Made with the “generous support” of the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance, the slickly produced documentary “Farmland” often comes off like lobbyist propaganda, profusely extolling the virtues of the independent American farmer.
The farmers herein wish to go beyond the overalls-and-pitchfork stereotype as seen in Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” painting. Director James Moll spotlights six operations strategically picked to represent a cross-section: East Coast, West Coast, Midwest and South; male and female; and those who grow crops or who raise livestock, organically or not.
The only polemic presented here arises from the dissension among the farmers’ own ranks on the topic of organic farming. Each passive-aggressively touts his or her own method while professing not to denigrate the alternative. Those who use pesticides, antibiotics and genetically modified organisms insist that they meet standards set by the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The farmers maintain in unison that cases of animal abuse are extreme and rare in industrial farming, and no free-range farmers are on hand to say otherwise.
Unfortunately, Moll does not supply statistics or unaffiliated experts to substantiate or dispute any of the farmers’ claims and provide a broader perspective. But the fact that farmers are savvy enough to commission a puff piece certainly shatters the stereotype they dread.
“Farmland.” No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 17 minutes. At ArcLight, Hollywood.