Wendell Berry documentary to screen in Carbondale
If you go
Look & See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry
Thursday, 7:30 p.m. The event is a fundraiser for Lift-Up
Crystal Theater, 427 Main St., Carbondale | $10 | Advance tickets email@example.com
“Do unto those downstream as you would have those upstream do unto you.” —Wendell Berry
Who is Wendell Berry and what is the movie “Look & See” about? These are the questions I’ve received most often as I’ve worked to bring to the Roaring Fork Valley a showing of “Look & See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry.”
Wendell Berry is a writer of fiction, poetry and essays spread out across more than 50 books. He is an agrarian voice, environmental activist, Christian, farmer, a voice for local culture and, as the film puts it, an “outspoken citizen of an endangered world, who gives us a compelling vision of the good and true life.” In my time reading and reflecting with his voice I’ve discovered his vision of what community and a good life should look like. That’s happened all while the decline of those values and cares continues in our current world. Berry’s work has garnered much praise and he received the National Medal of Arts and Humanities in 2012.
What, then, is the film about? It is the story of the effect of big agribusiness on a forgotten place in rural Kentucky. You’ll hear Berry’s voice through interviews woven into the film, although there is no video of him per his request. He tells a story of what changed and what we’ve lost as we divorced ourselves from land and place. As “Look & See” moves through the four seasons, it turns back to the farm and its lost place in the American imagination.
“This is an age of divorce. Things that belong together have been taken apart,” Berry says. “And you can’t put it all back together again.”
The film takes a simple thing — the farms of northern Kentucky — and shows how this pulling apart has led to a greater divorce. To begin to fix this takes deep, hard and patient work. And for Berry this is not work we can do all at once, but a piece at a time.
He continues, “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.”
My hope is “Look & See” will help us begin to look at what is being pulled apart in our locality. From there we can join in the work of not putting it all back together, but taking two things and begin sewing them back together. Our goal will be to restore a little more of what Berry would envision as community and a good life for the people of this valley.
Matthew Shedden is a community leader and pastor of Defiance Church.