Hybrid | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Centenarian Milford Beeghly, a barrel-chested Iowa eccentric and a pioneer in crossbreeding corn, is the subject of this inventive and beguiling 2000 documentary by his grandson Montieth McCollum. Proud, laconic, and deeply attached to the land, Beeghly preferred experimenting with and marketing new strains of corn to spending time with his family, and in interviews shot during the late 90s he seems vital but aloof. McCollum incorporates reminiscences from Beeghly's children, family photos, 50s TV spots by the farmer-entrepreneur, time-lapse photography, and animation, fashioning a wry reverie on homegrown scientific discovery, the elusiveness of the past, and the family's ambivalence toward its patriarch. Corn is the focus of numerous reflections and digressions, its phallic appearance serving as a metaphor for Beeghly's magnificent obsession; the film is equally obsessive, weighed down by artifice at times and cheapened by a voyeuristic sequence of Beeghly on his deathbed, yet its emotional content is as solid as its craft. 92 min. A 35-millimeter print will be shown; McCollum will attend the screening. Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State, Thursday, November 15, 6:00, 312-846-2800.

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