Danny Wilcox Frazier
An image from “Driftless: Stories From Iowa,” an online-video and photography project by Danny Wilcox Frazier.
During my teenage years — most of which I spent living and working on a quarter-section, corn-and-soybeans, last-of-a-dying-breed Iowa family farm — I began to notice that my particular reality was not often reflected on screen.
When actors and directors did visit the country, it was flattering, but the results usually weren’t very edifying. Reruns of “Green Acres” and “Petticoat Junction,” popular on local television stations, were guilty pleasures, watched with an embryonic, rural version of hip detachment. (For something closer to the real country experience, we had “Hee Haw.”)
From those early days I adopted a critical, perhaps even reflexively scornful, view of Hollywood’s attempts to depict farm life. As an adult, in a packed theater in Des Moines, I watched Kevin Costner carrying a shovel in “Field of Dreams” — a scene actually filmed outside Dyersville, Iowa — and I didn’t think, “Nice corn.” I thought: “A shovel? In a corn field? What the heck is he going to do with a shovel in a corn field?” No one around me seemed to be bothered by this, but what can you expect from city people?
Despite a clutch of slightly more realistic treatments during the farm-crisis period of the early 1980s (“Country,” the TV movie “Bitter Harvest”), I’ve remained mostly disappointed over the years. So it was with interest and hope that I examined the schedule of independent, heartfelt productions that make up the Rural Route Film Festival, running through Sunday at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria and the Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm in Long Island City, both in Queens. Read more about Filmmakers Head to the Country, in Several Countries