Noise An Arts Blog

"Boone," now screening at the Parkway, an un-showy elegy for local farming

City Paper

For anyone thinking of responding to Trump's undrained swamp by going "Walden," "Boone" is worth a look for a second thought. Christopher Lamarca's documentary about the trials and tribulations of a small, struggling goat farm in Boone County, West Virginia doesn't aim for an incisive tract about the farm-subsidy racket, or the threat of agribusiness on homegrown operations, but in its own way, it sheds light on the difficulty of maintaining a bottom-up operation, both in this economy and in general.

The film starts on an existential note, with a brief flash of a goat's entire life cycle as the birth of one begets the death of its mother. Lamarca continues these juxtapositions. As the goat learns to walk, it briefly interacts with a dog whose leg is failing. A haircut follows a young goat getting dehorned. And without narration, talking heads, or any usual documentary procedures, it plays like a grassroots variation on Nikolaus Geyrhalter's "Our Daily Bread." But where that was a distant, mostly wordless look at large-scale industrial food production, "Boone" is a more intimate, but equally hands-off look at small-scale, organic farming.

It's only 20 minutes in, when we hear a snippet from a radio program about traditional small farms fading away, that we get a sense these juxtapositions also spell out the possibility of the farm's own death as well. Some juxtapositions are a bit strained. Mainly, an NPR story about Chinese political prisoner Liu Xiaobo receiving the Nobel Peace Prize playing from a radio while, on a red wall, the lyric "once more I beat the sunrise" from a song by jam-band Widespread Panic, nearly conflates the 10 years the farm has been around, voluntarily, with Liu's 11-year prison sentence. But for the most part, "Boone" is a sensitive, un-showy elegy for a romantic ideal about the past idyll undone by the harsh reality of the present.

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