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WPA 2.0 Screenings Explore Protest, Globalization, and Getting Back to the Land

By Steven Pate in Arts & Entertainment on May 4, 2012 9:01PM

2012_05_04_firstseason.jpeg From Bolton Hall to Wavy Gravy's Hog Farm to City Farm, it seems we're always thinking about getting "back to nature." Dropping out of the rat race and getting your hands in some dirt on a farm may be nobody's idea of an easy life, but there is an romantic appeal that a few of us will always find irresistible.

Are times of economic hardship more likely to send us to the countryside? For Paul and Phyllis Van Amburgh, it was the grind of success that prompted them to quit New York City and move their three children upstate to try and make it as dairy farmers. Filmmaker Rudd Simmons, producer of "Boardwalk Empire" and The Royal Tenenbaums, was there from day one, capturing the decision to pour their life savings into a defunct dairy farm from the 1700s. He lived on the farm the first six months and returning intermittently for the next three years, filming it all.

The resulting film, The First Season, presents the day-to-day struggle, the financial burdens and emotional tribulations of the project in a clear-eyed vérité style. In the end, the determination and resilience of the family is as iconically American as the dream of the family farm which they chase. The First Season screens as part of portoluz's WPA 2.0: A Brand New Deal project. Other films in the series include Maquilapolis, about factory workers in Tijuana and A Killer Bargain about working conditions in India on Saturday, May 5. Next Friday features a program of Chicago protest shorts from both the 1968 Democratic Convention and the 2003 demonstration against the invasion of Iraq. On May 18, Soundtrack for a Revolution tells thes story of the civil rights movement through music.

The First Season and all other WPA 2.0 screenings will take place at Chicago FIlmmakers, 5243 N. Clark St. $8 suggested donation.