SXSW Film Reviews
By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., March 16, 2001
HybridD: Monteith McCollum.
Monteith McCollum's festival favorite (it won top documentary awards at SXSW and Slamdance and the FIPRESCI Critics Award at the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam) is a quirky biography of 100-year-old Iowa farmer Milford Beeghly. Animated corncobs and other imaginative flourishes highlight this story of hybrid corn seed and Beeghly, its ardent promoter since the 1930s. Beeghly's voiceover commentary (narrated in a dry, nasal tone that sounds not unlike the detached Midwestern drone of William S. Burroughs) frames much of the film. Yet when all is said and done and the farmland vistas have all been viewed and all the corncobs have danced their final mating rituals, Hybrid has elucidated very little about this particular seed salesman and his product. Overlong by at least a half-hour, Hybrid begins repeating itself, especially as it includes commentary from various family members whose memories provide little additional insight. Otherworldly music by McCollum and Chris Sullivan add to strange trappings of this black-and-white documentary, but its ultimate harvest is very down to earth.