Barn documentary at Newport Film Festival will take audiences into the magic of the Midwest

To Kelly Rundle, the large wooden frames and soaring ceilings within the barns of the Midwest are almost church-like.

As a kid, he grew up in northwestern Illinois and took trips to Wisconsin to visit his grandfather.

“There are plenty of things to explore in the area and one of those things is a barn,” Rundle said Wednesday. “To a kid, it’s a magical place with so many sights, sounds and atmosphere.”

Now he and his wife, Tammy, both filmmakers of Illinois-based Fourth Wall Films, will take viewers into the world of these “country cathedrals” in their recently completed documentary “The Barn Raisers,” which will play at the Newport Beach Film Festival on Monday.

While the Rundles lived in Southern California for 18 years, they found themselves drawn to the stories of their home states: Illinois for him and Iowa for her.

Rundle believes that some of the greatest stories of the Midwest are somewhat overlooked.

Filming for “The Barn Raisers” took place in Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.

“The drift of the film is to examine barns as architecture and give barns the same cinematic reverence that someone might give to a film on Frank Lloyd [Wright’s] buildings,” Rundle said. “I don’t say that barns are more important than any other piece of architecture, but it’s true that they’re no less important.”

The documentary delves into different barn styles and what their building methods reveal about the people who constructed them and the time in which they fashioned them.

The filmmaking duo spent three years finding and interviewing historians, artists, architects, preservationists and farmers who still own barns for their documentary.

Rundle said they were able to track down the interviews by reaching out to barn preservation organizations.

“The Barn Raisers” also explores the many ways that barns have been repurposed as event venues, art studios, storage and even office space.

The Rundles’ documentary is one of 10 films that were selected from around the world and featured in the Newport Beach Film Festival’s Art, Architecture + Design category, according to a release.

“If someone wants to evoke the notion of American history and something that’s wholesome and rural, you see the red gambrel roof barn, even though we’ve moved on from that,” Rundle said. “But that’s history.”

IF YOU GO

What: “The Barn Raisers”

When: 5 p.m. Monday

Where: Island Cinema, 999 Newport Center Dr., Newport Beach

Cost: $15

Information: newportbeachfilmfest.com/event/the-barn-raisers/

Alexandra.Chan@latimes.com

Twitter: @AlexandraChan10

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