Agridirect presents the Agademy Awards, in recognition of our favourite onscreen farmers.
In our interview with author Ryan Dennis last week, he pointed out that farmers and their experiences are underrepresented in fiction. It’s hard to argue against that, and the same seems to hold true for film and television. The Academy Awards took place at the weekend, but there were no depictions of farmers among the winners.
Nonetheless, cinema has given us some memorable farmers over the years. Therefore, we at Agridirect decided it was time to create the Agademy Awards, to acknowledge what we consider to be the best and most entertaining representations of farmers ever to have graced our screens. In today’s blog, we select our 5 nominees, and give you our winner (number 1).
5. William Munny (Unforgiven)
Arguably the greatest western ever made, Unforgiven is also based on a true story. The protagonist, William Munny (Clint Eastwood), is a poor Kansas pig farmer and widower, struggling to make a living and raise his two young children. Fortunately for William, he also happens to be the best shot in the west – but only when he’s blasted drunk.
And he’s been off the drink for years, thanks to the intervention of his wife. With starvation on the doorstep, William departs for Wyoming with his old partner, Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman) and the Schofield Kid (Jaimz Woolvett). The trio hunt a bounty that William hopes will lift him and his children out of poverty. But doing so may mean reverting to an outlaw lifestyle that he has left behind, and breaking a promise he made to his dead wife.
4. Maximus Decimus Meridias (Gladiator)
It’s easy to forget that Maximus, played by Russell Crowe in Ridley Scott’s epic blockbuster, Gladiator, was a farmer. Though a renowned and successful Roman general on the Germanic front at the beginning of the film, Maximus longs to return to his family farm in Hispania (modern day Spain). His crops are never far from his mind. As Maximus himself tells one of his lieutenants, “dirt cleans off easier than blood.”
When Maximus returns to his Spanish farmstead after escaping from the new emperor, Commodus, he finds that his wife and son have been murdered, his crops burned, and his livestock killed. What ensues is pure cinematic gold, as he is conscripted as a gladiator and lights up the Roman colosseum with spectacular military skill (and gore!).
Oh, and he will have his vengeance, in this life or the next!
3. The Joad Family (The Grapes of Wrath)
Starring Henry Fonda as protagonist Tom Joad, The Grapes off Wrath is one of the greatest films ever made about the tribulations of a farming family. The film is based on John Steinbeck’s novel of the same title, and is now over 80 years old. It follows the story of the Joad family, displaced from their family farm in Oklahoma in the 1930s, as they journey westward to California in search of a new life. Though it is not always the easiest watch, The Grapes of Wrath is a film that every farmer, and probably every person, should watch.
2. Arthur Hoggett (Babe)
On a much lighter note, how can we forget about Farmer Hogget? Farming a few good acres in New England, Arthur Hogget may be something of a caricature, with his tweed cap, perfectly manicured fields, and happy animals. But where is the harm in that, especially since this is a kids’ movie? For those of us who grew up on a farm, there are few more loveable representations of farming life than Babe. Hoggett’s relationship with his special piglet is heartwarming to the end, and provides great moral lessons for kids.
That’ll do, pig. That’ll do.
1. The Bull McCabe (The Field)
Well, frankly, it was never in any doubt. If Babe is an idealized and anodyne representation of country life made for kids, The Field is precisely the opposite. Granted he takes it to strange and dark places, but protagonist the Bull McCabe’s love of the land, and stubborn refusal to accept defeat in the face of poverty and adversity, rings true to the experience of generations of small farmers, not just in Ireland but all over the world. McCabe, for all his violence and mental instability, embodies a profound truth. Farming, for those who make a living from it, is about more than money. It is about a connection with the land forged through sweat, blood and tears. In the onscreen adaptation of John B. Keane’s classic play, Limerick man Richard Harris gives real life to McCabe’s land-hunger and resilience. If you’re a farmer and you haven’t seen The Field, set aside a night for it. You won’t regret it.
Thanks for reading
So those are our favourite onscreen farmers. During the long nights of lockdown, with the reopening of pubs still a distant prospect, we could all do with something good to watch, farmers included. Would your list have been different? Or do you have any good Netflix recommendations for farmers? Let us know in the comments section.