Faith Like Potatoes


Inspiring Christian Film, 2006 - 3 Stars / Accompanying Documentary - 4 Stars

Inspiring, Well-Acted Movie; But Accompanying Documentary About the Real-life Potato Farmer, Angus Buchan, Steals Show

There are two things I like about this film: South African actor Frank Rautenbach, who plays muscular farmer-preacher Angus Buchan; and the accompanying documentary about the real-life Angus. Bucahan starred in a South African television series in 2000, but this is his feature film debut. Since Faith Like Potatoes, he has appeared in Hansie (2008), and is currently in The Bang Bang Club and Taste Of Rain, coming out in 2010. Rautenbach isn't going away. He's an excellent actor, totally into his character and, in this film, he is Angus Buchan.

He plays opposite very attractive Jeanne Neilson, who is also terrific as Angus' wife, Jill. If I were making a Christian film, and there were any way I could get these two, I would. They're both very natural, have a lot of chemistry and are fun to watch. They're joined by Hamilton Diamini as Angus' Zulu employee and friend, Simeon. The rest of the cast is also strong.

The main weaknesses I find in this film are the accents, which at times are difficult to understand; and some of the filmmaking, which is often excellent - especially given some of the scenic South African locations - but is just as often mundane. That is probably due to director Regardt van den Bergh's limited experience. Besides Faith Like Potatoes and Hansie (2008), he's done The Visual Bible: Matthew (1993), The Visual Bible: Acts (1994), and a handful of other Christian and South African fare. This is what I call "Hallmark Channel" production values, which is typical of both Christian and South African filmmaking. It is acceptable and pretty, but not especially artistic or innovative.

The story of Faith Like Potatoes is true and is based on Angus Buchan's own book by the same name. Angus is a white farmer, struggling with his young family in the socially and politically torn, drought-ridden Zulu land of South Africa. The pressures of life fill him with anger and frustration, until one day he and his family attend a lay church service of farmers, where he finds rest in the arms of Christ. From that moment on he's a different person, and his life begins to show the signs of God's hand on him. One day, after praying in his "green cathedral," which is what he calls his maze field, Angus senses God's call to preach, so he begins dividing his time between that and farming. There are some very well-done scenes of Angus demonstrating his faith in miraculous ways, as well as giving his testimony. There is also a very tragic scene that has a profound effect upon him and his faith. But the climactic section of the film is when he decides to plant potatoes in the middle of a drought, knowing that potatoes are the most difficult crop to grow, but sensing this is what God wants him to do.

After watching Faith Like Potatoes, which is good, viewers will be delighted to find a documentary about the real-life Angus Buchan included among the DVD's extra features. It is even more fascinating and inspiring than the drama. Narrated by Rautenbach, it is full of wonderful stories of Angus' faith, and the journey he and his family have taken from struggling farmers, to running a home for AIDs-victim orphans, to running a far-flung evangelistic ministry across Africa. There is even a scene in the documentary of Angus healing a cripple in a meeting where 5,000 Muslims came to Christ, and it's captured on film!

I don't know any film that gives a clearer picture of what faith looks like than this one. It and the documentary are loaded with wonderful one-liners, but here's a sampling: "One genuine miracle is worth a thousand sermons." "The condition for a miracle is difficulty; for a great miracle, it's impossibility." "Maze you can see; but with potatoes, you have to have faith." "We're not doing things and asking God to bless it. We're asking God what we should do, and then He provides. There is a difference." "Don't wait for a million ran in the bank before you start your project. Start it by faith and God will add to it." "God's not interested in your ability, but in your availability." "God honors faith."

Before Angus began his ministry across Africa, he sensed God telling him to buy a gigantic semi truck and trailer, paint it yellow, and paint the word "Jesus" on the sides. He now takes it into the remotest parts of Africa where he preaches the Word, ministers to people and gives out materials to pastors and teachers. He never takes up a collection. Back on the farm, he's left his friend Simeon to run things and watch over his family. It's a lonely life out on the road, planting seeds of the Gospel; but it is one filled with great joy and great harvest. As Angus' truck heads down the highway one more time at the end of the documentary, I longed to join him. I probably can't do that, but I can join him in his journey of faith. So can you.


Waitsel Smith, June 19, 2009

Text © 2009 Waitsel Smith. Image © 2009 Sony Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

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