Michael Bolini (Ernest Borgnine) is a rugged seasoned Italian farmer who lives alone on his precious 240 acre fruit farm, when the bad news comes. It turns out his recently deceased mother had never switched the title of the farm into his name, and now the IRS wants their share of inheritance tax, based on values pumped up by
development potential. Bolini doesn’t have the money and isn’t very interested in selling off any of his land to settle the debt.
Paul Haight (Wayne David Parker), a gung-ho developer, has big plans and has already optioned nearby farms. He is hungry for more, and stands ready and willing to solve Bolini’s problems. Bolini’s niece and only relative, Susan (Julie Kavner), calls in from time to time and encourages him to sell the farm, simplify his life, retire, and buy a condo near her in Los Angeles. Bolini is frustrated.
One crisp autumn afternoon, Lydia (Kimberly Norris Guerrero), a Native American woman, appears. She introduces herself as a member of one of the families that used to work there, picking cherries, when she was six years old. She was compelled to visit the old farm and reminisce. Bolini invites her in and brings her up to date on the state of the farm and the changes that seem eminent. They talk about the old times, before mechanical shakers, and he is glad for the visit.
They both know that once a farm gets turned into a subdivision, there’s no going back. But Bolini feels it’s his responsibility, and he wants to be a good steward of the land, and Lydia agrees. One night after dinner, Bolini reveals that he has a dangerous heart condition, and Lydia shares secrets of her own. Bonded in truth, and armed with an appreciation of the farm and what it stands for, they embark on a mission to resolve the unwelcome dilemma that will surely impact the future of the farm.
“Barn Red” is the best movie yet by Michigan filmmaker Rich Brauer. It’s his third feature length film and his second starring legendary actor Ernest Borgnine, who just celebrated his 88th birthday. Borgnine is best remembered for his Academy award winning leading role in “Marty” (1955), “From Here to Eternity” (1953), “The Wild Bunch” (1969), the cruise ship disaster film “Poseidon Adventure” (1972), and as the centurion in “Jesus of Nazareth” (1977). He has experienced a recent surge of popularity with the younger set in his new role as the voice of Mermaid Man in SpongeBob SquarePants.
“Barn Red” is a very tender story of a relationship between an old ‘codger’ (Borgnine) and a young woman ably played by Native American actress Kimberly Norris Guerrero [Hildalgo]. These two, who are from different generations and cultures, are bonded together by a united purpose—to save the farm from a profit-driven ‘evil’ developer who wants to buy up all the area of Cherry Farms to build a cramped, sub-standard housing development.
The film has the obvious backing of the Michigan Land Conservancy Association, a special interest group dedicated to protesting the hyper-development of farm land.
Whether or not you believe the premise that urban sprawl is gobbling up rural land, “Barn Red” is more of a story about the importance of different cultures and how generations should set aside differences to accomplish a greater good.
I recommend “Barn Red” to any Ernest Borgnine fan and anyone who wants to see a warm, touching, wholesome movie, a rarity in today’s entertainment landscape. Barn Red is due out on DVD in March 2005 with several interesting additions.
Read an Interview with Producer Richard Brauer: A True Flashback – The Brauer Way