Confident and creative people in Eldon


Jessica Bollag spent some time in Eldon and now tells her experiences in her new film I’m not leaving Eldon.  

Viscult’s theme for this year is autonomy. How does your movie fit to that theme? Where did you get the idea for this documentary?

I wish the people from Eldon would answer this question by themselves, but here I try to do it as good as I can on behalf of them. The film talks about people from a small town that are experiencing changes due to the agricultural industrialization. Since in the last decades the competition for farmers was strong, a lot of people from rural regions in Iowa have sold their land to big farms and multinational corporations. Now these companies are earning most of all the profit coming out of the agricultural production. At the same time, they are the most important job sources for the people in Eldon. So, I would say that there has been a sort of proletarization, which is always associated with the loss of autonomy.

How close to your heart was this subject, could you identify with the people on the film?

I grew up in a part of Switzerland that is also economically fragile. As I met the protagonists I wanted to put an effort in giving them a voice of their own. So, I would say that the subject was close to my heart, but also to my experiences.

Did you have any difficulties in finding these people to talk about their home place?

I met the first local informant and protagonist Ellen in Costa Rica in 2009. One year later she invited me to attend her wedding in Eldon. For me this was the first occasion to get in touch with all the other future protagonists, before even thinking about making a movie four years later.

What kind of things did you learn from the local people?

To enjoy the simple things in life and to take your time to do things in your own rhythm. It was also inspiring to see how creative people in Eldon are. For instance, once the protagonist Kurt used old car seats to build a horse buggy.

In the description of the film it is stated that creative solutions and strong sense of community are essential for the people. Could you give us some examples of that?

In my eyes, the strong sense of community especially consists in sharing things, for instance the horse buggies. We once made a trip to the country side and people shared their horse buggies with whoever wanted to come along with them. On the other hand, it is seen as very important to help people out in their needs, since generally the local infrastructure is very weak.

Can you tell us what the most important experience was that you had while making this film?

The most important experience was the confidence that I experienced. As I arrived in Eldon, I thought that people would be critical about the presence of the camera. But I felt that there was a lot of trust and that the protagonists were willing to talk about their personal and daily life.