep 1998)

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Darrel Buschkoetter ...
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Juanita Buschkoetter ...
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"The Farmer's Wife" takes us deep inside the world of Juanita and Darrel Buschkoetter, a remarkable young Nebraska farm couple, to tell a compelling love story. It follows the Buschkoetters over three years as they face seemingly insurmountable economic hardship, only to confront an even greater challenge: repairing their damaged marriage. What emerges is an epic story of faith, perseverance, and triumph, and an indelible portrait of a real American family's struggle to hold onto their dreams, and to each other. Written by Anonymous

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independent film

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Documentary

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21 September 1998 (USA)  »

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One of the best social documentaries ever made
29 May 2001 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon.)

Is there a better documentary? I haven't seen one. Although six and a half hours long, The Farmer's Wife never drags. It is amazing that independent film maker David Sutherland could choose as his subject a young Nebraskan farm family, Juanita and Darrel Buschkoetter and their three daughters, and out of their lives create such a masterpiece of documentary. How he got them to be so natural and so open and so sharing of the intimate details of their lives; how he got such stark, clear, and engaging footage of their lives, and how he was able to edit it so that it plays like a movie is something to behold, literally.

Somehow Juanita and Darrel became themselves in front of the cameras, somehow they were able to open their hearts and minds to us, and to show us what it is like to be family farmers in America's Midwest in the 1990's. We watch them raise their family while they struggle to make ends meet despite a capricious marketplace that cares for them not at all, and all the while, almost naked to the world, they are able to maintain their human dignity, indeed to set an example of strength and courage for all of us. To see Juanita slop the hogs with one arm while cradling her two-year-old in the other, and to do so with grace and skill and a kind of old fashioned dignity will set your heart and mind to spinning. This is as real as it gets.

Sutherland shows the Buschkoetters, warts and all, but at no time does he demean them or make them look less than heroic. Yes, heroic in the sense that theirs is a life lived fully in a way that humans have lived for thousands of years, a way of life too hard and too demanding for most of us to bear, certainly too much for me. It is a poignant story, the stuff of country ballads and short stories from literary magazines, done with the skill and vision of a great film maker. If this doesn't touch your heart, you, like the tin man, need to see the Wizard of Oz.


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