DER Documentary

Hybrid: One Man's Passion for Corn

launch preview watch a preview

by Monteith McCollum
black and white, 58 & 92 min, 2002

Non-profit, K-12, and Individual pricing also available
See pricing information and conditions

In a rather unusual form, where animations of crawling and mating corncobs alternate with meditative nature scenes, Hybrid tells the story of one mans obsession for hybrid corn. Using dry Midwestern wit, the film describes the sexuality of corn and delves deep into one family's complex relationships with an eccentric man who finds solace in the whispers of rustling cornfields. This poetic opus says as much about the pragmatic spiritual values and emotional inhibitions of the American hinterland as it does about the archetypal Midwesterner, Milford Beeghly.

Beeghly had a passion for developing hybrid corn and appeared on early black and white television, hawking his daring new seed at a time when hybridization was considered a wicked kind of plant incest. The film is in part a history of agricultural practices during the depression and a science lesson, explaining how corn procreates. "Hybrid" takes on a fuller resonance because of the current fears about the harm that might be done by genetically engineered crops.

McCollum began this major study of American farm-belt culture (and it's loss) with an impetus to get to know his grandfather, the man who remained an enigma to his family for most of his life. The film was 7 years in the making and is far from the realm of genteel biographical inquiry. It is a rigorously inventive work that defies classification whose images challenge accepted associations of light, sound and space. McCollum set out to understand what drove his grandfather and in the process he made a tremendous film that examines what work means to the soul: a topic that is particularly American. Suitable for teaching American Studies, Agricultural Studies, Environmental Studies, Psychology, Sociology, Film Studies.

Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, Montana, 2004
Pare Lorentz prize, Pennsylvania Film Festival, 2002
IFP/Direct TV-Truer than Fiction Spirit Award, Los Angeles, CA
Fipresci Critics Award, International Documentary Film Festival, Amsterdam
Grand Jury Award , Best Feature, Slamdance Film Festival, UT
Awards Nominee, Best Long Form Documentary, IDA Awards, Los Angeles, CA
Best Feature Length Documentary, Nashville Indendent Film Festival, TN
Best Documentary, South by Southwest International Film Festival, Austin, TX
Golden Gate Certificate of Merit Awards, San Francisco International Film Festival
Grand Jury Award, Best Film, Ann Arbor International Film Festival, MI
Grand Jury Award, Atlanta Film and Video Festival, GA
New York Times New Vision Award, New Port International Film Festival, RI
Best Documentary, Bermuda International Film Festival
Best Documentary, Great PLaines Film Festival, Lincoln, NE
Viewpoint International Documentary Festival, Ghent, Belgium
show more

TV Broadcasts
P.O.V. series, PBS, 2002

Related Resources
Hybrid page on the PBS website
Video: Hybrid - Monteith McCollum - Behind the Lens - POV | PBS

Related Films
Root Hog or Die
Return to the Brouck
American Fair
A Country Auction

View more photos on

Catalog of New Films DER new films catalog cover
Join Our Mailing List
Suport DER
Supported By Massachusetts Cultural Council National Endowment for the Humanities National Endowment for the Arts