NOTE: This review was written under a previous rating system. Some of the older reviews may express opinions and judgment calls that are not in line with our current standards.2006
Regardt van den Bergh
Global Creative Studios
for some thematic material, an accident scene, mild language, and brief smoking.
If first impressions were all we got, and first impressions truly couldn’t be completely overcome, Angus Buchan (not to mention a lot of other people who didn’t make it into the movies) would have it pretty rough by now. The first several years of his life—and the first forty-two minutes of his movie—wouldn’t have given anyone a very positive first impression of Mr. Buchan. When you’re talking about the man, the good part of his story didn’t begin until 1978, when he and his wife were saved by Jesus Christ. But it’s a case of grace abounding more in the life of a man saved in his adulthood, after a season of bitterness and unbelief—making him a testimony to the power of God to redeem a life from what Angus would later call “that bottomless pit.” When you’re talking about the movie, though, forty-two minutes is a very long first impression to overcome. And there’s only so much grace an indie film director can confer on the rest of the movie to remedy what was already starting to feel like a serious imbalance.
Artistically, Faith Like Potatoes was… well, it was an indie film—not an “independent” film; the colloquial shorthand is important here; but a choppy, hard-to-follow “indie” movie with a lot of unnecessary scenes, a lot of distracting scenes, and a couple of untried actors that hadn’t had the opportunity to perfect their technique yet. If you like the film-school/film-festival style of moviemaking, then Faith Like Potatoes is going to be great for you; but if you’re accustomed to the classical, Hollywood ebb and flow of a story that emphasizes cohesiveness and plot development, you’re going to find this movie lacking. And Faith Like Potatoes isn’t the most inspiring Angus Buchan story on film, anyway.
God’s Farmer is the hour-long documentary appended to the video of Faith Like Potatoes. It’s just an assortment of interviews with Angus, his wife, pastors, evangelists and men he has mentored over the years, with a few images from the movie sprinkled in. It may not give you that inspirational feeling you might expect from a dramatic movie, but as far as real inspiration goes—the desire to go forth and do something for the Lord’s kingdom, with or without the happy-ending feeling—God’s Farmer will probably be a lot more successful… if you agree with his beliefs, or can set aside your differences long enough.
Mark 11:24 says, “Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” Angus believes that this verse is a command, and that he is called to obey it. When a fire gets out of control and begins spreading, Angus prays for rain—despite the fact that it is the drought season—and God gives him rain. He prays for a woman who is said to have been killed by lightning, and she is raised to life again.
Angus also believes that God has led—even “told”—him to do certain things. Sometimes these messages from God are as basic as “Just trust me,” and sometimes they’re as unusual as a command to use a specific stadium for a prayer meeting—or to plant potatoes during the drought. At one point, Angus claims that God asked him, “Are you willing to spend less time with your family?”
In God’s Farmer, all of these controversial points from Faith Like Potatoes are brought up, but they’re clarified a bit more. Mr. Buchan makes it clear that he has never heard the audible voice of God, and he qualifies his account of the woman being raised to life by saying, “I’m just telling what they said. They said she was dead.” It is more clear that he spends time away from his family because of his love for God, not because of some misguided zeal. On the other hand, his conviction that God told him to get a truck for his evangelistic crusades (and told him the exact specifications of the one he was supposed to get) didn’t come up in Faith Like Potatoes. He also spends a lot more time talking about “miracles” in the documentary, claiming that “one genuine miracle equals a thousand sermons,” and relating some of the (documented) supernatural healings that have taken place during the course of his ministry.
Angus’ ministry is ecumenical, involving support from different Christian denominations.
There is a little bit of talk about children’s schools, ranging from the Buchans’ commitment not to send their children to boarding school, despite the trend at the time, to a scene in which the Buchan children are dropped off at school, or, in the documentary, a remark about the Buchans “partnering with the government’s education program” in their children’s ministry.
In the movie, Angus calls his maize field his “church”. Unhelpful church members are said to “sound so cold and religious.” A Zulu man tells Mrs. Buchan that a certain native bird “calls the rain.”
