TIFF 2018: ‘The Biggest Little Farm’ is The Most Adorable Documentary
by Alex Billington
September 13, 2018
This documentary is currently the one film that has made me tear up the most this year so far. The Biggest Little Farm is a tiny little documentary that is not so tiny in reality. The film profiles the first seven years of a traditional farm that a couple decided to start in Southern California, called Apricot Lane Farms. I had no idea what I was getting into with this film, but from the first few minutes I knew I would love it. And it just kept getting more and more amazing. The film opens with the line “it all started because of a promise we made to a dog.” Not just any dog, but a dog they saved and adopted, with the most stunning eyes. They promised Todd they would never leave him, but after the neighbors complained about his barking, they had to move. So they decided to move out, quit their jobs, and attempt to grow and maintain a biodynamic farm.
The farm was started by Molly Chester & John Chester from Los Angeles. They wanted to create, grow, and manage a traditional farm – not just an organic farm, but a biodynamic farm, where everything was self-sustaining and recycled and cyclically beneficial. But they had to do everything from scratch. They had to find and hire a farming guru, someone who could help them turn the dusty, dry chunk of land they bought into something robust and ready to sustain an endlessly diverse amount of life: from plants and animals and humans to everything inbetween. They had to learn how to cultivate and refresh the soil, they had to learn how to manage pests, they had to learn what to grow and what animals to keep to make sure the farm was self-sustaining. If there was ever a film to make you want to drop everything and start a farm, too – this is it.
The Biggest Little Farm is a story for the soul. This wonderful documentary is uplifting, inspiring, joyful in all the best ways. It’s utterly and completely beautiful, the epitome of capturing the magnificence of life on this planet. All forms of life: insects, rodents, birds, trees, plants, dogs, and yes, even human beings. Before starting the farm, John was a cameraman in Hollywood. He carries that over here, shooting everything – not only their work and the big decisions they make on the farm, but every little bit of life he finds. Half of the film is made up of macro footage of plants growing, and bugs eating, and animals interacting. It’s never off-putting because it’s so dazzling and fascinating. He takes us on a very intimate tour of a biodynamic farm, focusing on the diversity of life that’s prevalent there, less so on the machinery or the mechanics of farming.
This film made me cry happy tears. It’s just magnificent, so adorable. Even though times get tough, and even though things don’t always work out, they continue to show that there’s always another side to it, always a way to look at things with optimism and hope. There’s always lessons to be learned, always a silver lining to every problem. And the documentary let’s us in on the things they learned – how to stop pests (like gophers and snails), how to solve complex farming problems – and how to live a good life. How to dedicate yourself to something so completely, and feel encouraged and inspired every day to keep working. I could, perhaps, criticize this film for being too light and too happy – but why? It’s exactly the kind of refreshing, reassuring story that reminds you life is truly amazing and we should cherish and love all living creatures, big & small.
Alex’s TIFF 2018 Rating: 9.8 out of 10
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