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[HanCinema's Film Review] "Farming Boys"

2018/04/21 | 312 views | Permalink

The three young men spotlighted in "Farming Boys" are wwoofers. That is, they're participate in WWOOF (World-Wide Opportunites on Organic Farms), an organization of farms which take on foreigners as temporary workers. That "Farming Boys" never actually explains what a wwoofer is is the most obvious omission in the documentary's educational purpose. Although there's also all the traveling they apparently did in Southeast Asia, which is mentioned in the epilogue but doesn't appear anywhere else in the movie.

Instead, they just jump straight from Australia and right into Italy, giving "Farming Boys" a eurocentric vibe that comes off as rather odd, given the way the project emphasizes worldwide learning. It's also odd that I'm using the word eurocentric in this of all contexts. Europe is not generally famous for its farms. But anything you could possibly want to know about how organic European farms operate is given prominent space here, as we several of them in very close up detail.

You've got potato farmers in Italy, goat farmers in the Netherlands, sheep farmers in Holland, and plenty others in between. There are also Korean farms on the bookends, most of whom are quite old, but we don't get much detail when it comes to Korean farming. That stuff is relevant mainly for the sake of backstory. See, the three young men are all from farming communities originally. They have some experience with farming, and embark on the wwoofer project in part because the South Korean job market is very bad.

My favorite parts of the documentary are where they're just talking about that miserable employment situation and explaining how the sheer scale of competition has made the prospect of farm work appealing. There are these great sections where the young men feed birds, using the behavior of the birds as an analogy for what the South Korean job market is like. There's pretty grim humor in their attitude, even as the whole wwoofer expedition is played off as an adventure.

Which is all "Farming Boys" really is- just a catalog of the three young men's aimless adventures in farming. Aside from the novelty value of seeing how the individual farms operate the whole project comes off as rather narcissistic. At one point they even run into another film crew doing the exact same project. Whether the other film crew's project was ever finished and released in their own home country, I don't know. As far as production goes, I'm not even sure who the cameraman is most of the time.

As vaguely interesting as this all is I was not on the whole very impressed. Indeed, some of the hard information in this documentary is already out of date. Filmed in 2016, reference is made to South Korea's absymally low minimum wage (five dollars an hour), which has since been changed. The point being that minimum wage working on European farms is three times that amount. Huh. Maybe that's why the Southeast Asia part of the trip was skipped. It would have ruined the segue.

Review by William Schwartz

 

"Farming Boys" is directed by Byun Si-yeon, Jang Se-jung and Kang Ho-jun.

 

 

Available on DVD from YESASIA

DVD (En Sub)
DVD (En Sub)

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