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God's Country (1985)

Original footage of the prosperous farming community of Glencoe Minnesota, 60 miles west of Minneapolis, was filmed in 1979 for a PBS documentary. But for the next six years Malle was too ... See full summary »

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Original footage of the prosperous farming community of Glencoe Minnesota, 60 miles west of Minneapolis, was filmed in 1979 for a PBS documentary. But for the next six years Malle was too busy with other projects to finish this work. He returned in 1985 for a follow-up and found the community reacting to the mid eighties crisis of overproduction in farm country. with weekly foreclosures on family farms, and many families moving to the south, Malle documented a sense of frustration and apprehension from the same participants he had befriended in better times half a decade earlier. Written by Maple-2

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27 November 1985 (USA)  »

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Le pays de Dieu  »

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1.33 : 1
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Ordinary people living unremarkable lives
22 November 2016 | by See all my reviews

Makes for interesting viewing when a wry and empathetic eye captures their lives. On commission from PBS to make a documentary in Minnesota, Malle and his team drove through Glencoe. Along the way they spotted a beautiful garden tended by an older lady whose age we discover was 85 in 1979! She didn't look it at all.

Malle and his film team stay in Glencoe and become acquainted with the small town and its folk. The documentary seems to amble without much directed narration but Malle is exploring what makes Glencoe the place it is and who are its people. He asks some probing questions about race and sex/homosexuality but mostly lets the people tell their stories. It's quite clear from things Malle says that he likes Glencoe and becomes close to some of the inhabitants. But even without saying such things his camera evidences his fascination with Glencoe.

There are some really poignant moments; e.g. Glenhaven, the elderly care home. Malle meets one of its folk shuffling along a path. He tells Malle that he wants to die. This is our introduction to Glenhaven. Malle films the recreational room in which 10 or so elderly people, most in wheelchairs sit aimlessly whilst the TV blares in the background. The TV adverts are so incongruous given the audience that it makes for a very funny moment. But then Malle focuses on one female resident who stares at the camera. She stares and stares and Malle stares back. What she's thinking is anyone's guess but her eyes suggest many things. This elderly woman is a strong contrast to the woman we meet at the beginning who tends her beautiful garden and who in 1986 at the age of 91 was still going strong, canning vegetables from her garden as she goes rather than deteriorating in a soulless care home.

Another funny moment occurs when Malle's camera pans up into a shot of a female's bottom. The female turns around and Malle introduces her formally at this point for the camera but of course the camera's already met her!

Steve was the most eligible bachelor in Glencoe in 1979 and a man who inseminates cows! Who knew that Malle could be quite so irreverent of his subjects whilst so generous with them at the same time?! When Malle returns in 1986 Steve is still single and still inseminating cows. As Malle remarks to Steve "too busy with your cows".

There are moments of heat in the documentary regarding race, politics, who controls America's finances (the Jews declares one of the farmers), young marriage and sex. But it's all part of the richness and complexity of the society. Of every society. It leaves me imagining how I might be documented in such a film were one to be made of my community.


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