Ceres depicts life on the farm for four children in a personal and political way.
Belgium 2018 73 minutes
Pigs are being born, their frail little bodies–covered with warm fluid and interlaced with placenta and umbilical cords–cover the entire screen. Cows are being milked while the boy in light blue overalls caresses the cow’s tail, cleans up the stable and gently lays his head on the cow’s back.
Another boy, wearing green overalls, lies down on the barren field, puts his arm deep into the earth, rides the harvesting machine and carefully inspects the harvested potatoes. Hearing him say, “I’ve never had any doubts about whether I want to become a farmer. My grandpa took over from his father, and my father took over from my grandpa. It would be nice to carry on for another generation. I think it’s nice,” one cannot but admire the mix of innocence and determination expressed by the young boy.
The third, a bit older than the other two, has doubts about his identity: “I am the only one of my friends who wants something to do in agriculture. They wouldn’t be able to tell by looking at me though, I’m just normal like the others.”
«It is not only a good educational film, but also an experiment.»
When we first see the girl, we see a detail of her left foot, each nail polished with a different colour. She is carefully perusing her smart phone screen as she narrates, “I’ve got 55 bottles of nail polish. We’ve got 450 sheep.”
The four protagonists of this documentary, the first feature film by Janet van den Brand, are masterfully orchestrated throughout the film, every one of them representing one aspect of their particular experience. Each of them lives on a remote farm in the southwest of the Netherlands and is learning the profession of their ancestors from a young age, as the promotional material declares. But their stories are the same.
Koen Brouwer, the kid wearing light blue overalls, is the sensitive one. He experiences the world through physical contact–with the earth, the bodies of farm animals, the skin of the pigs that he carefully covers with sunscreen so they don’t get burned. He even puts his hand, his whole arm protected by a long plastic glove, into the uterus of the cow who is about to give birth to feel the body of the soon to be born calf.