The documentary Look & See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry has finally dropped. The film festival run is over, and it's now available for all.
As a Kickstarter Backer, I was able to watch the film a few weeks ago. The documentary was made by Laura Dunn and her production team with steady, deliberate thought and care. The spoken words and breathtaking images come slowly, inviting you to take long, slow draughts. Even still, they are almost too much to imbibe in at once. Just trying to keep pace, I found myself closing my eyes. The documentary manages to channel Berry's style of quiet and steady critique of the modern cultural and agricultural insanities, mixed with hopefulness and empowerment for anyone who cares. This critical-hopeful balance comes across about half-way through the film while Mrs. Dunn is talking to Berry off camera. Dunn mentions to Berry that living in harmony with family and place is difficult for her because she come from divorce. The Mad Farmer cuts her off gently but incisively:
"We all come from divorce, now. This is an age of divorce. Things that belong together have been taken apart, and you can't put it all back together again. What you do is the only thing that you can do: you take two things that ought to be together and you put them back together. Two things, not all things. That's the way the work has to go."
To me, this is the rebuttal to those who read Berry and dismiss him as one who advocates for the impossible solution of returning to a pre-technological age. The reality is simpler: that people and places and their interrelationships are broken in ways that they were not in the past, and that we may (Timshel) put them back together, piece by piece.
There is much more to be said about this documentary. Let's do that face to face. You can watch the trailer here.
You can watch a promotional Today Show interview with Nick Offerman here. (By the way, this clip is a remarkable demonstration of modern man's utter incapability to think seriously for more than 2 minutes).
Finally, as of Saturday night, you can watch the whole documentary on Netflix. This means that you can watch this beautiful and moving work in small segments and at your convenience. It means you can watch it all alone. It means you can watch it on a plane, or waiting at the DMV, or going to the bathroom. Don't. Instead, brace yourself. Turn your phone off for a couple hours. Gather friends and family and locally sourced snacks. May you have eyes to see, and ears to hear.