We gave it a B
In 1990, when the Iowa farm that had been in her family for generations was on the brink of foreclosure, filmmaker Jeanne Jordan (along with her husband and codirector, Steve Ascher) went back to chronicle her parents’ attempts to save it. The result is a wistful home-movie documentary that, in its unprepossessing way, speaks to something larger: the collapse of the small farmer as a mythical American institution. The Jordans, particularly their taciturn, beetle-browed patriarch, Russel, are modest, nose-to-the-grindstone folks who, thanks (in part) to the new corporate insensitivity of the local bank, must come up with $225,000 in back payments in order to save their land. And so they decide to auction off everything else: their cattle, their equipment, their precious Ethan Allen furniture. The auction, which is the centerpiece of the movie, is a wrenching event — we’re watching the Jordans sell off pieces of their past. Troublesome Creek isn’t a major documentary. It doesn’t bring us close enough to the Jordans as individuals, and there’s too much of Jeanne Jordan’s naggingly ironic voice-over. At times, though, this elegiac look at the evanescence of home can bring tears to your eyes.