Troublesome Creek: A Midwestern

Of a number of rural documentaries, Troublesome Creek: A Midwestern, a chronicle of the struggle of one Iowa family to hold on to their farm, stands out not only for being deeply personal, but also for its amazing similarity to the plot of the fiction film, Country.

Husband and wife team, Jeanne Jordan and Steven Ascher, began shooting shortly after learning that Jeanne's father, Russell Jordan, might lose the farm that had belonged to his family for over a century. The crisis began when the new bank owners, less sympathetic to Russell's plight, called in his accumulated debt of $200,000, which he could not pay.

The film concentrates on the Jordans' efforts to raise money by liquidating the machinery and selling all but the most essential household items. The Jordans receive support from their neighbors (who had their own farms foreclosed), who drive miles through snow just to be with them on auction day. Russell and his wife, Mary Jane, maintain a stoic dignity as they oversee the sale, punctuating the proceedings with mordant humor. Mary Jane occasionally raises an objection, demanding that certain cherished items be saved.

Jeanne narrates the bitter-sweet history of the farm and the family that lived there. Back in the 1880s, her great-grandfather fought off the notorious Crooked Creek Gang. Named after a twisty waterway on the Jordan farm, Troublesome Creek uses clips from classic Westerns (Red River) to underscore the farmers' struggle as a universal conflict between good and evil. Drastic steps are needed to turn the farm over to Jeanne's older brother, Jim. But unlike Hollywood's farm movies, there is no happy ending: The Jordans pay their debt, and son Jim admits the rough times ahead of him. Still, like most of the farm movies, it's an eloquent elegy to the demise of a way of life.