TROUBLESOME CREEK:
A MIDWESTERN

 Directed by Steven Ascher, Jeanne Jordan. USA. 1962.


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Family farms have been a valuable component of American society and a source of traditional values since the founding of the Republic. Since 1981, as a result of government policies that favour agribusiness and food processor conglomerates, 750,000 farms have gone out of business at the cost of one million jobs in the rural economy. In the late 1980's, documentarian Jeanne Jordan along with Steven Ascher returned to her family's farm to help her parents when a new impersonal Regional bank called in a $220,000 debt. The farm in rural Iowa near the town of Rolfe that had survived the dust bowl, the depression, two world wars now faced foreclosure. The resulting documentary Troublesome Creek: A Midwestern was awarded both the Grand Jury Award and the Audience Award for best documentary at the Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for an Academy Award. 

Narrated by Ms. Jordan (in a surprisingly unemotional manner), the Aschers filmed events as they took place and what they saw is both heartbreaking and heartwarming. The director explains, "I was raised on Westerns. Red River, High Noon, Gunsmoke - where the bad guys sometimes won but never prevailed. Our film is a Midwestern. It's the story of my family's farm in Iowa: From crossing the Mississippi by covered wagon in 1867 to driving to Daddy Date Night in 1967. From my great-grandfather fighting off the Crooked Creek Gang in the 1880's to my father fighting off foreclosure in the 1990's." 

To keep the land that had been in the family's name for 125 years and still pay off the bank, the Jordans came up with a unique solution. They would auction off their livestock, machinery, and household goods and move to town while their son Jim and his family ran the farm as tenants. Watching the parents go through the trauma of selling off household goods that had been in the family for generations is sad (I can't even handle garage sales) but their courage and determination keeps it upbeat. This is not only the story of a family in crisis, it is also a story of growing old, letting go, and moving on. Troublesome Creek: A Midwestern is a personal story with a special feeling for the rural Midwest and a disappearing way of life that has a universal appeal. 
 

Howard Schumann
 
 
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