Frederick Back

film 6 of 7

The Man Who Planted Trees

Film Review by Dean Duncan Jun 1, 2015

The Man Who Planted TreesĀ is a multi-faceted parable. It is what it is, which is to say a story about a single man planting an entire forest. It’s an arborial/dendrological tract, an inspiringly artful, just-as-scientifical study of how trees grow and why they are important. It is, as is always the case with Back, a call for greater environmental awareness, and then by implication for greater environmental intervention and activism. Just as ardently, it’s a metaphor about the profound possibilities of service, and the miraculous transformations that follow our humblest ministrations.

Heavy-handed? Well it’s clear, but I’d say that it’s Biblically so. Screenwriting manuals (Syd Field, 1979, Robert McKee, 1997) encourage us to avoid narration in film. These days, the culture of children’s literature is wary about didacticism (Tunnell & Jacobs, 1996). I guess, or this film, which makes all that look like nonsense. Address your audience! Teach them something worthwhile!

BYU’s department of theatre and media arts has shown this film to its incoming intro-to-film students, on the first day of class, every semester since 1995. We know and love and endorse a lot of movies. Our syllabi are always shifting, often to the point of unrecognizability. But we have decided that, if you want to show what a film can and should be, and do, this is the one.