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About Making of Music Filmmaker Book

About Death of the Dream

Twin Cities Public Television presents Death of the Dream: Farmhouses in the Heartland. This film about the rural past was inspired by photographer and essayist William Gabler's beautiful book of classic farmhouses, Death of the Dream, published by the Afton Historical Society Press.

The film is narrated by actress Linda Kelsey and features poets Robert Bly and Leo Dangel as well as writers Bill Holm and Paul Gruchow. Original music was composed by Steve Heitzeg and performed by Peter Ostroushko and the award-winning ensemble, Zeitgeist.

The one-hour documentary, featuring stunning photography, weaves a tapestry combining images of vanishing farmhouses with stories of historians, farm experts, and people who lived "the dream" of life on the farm. In Death of the Dream viewers meet Lisa Rainey, a college geography student who has chronicled the stories behind vacant farmhouses that were once prosperous rural residences on the prairie.

Viewers encounter John Handeen, whose father built their family's four-square house and whose son is staying on the land by practicing sustainable agriculture. There's also the Adrian family, whose modern farmstead looks nothing like yesterday's traditional family farm.

Vernon Lund, a retired farmer in his 70s, remembers waking up on subzero winter mornings in an unheated upstairs bedroom - "and there was frost on the blanket where I had been breathing." Lund treats viewers to an unexpected concert on his father’s hundred-year-old harmonica.

Poet Robert Bly fondly remembers the threshing seasons of his youth, when crews of men and boys would move from one farm to another and the entire community would work together. Says Bly, "It was my favorite time of year. It was hell giving that up to go back to school."

Part celebration and part bittersweet elegy, Death of the Dream provides a window towards the past, while looking towards the future. Viewers can explore the remnants of vacant homesteads, and imagine visiting with friends on the back porch, sitting around the cook stove in the farm kitchen, or singing around the piano in the parlor.

The film examines who we are today, reflects on how the family farm has changed, and explores where we are going as we near the end of the millennium. As eminent historian William Cronon says, "So much of who we are as a nation is linked to that rural vision that one can't help feel both a sadness and sense of dilemma of what the role of rural America should be."

Then give me but my homestead
I’ll ask no palace dome
For I can live a happy life
With those I love at home

–from a child’s composition book lying in the refuse


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Death of the Dream