HYBRID (director: Monteith McCollum; cinematographer: Monteith McCollum/Ariana Gerstein/Mike Jarmon/Vadim Pezner; editor: Ariana Gerstein; music: Monteith McCollum; cast: Milford Beeghly, Alice Beeghly, Weyland Beeghly, Bonnie Nigro, Beverlee Beeghly, Dr. Harmon, Pastor Meyers, Bob Halden; Runtime: 92; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Monteith McCollum; Indican Pictures; 2000)
“Hybrid is a loving, quirky documentary.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Hybrid is a loving, quirky documentary shot in stop-motion animation (featuring dancing ears of corn) and in stunning black and white that took over six years in the making by Monteith McCollum. He’s the grandson of driven Pierson, Iowa, farmer Milford Beeghly, who was a pioneer in discovering the perfect hybrid breed of corn. The grandson’s aim was to try and find out what motivated his grandfather, whom he expresses a great love for, to be so consumed with crossbreeding corn. Milford’s obsession with hybrid corn began in the Great Depression of the 1930s, a time farmers had little money or inclination to experiment with something new, but the obsessive farmer was convinced he had a better product and traveled as far away as Nebraska to get farmers to try the product for free and if it was good hoped they would return as customers. The film consists of snippets of TV commercials from the 1950s for his seed company (they tell us Beeghly’s seed resists insects, holds its ears well, its root system is strong and deep, has a high yield and stiff stalks), interviews with his second wife Alice (his first wife died) and children, who tell personal things about the laconic, self-made man, whose only fault was he didn’t know how to communicate with his children and spent all his spare time working. The man had an ongoing love affair with corn and said such things about it as “Corn is so alive and unafraid of its sexuality” and goes on to say that he wonders if the public knows they are eating “ripened ovaries” when eating corn on the cob.
It’s about an eccentric man who saw the soil as a place to relieve the hunger of the world and who felt it was a privilege to be a farmer, and pursued his strange belief in farming at a time when it was questioned by the farming community because they believed it was “incest.” He lived to be 102-years-old and didn’t retire until a stroke forced him when he was 99, and later lived in a nursing home until his death in 2001. It’s the kind of film that nurtures one’s faith in American individuality, the work ethic and will to experiment. One has to feel better off that people like Milford Beeghly existed. It’s strictly an American kind of film about corn, but there’s nothing corny about the man and his richly drawn philosophy of the soil and his feelings for how sensual it is. The only negative is that it went on for a little too long and began to lose its edge in the second half, as it became caught up in bringing up family album stuff.
The film entered many festivals and won awards at some 14 festivals including the 2001 Slamdance, Bermuda and San Francisco Film Festivals.
REVIEWED ON 5/12/2006 GRADE: B+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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