The First Season: Slamdance Review

The First Season Still - H 2012
Slamdance Film Festival

The First Season Still - H 2012

This involving diary of a greenhorn dairy-farming couple underscores the harsh realities of getting back to the land.

"Boardwalk Empire" producer Rudd Simmons' directorial debut, the documentary spotlights the trials and tribulations of a couple attempting to make a go at dairy farming.

The true cost of owning a piece of The American Dream is frankly demonstrated in The First Season, chronicling the trials and tribulations of an American family trying to make a go of it as novice dairy farmers.

Determined to live off the land just like their forefathers, Paul and Phyllis Van Amburgh quit the city life and relocated their young family to a defunct dairy farm in upstate New York.

Their bumpy road to survival is candidly documented in this revealing debut directorial effort by Rudd Simmons, the Boardwalk Empire producer who has frequently worked with filmmakers Jim Jarmusch, Wes Anderson and Stephen Frears.

Although the feature-length version works effectively as is, a second, tighter edit would make for a good fit on a Discovery Channel.

Armed with plenty of idealism but not much in the way of prior experience, the Van Armburghs certainly have their work cut out for themselves and Simmons and his cameras are there to capture all the daily chores and precarious acts of checkbook balancing that is the lot of today’s farmers.

While they come across as a couple with a healthy marriage, the financial challenges and the long hours eventually put a strain on their back-to-the-basics good intentions.

That stripped down approach also extends to the film’s style, backed by Paul Brill’s simple acoustic score and an up-close-and-personal style that’s immersive to the point of giving the viewer the distinct impression that they’ve stepped in something.

Venue: Slamdance 
Production companies: Megilla Filmworks 
Director: Rudd Simmons   
Producer: Rudd Simmons
Director of photography: Rudd Simmons, Matthew O’Neill
Music: Paul Brill 
Editor: David Meneses 
No Rated, 84 minutes