Men are shown shirtless in both God’s Farmer and Faith Like Potatoes, and in the latter, women are occasionally shown in low-cut tank tops. The actor who plays Angus and the actress who plays Angus’ wife kiss a number of times. In the movie, a man is said to have “had two kids with a Zulu worker.”
A newly-saved and smiling Angus says that his natural “stubbornness and craziness” is “like the Scotsmen gave it to the English—lifting their kilts…
…and shouting obscenities.”
“Bloody” is used a dozen times, as are words like “dang” and “shoot.” At a prayer meeting for the local farmers, Angus says, “To heck with El Nino!” But, that’s the movie. In real life (and in the documentary), he used—and explained his reason for using—the real word.
Faith Like Potatoes depicts the unsaved Angus as a man who smokes cigarettes and drinks without much concern for temperance. Of course, he’s also depicted as vomiting (off screen) as a result. A mixed congregation of saved and unsaved people laugh a bit at a man’s admitting to having been “a little bit drunk” at an earlier point in his life.
In both films, mention is made of tranquilizers, which Angus briefly tried as a way to escape his bitterness and fierce workaholism before he became a Christian.
In one scene, the movie Angus wears a Scottish kilt, and, joking with the Zulu families, calls himself “a man in a skirt,” while one of the men jokes back and calls Angus “sister.”
In the documentary, there is a mention of HIV/AIDS.
Violent and Intense Content:
“Brief smoking” wasn’t the reason for Faith Like Potatoes’ PG rating—not by a long shot. In a very intense scene, Angus’ four-year-old nephew is run over by a tractor, and, in horror, Angus runs back to him, screaming prayers. He attempts to breathe air into little Alistair’s crushed lungs, but the boy is constantly vomiting blood—imagery far too graphic for the genre, the audience or even, possibly, the rating. The documentary addresses this tragic point in Angus’ life with a great deal more tenderness and hope, foregoing the graphic visuals.
Compared to the “accident scene”, the rest of the violent content in Faith Like Potatoes seems trivial. The unsaved Angus lashes out in anger at his employees, and, in rage, flies at a man who nearly drove into his car. He is also burnt in a sudden burst of flaming debris, and two of the women in his community are said to have been struck by lightning. Men report the latest numbers in farms attacked and farmers murdered, and for a few seconds the sounds Mrs. Buchan hears (standing outside, alone, at night, her husband gone) make us wonder if the attackers have come to their farm.
Faith Like Potatoes was by no means a bad movie, or a bad portrayal of the Christian, Angus Buchan; it may even be called a good one. But it most definitely isn’t a great one. The movie’s style was still very awkward, to my taste, and I felt that there were just too many dead-end scenes peppering the movie to make the poor-to-nonexistent character development excusable. I have to admit, though, my opinion of the movie is based on a first impression—just one time through. And, while I hold that the more graphic parts of the accident scene are both unnecessary and inappropriate for the vast majority of viewers (definitely for the female or under-adult-age group), the rest of the movie (twelve and up, I’d say) isn’t something I would ever suggest avoiding. I just think there’s better out there.
If you want to walk away from a first impression admiring Angus Buchan’s faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Farmer is probably the film you want to see. It’s not the story of a man who had a movie made about him; it’s the story of a man who still plants crops and raises animals while he disciples his family, his community, and the nations. It’s inspiring: his zeal to reach lost souls, to build up local churches… and to see God miraculously heal the sick. Angus’ beliefs about supernatural healings and the extent of the power of faith in the post-apostolic era are controversial, as is his claim to be so specifically led by the Lord as to call it “being told by God.” But I believe that there is much good to be found in the testimony and wisdom of this brother in Christ, even if viewers disagree with him on these controversial points. Parents who hold a different position than Angus Buchan does on some of these issues may want to discuss their own position with younger children in preparation for watching this film, but otherwise, God’s Farmer is appropriate—recommendable, even—for all ages.