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A documentary about Milford Beeghly, a radical farmer in the 1930's who pioneered the process of genetically enhanced crops - considered a madman, this documentary is an astonishing portrait of one man's obsessive vision with plants. The film balances the science of farming with the sad neglect of Milford's family. The director uses actual 16 mm footage from the 1930's, animated sequences and interview footage with Milford himself (who is larger than life) from his final years. Written by
Farmer Milford Beeghly pioneered corn cross-fertilization early in the 20th century, and "Hybrid" is a retrospective on the man's life directed and produced by his grandson Monteith McCollum. The documentary reveals a man bravely obsessed with corn and genetics (pursuing his experiments in the face of a community which considered them botanical "incest"); yet this man never learned to communicate his passion either with his wife or his children. "They just think corn is corn," Beeghly says.
"Hybrid" has been compared to the work of the Brothers Quay and the early films of David Lynch, an observation apt at least for the first half of the film, which begins with a very textured filmic sensibility and with rich collage frames and lively animations. For example, corncobs pursue an amusing mating dance as the audience is treated to a detailed explanation of corn's method of self-fertilization and a survey of the three main concerns of farmers (weather, market, and procreation). We are also introduced to a fairly surreal television commercial Beeghly made for his hybrid corn seed. Later, another high point of weirdness is seeing this hundred year old man sing a song about drowning kittens and then watching him do the same.
The second half of the documentary, however, is of less general interest and feels much more like personal film shot for the family. It records Beeghly's children reflecting on their confused relationship with their father, their mother's death, Beeghly's remarriage, a hospitalization due to phenomena, and his 100th birthday party.
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