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‘Farmer of the Year’ at Plainfield Congregational Church on Friday

  • Mackinlee Waddell and Barry Corbin star in “Farmer of the Year.” CONTRIBUTED PHOTO


Staff Report
Tuesday, October 30, 2018

PLAINFIELD — Vince O’Connell and Kathy Swanson will bring their award-winning feature film, “Farmer of the Year” to Plainfield Congregational Church on Friday at 7 p.m.

Longtime Plainfield residents, O’Connell and Swanson retired and sold the business they created, VOMAX, and thought about what they’d do next. Then, one long, cold night, while watching a bad movie they started thinking they should apply to some film schools, they said. Nine years later, they were winning awards in film festivals with their first feature.

“We’re wrapping up our festival itinerary and starting to self-distribute the film theatrically,” said Swanson. “We’ve been in about 40 theaters since September.” 

The film is screening in theaters from Washington to Vermont — from multiplexes and family owned chains to four-walling, which is what they are doing in Plainfield where they will bring their own equipment and turn the venue into a movie theater.

“We had a lot of venue options for premiering the film in western Mass,” said Swanson. “But we really wanted to screen it in Plainfield. It still feels like home.”

The film stars Emmy-nominated Barry Corbin (“Northern Exposure,” “No Country for Old Men,” “Urban Cowboy” and “War Games”), Mackinlee Waddell (“Good Christian Belles”) and Terry Kiser (“Weekend at Bernie’s”).

Written by Swanson and shot largely at the farm on which she grew up and in her hometown of Tyler, Minn. (population 1,200), “Farmer of the Year” is the story of Hap Anderson, a widowed 83-year-old farmer who thinks he’s still quite the ladies’ man.

After selling the family farm he has worked for more than 60 years, he finds himself adrift and staring a short future in the face. Driven by the possibility of showing up with an old flame and impressing his old army buddies, he sets out in a dilapidated 1973 Winnebago to attend his 65th World War II reunion in California with his unreasonably self-confident and also directionless granddaughter, Ashley.

Along the way, Hap with his road map and Ashley with her gps, begin to understand and appreciate each other as individuals, while discovering that being young and being old aren’t all that different. It’s a deceptively simple look, presented lightly and with humor, at aging, transitions, loss and family. 

Filled with understated small-town humor and restraint, “Farmer of the Year” captures the sense of real life, location and spirit of rural America with a unique combination of homegrown and Hollywood.

“The film is set in ‘farm country’ and the main character is an aging farmer, but it’s not just about farming," said O’Connell. “It’s a commentary on themes of aging, loss, transition and relationships.”

The film has been selected to screen at film festivals across the country, winning Audience Choice Awards at the Minneapolis St. Paul, Sedona and Woods Hole International Film Festivals. It won Best Actor for Corbin’s performance at Woods Hole, and was nominated for Best Feature Film and Best Actor at the Soho International Film Festival in New York City, N.Y., and Lady Filmmakers Festival in Los Angeles, Calif.

“We’re overwhelmed with the response … audiences are really enthusiastic about it … and not just Midwesterners,” said O’Connell. “We were one of the only feature films at Woods Hole to sell out.”

Swanson wrote the screenplay and O’Connell did the editing. They both directed and produced the film.

The screening of “Farmer of the Year” at Plainfield Congregational Church, 1 Church Lane, will be followed by a question and answer session with the filmmakers.