Winner of the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature at the 2005 Hamptons International Film Festival, Sweet Land is a poignant and lyrical celebration of land, love, and the American immigrant experience.
When Lars Torvik’s grandmother Inge dies in 2004, he is faced with a decision – sell the family farm on which she lived since 1920, or cling to the legacy of the land. Seeking advice, he turns to the memory of Inge and the stories that she had passed on to him.
Inge arrives in Minnesota in 1920 to marry a young Norwegian farmer named Olaf but her German heritage and lack of official immigration papers makes her an object of suspicion in the small town, and she and Olaf are forbidden to marry. Alone and adrift, Inge goes to live with the family of Olaf’s friend and neighbor Frandsen and his wife Brownie, where she learns the English language, American ways, and a hard-won independence.
Inge and Olaf slowly come to know each other, and against the backdrop of endless farmland and cathedral skies they fall in love, a man and woman united by the elemental forces of nature. Still unable to marry, they live together openly, despite the scorn of the neighbors and the disapproval of the local minister. But when his friend Frandsen’s farm is threatened by foreclosure, Olaf takes a stand, and the community unites around the young couple, finally accepting Inge as one of their own.
Based on Will Weaver’s short story A Gravestone Made of Wheat and shot on location in Southern Minnesota, Sweet Land is that rare independent feature that uses painterly images and understated performances to tell a universal story of love and discovery. David Tumblety’s glorious magic-hour cinematography recalls classic American art cinema like Days of Heaven, transforming the amber majesty of Southern Minnesota’s farm country into an elegiac metaphor for memory, family, and history.
Featuring supporting performances by veteran performers Ned Beatty, Paul Sand, and Lois Smith, Sweet Land is the story of immigrant America, made by the son of first-generation immigrants themselves.