RACHEL’S FARM, Australia, 2023. Starring Rachel Ward, Mick Green, Bryan Brown. Directed by Rachel Ward. 87 minutes. Rated PG (Mild themes and coarse language)
Rachel is writer/director/actor Rachel Ward. Before we visit her farm, there is a brief introduction, some footage from the past, reminding us who Rachel Ward has been, English-born, international actress, award-winning director, and, after meeting on the set of The Thorn Birds, marrying popular Australian actor, Bryan Brown, and they have been married for 40 years, parents, grandparents. A genial start to this documentary.
Ward introduces us to the farm that they bought some decades ago, small, in the Nambucca, NSW mid-North Coast. Rachel is a forthright personality, speaking articulately to camera, her commentary running right throughout the film but she knows that, while listening on the part of the audience is important, there is more importance in seeing. So, a visually impressive documentary as well.
After devastation of the area by the 2019 fires, and in collaboration with her neighbour, Mick Green, Rachel committed herself to farming, finding it exhilarating even if constant hard work. However, it was not just farming in the traditional way, a smaller property, running some cattle, checking the best departure, reliant on fertilisers and other chemicals . . . Rather, this is a documentary about regenerative agriculture. It might not be a phrase on everybody’s lips – but one hopes that after seeing this film and being persuaded by what we see and hear, we will be enthusiastic about developments, ecologically sound, about regenerative agriculture.
Rachel and Mick eventually combine their properties and begin working together. He introduces the regenerative aspects of the farming, along with some consultation of Indigenous elders about care for the land. Rachel goes to cattle auctions, and becomes involved in farm maintenance and regeneration.
Rachel notes that Bryan Brown might prefer to be at the beach rather than at the farm. And he says that he couldn’t be a farmer – too much hard work. But he does help in his way. But more help from their daughter, Matilda, who with her family has joined, especially in meat production, with her mother.
The action takes place from the fires of 2019 into 2020-2021, 2022 and Rachel’s learning, going into action, held up for some months by Mick’s severe motorcycle accident and his recuperation, her having to take greater responsibilities (despite criticisms of her shortcomings in driving), careful financial planning, and her making a commitment at this stage of her life to farm work, productivity, regeneration of the land.
One has to say that Rachel Ward is persuasive in what she says and in showing what she does. And, in these global warming (global boiling) difficult ecological times, the message about regenerative agriculture is more than timely.
Released 10 August