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The Lie of the Land (2007)

A very incisive and hard-hitting documentary about the way in which life for farmers and other people who depend on the countryside for their livelihood is changing for the worse as a ... See full summary »

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Molly Dineen ...
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A very incisive and hard-hitting documentary about the way in which life for farmers and other people who depend on the countryside for their livelihood is changing for the worse as a result of the decline in home-grown food and the banning of fox-hunting. Farmers are having to kill calves which it is uneconomical to keep, paying token amounts to the local fox-hunt as unofficial knackers to dispose of the carcases for feeding to the fox-hounds. Why should society seem to care so much about the fate of hunted foxes and yet apparently so little about what happens to unwanted cattle which are cross-breed or the wrong sex? There is great resentment (as typified by the Countryside Alliance marches in London) to changes that are being imposed by a government that people in the country feel is neglecting their wishes in preference to those of the city-dwellers. Written by Anonymous

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3 May 2007 (UK)  »

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Unser täglich Fleisch  »

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[talking about DEFRA, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which is responsible for paying farmers]
Molly Dineen - Interviewer: [voiceover] The "Single Farm Payment Scheme" rewrites the rule-book for farmers. Payments now have nothing to do with producing food.
Glyn: DEFRA couldn't give a toss what happens in the countryside, but they like other people to think that they do.
Steve: They have said that food security they don't consider is an issue, haven't they. In other words, they don't seem to care whether food is ...
[...]
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A very strong film from Dineen – eye-opening and challenging
13 May 2007 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

When over a million people came from the countryside into London to protest about the proposed ban to hunting foxes with hounds, they were mostly ignored by urban dwellers who were "naturally" repelled by the idea of killing animals. As they left, filmmaker Molly Dineen decided to go back with them and see what is behind the frustration and desperation of those who came to protest.

Channel Four screened this film with a warning up front that it contained scenes of animal slaughter (note the word – slaughter, not "cruelty") that some viewers may find disturbing. I ignored this assuming that it meant the odd scene of animals being killed in the same way as Apocalypse Now had a bull cut up. However in reality this film is a very hard watch because of how many animals you see killed or dead; at times I had to look away just because of how graphic it was (this despite being brought up around farms in Northern Ireland). However this is the point of the film because what it is dealing with primarily is the contrast between the focus of regulators in regards the countryside and the reality of life there. At its most basic the film contrasts the legal ways of killing animals with the ban on hunting with hounds and even here it is compelling viewing as we immediately share the view of the farmers that it makes little sense. The film tends to focus on this point by simply following various farmers, hunt masters etc as they earn (or grind out) their living but it does also paint a rather depressing general picture of a countryside and way of life in terminal decline.

It doesn't push this point too much because it knows who its audience is – city dwellers who vote for the legislation and generally wring their hands over the poor little foxes. I am one of these people to a point I suppose and I did find this film an eye-opener to the reality of life in the country and the absurdity of the current political decisions and focus. Dineen picks her subjects well in a film where the edit is perfect and then just sits back while they talk and live. It is a great approach that means we are not presented a case with the narrator's spin on it but almost like she is also coming in blind. This way we are allowed to see the life for what it is, rather than being ranted at about things we haven't seen ourselves.

A difficult watch but a very challenging and rewarding one. The countryside isn't a "sexy" cause but credit to Dineen for trying to present more than images of big dogs chasing little foxes while the "toffs" laugh on. In reality we see people living in knackered homes trying to earn a living and control pests while the government regulations pile up and more and more food is imported for UK use. An important film that I sadly suspect will remain relevant for many years.


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