Synopsis by Nathan Southern
Louis Malle's heartwarming and thoughtful 1986 PBS documentary God's Country carries the viewer to Glencoe, MN, for a loving and enduring portrait of the local citizenry. It's a time capsule -- a snapshot of the prairie heartlands during the late '70s and mid-'80s (Malle shot the first segment in 1979, and returned six years later to film the conclusion). The first half is sweet, gentle, and lyrical, the second half heartbreaking, for by the time of Malle's return, the optimistic small-parcel farmers whom Malle introduces at the outset have been wiped out by the Reagan-era recession. (One or two even bigotedly attempt to use minorities as scapegoats for the economic devastation they have suffered -- which makes for a sobering, jarring, and utterly unexpected wrap-up to the piece.) Malle's strategy is to simply tour the town and meet the locals, cameras rolling, never knowing what to expect. And what in other hands might become mundane or dull here gains a sweet and genteel intimacy, laced with small doses of offhanded humor and poignant insight into the lives of these people; Malle's goal involves making viewers feel, by the end of the documentary, that they have become an integral part of this community -- and that the participants (despite scattered objectionable attitudes) are their friends and neighbors.
community, rurality, slice-of-life