A true surprise delight at Fantasia this year, A Life On The Farm is a documentary built around that most wonderful of film genres – true found footage. Not mocked up found footage, but the real thing. Across the years, Somerset farmer Charles Carson, for reasons that are speculated upon but never definitively explained, decided to film himself and his life in a series of VHS vignettes.
Many years later, a young boy named Oscar Harding sat down with his parents to watch a mysterious tape that had been left to them by his recently deceased grandfather. Part way into the bizarre footage, his parents quickly shut it off. Later, having grown up to be a filmmaker, Harding tracked down the tape to see if it was as strange as he remembered. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that the footage was a lot bolder on the subject of death than you might expect.
Contextualised by Harding with commentary by fans of the footage, and people who knew Charles Carson personally, A Life On The Farm is a bracing look at life, death, and the magic of outsider art – with a bonus appearance from Kiki Dee of all people. Strange, true, and meaningful, this is a film that will sink deep into your subconscious, thanks to the big heart of Farmer Carson, and also the undoubted folk horror vibes he gives off. Hugely recommended – as Carson himself would say, “it’s marvellous, innit.”
A Life On The Farm played Fantasia International Film Festival on July 31, and plays Austin’s Fantastic Fest in late September.