There is an appalling new documentary doing the rounds at the moment: The Age of Stupid is one of the worst films I have seen in a long time. It hardly deserves to be called a film – just a pasting together of some badly chosen snippets about global warming.
Meanwhile The Moon and the Sledgehammer, an oddball 1971 documentary about a British family living in Sussex without mains power or water is enjoying a revival in London and New York. In the audience at a recent London showing, documentary maker Nick Broomfield called it one of the most influential films on his own work. The self-effacing Director, Philip Trevelyan, attended the Q&A session at the London screening, but added little, saying he was suprised and flattered by the film’s success. he was a professional documetnary maker at the time, but is now an Organic farmer with sideline in hand tools.
The Moon and the Sledgehammer features a British family living off the grid in the Sussex woods, on the outskirts of London. An elderly father, along with his two sons and daughters, makes do with little. Lacking running water and electricity, their only links to “modern” technology are the steam tractors they repair to make a living and the rifles they use to shoot their next meal. Gripping his camera, Trevelyan steps uncomfortably close to these craftspeople, molding an intimate family portrait that is at once perplexed and awestruck.
The women knit and garden; the men rev their engines; and Mr. Page decries the urban London lifestyle. They seem at first naive about the ways of the world, but Trevelyan captures something poignant in their uncluttered harmony with the land. Birds and bugs swarm the farm. A rotting piano left outdoors sounds eerily beautiful. A kitten dances with the hands of Mr. Page’s son as he fantasizes about the moon, drawing its shape in the soil. Mr. Page scoffs at these imaginative ramblings, less because he’s uninterested in the heavens than because he sees more that’s worth cherishing in his wooded oasis. He may be right—and that’s what makes this bizarre biography so unforgettable
The documentary is of interest again now self-sufficency is becoming mainstream. Another film, just released,covers some of the same themes. Sleep Furiously is set in a small farming community in mid Wales, and charts a dying way of life.
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