[Victoria Film Festival ’14] Getting Into the Mystic with In the Magic of the Green Mountains

Some viewers may well be whistling to John Denver’s Country Roads after watching In the Magic of the Green Mountains. This blissful documentary looks at the life of Jeff and Melanie Carpenter, who undertake a monumental task to start up an organic farm to grow mostly herbs in the hills of Vermont, located in the northeastern United States.

But the toe-tapping bluegrass music is not the only rhythm to be found in this film. Instead, it’s about the perseverance made by two individuals looking to make a difference for everyone who benefits from the plants they grow. From the businesses who source from them to their own emotional well being, this movie is ultimately about man versus Nature — the human one and the elemental one. This movie is like a cheerleader for the 100-mile diet, and although food is not necessarily part of this movie’s presentation, it’s the herbs and how it can be used to heal the soul that makes this movie charming.

Most of the flora being grown have medicinal value, and in most of what’s being grown are being made into teas. Some are medicinal and others are simply used to drink to offer serendipity.

After watching this film, a few people may well head down to the botanists to see what they can buy and grow at home! Quite often, there is no need to buy pre-dried, pre-packaged products of dandelions or nettles when most of which can be grown in a person’s own back yard. In the garden city of Victoria, British Columbia, especially the outlying areas like Blenkinsop Valley or on Salt Spring Island, there are areas where the soil is rich in natural nutrients where they can be grown too, and cultivated for local use.

This movie is fascinating to watch even for someone who is not an agriculturalist. Nearly every detail is explained, including what to look for in soil, so the do it yourselfer can start right away. But visiting a nearby herbal farm will help; this film never forgets that building local community spirit is important, and as this story revealed, nearly three times the number of organic farms have sprouted since the Carpenters started their business. More regional farms will no doubt come when word spreads about how to live green.

And this movie looks gorgeous in high-definition. The beautiful colours from season to season are brought to life. A phenomenon not everyone knows gets mentioned: Snow lightning is a rare act of nature and this film could have scored extra marks for its visual narrative if it showed some of that for real. Unfortunately, some parts of this documentary look storyboarded, and more about who the grandmother is and what she does would have made this film all the better. Some people may wonder if she is a hedge witch, a person who practices the herbal arts by using the natural resources of the land. While neither detracts from its lengthy talk about how to run a successful herbal farm, to include more realistic elements can help give viewers a proper look into the life of the Carpenter family in their struggle to keep their farm healthy and constantly growing.

According to the Carpenter’s business website, their operation has been running for 14 or so years. This film looks like it was made in the past two. Some recreations were used to recount some of the Carpenter’s past experiences that they described during their struggles in managing this farm. So in this film, there was some cinema magic added too.

4 Blokes out of 5

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