Get ready to watch something strange.
Filmmaker Oscar Harding grew up near farmer Charles Carson. Carson would give the family his homemade video tapes, which seem like he was hosting a TV program but he was all by himself. Or he was surrounded by cows giving birth. Or puppeteering his stuffed cats. Or wheeling his dead mother around so she could see the farm one more time before she went into the ground.
Carson was…well, the jury is out. Was he an outside artist? An early adopter of posting videos online before there was the internet? Or maybe someone with some deep mental issues?
Beyond getting to see the actual videos, the film also speaks to Karen Kilgariff (My Favorite Murder), Derrick Beckles (TV Carnage), Everything Is Terrible and Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher from The Found Footage Festival to learn why the videos are artistically important while also, yes, just odd.
“There we are, that’s life on a farm.” Carson says this several times and it makes me think about how he came from a world that is a constant circle of life and also so removed from the city that he may as well be an alien. He would keep giving these tapes, stories about life on the farm to his friends and neighbors. Were they entertained? Shocked? Upset?
Yet this movie never laughs at the man. It points out that he may have had issues, but he also saw death in a different way than we do. Perhaps by looking at it with a sense of humor, he was ahead of us, people who might look down on him and think him uneducated. I see him as a man with no guile, one with a sense of humor that could be surreal but he may have never encountered that art himself. He was, in a sense, a unique island of a man whose video output lived beyond him, made its way to people who could keep it alive and now, miles and decades away from a man long dead, we can appreciate what he left behind, even if it’s a video of him holding up a huge piece of afterbirth.
If you’re attending Fantastic Fest in person, Life On the Farm will play at the following times:
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