The Sowers (Short Film)

10 Oct


Smith’s Verdict: ***1/2
Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“The Sowers” is a short film that…frankly, I started out hating, but later found myself loving. I saw it twice. The first time, I disliked a good portion of the characters within the first 5 out of the film’s running time of 15 minutes. While I was admiring the film’s look and artistry for the rest of the running time, it wasn’t until the ending that I realized I was supposed to dislike said-characters. When the film was over, I was thinking more about what I just saw and what it all meant. Then I watched the film a second time and found myself looking at it another way (most likely the way it was originally intended to be).

Filmed in Mulberry, Arkansas, the film opens disturbingly with an image of an elderly man lying on the ground in pain, with a bloody, mangled hand. We’re then taken back to what led to this horrific accident as we meet the man, simply known as Papaw (Arnold D. Feller). His stubborn, bitter daughter, Sissy (Kathy Forbes), sometimes cares for him and can hardly tolerate him anymore. It’s clear that he’s not entirely senile as everyone else in his family thinks—he’s just stubborn as well and has his own way of doing things, even if it’s enough to make Sissy angry (even to the point of bringing up a tragedy to his face—“You killed Mama and you’re gonna kill me too!” she snaps at one point). He also has two grandsons (Warren Bryce and Jason Thompson); one is conceited, the other just lazy, and both just want some of Papaw’s fortune he’s been saving that he has stashed in jars hidden in a drawer.

It’s clear to us that neither Sissy nor the grandsons care for Papaw much and are most likely waiting for him to die so they can take his money. But midway through the short, it’s also clear to us that Papaw doesn’t see these people as “family” in one brief but brilliant cut that shows us exactly what they look like to him. The only ones who seem as close to being family as he’d like are a friendly stranger (well-played by Kenn Woodard) and his young son. The stranger helps him to mow the lawn.

While you don’t see enough of the family to know what they’re like outside of being greedy and selfish, the ways that these people behave and act are at least realistic. What makes this certain aspect of a dysfunctional family most remarkable is that it isn’t leading up to a rekindling. Far from it. The film ends with a payoff that is pretty much an “up-yours,” if you’ll excuse me, to Sissy and those damned grandsons. Without giving it away, it’s just what I think “The Sowers” needed and I don’t think any other ending would’ve saved the film like this one did.

“The Sowers” was directed by Juli Jackson, who also helmed the Arkansas-made festival-favorite feature “45 RPM,” and I’m convinced she’s one of the best directors based in Arkansas. She gets natural performances out of her actors, knows how to balance comedy and drama effectively, and gives her films a look & feel all her own. Credit must also go to Amber Lindley, who wrote the script; Bryan Stafford, who shot the film (he also shot “45 RPM” as well); Russ & Les Galusha, who edited the film and also provided makeup for certain pivotal shots; Amos Cochran, who composed a haunting score; and Mike Poe, who did art direction. They have crafted a film that made me cynical at the beginning, pleasantly surprised at the end, and, after another viewing, made me appreciate it as a whole.

NOTE: The film can be seen here:

One Response to “The Sowers (Short Film)”


  1. OFFSHOOT FILM FEST REVIEW: The Sowers (Short) | Made in Arkansas - October 11, 2014

    […] Review also appears on Smith’s Verdict: : […]

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