BOSQUE FARMS — “Bitterness threatens to destroy a small 1950’s American farming community until a stranger arrives with a curious proposition …”
This is the premise of “The Countryman”— a short film written and directed by Andy Kastelic shot at the De Smet Dairy in Bosque Farms.
The film, shot in June 2022, had a cast and crew composed of several professionals in the New Mexico film community and the production utilized more than a dozen Bosque Farms locals as background performers.
“Bosque Farms has a lot to offer. The small community has a lot of values that I think are disappearing in America, and we tried to reflect some of that in the film while still tackling some modern issues,” said Kastelic, who was born and raised in Bosque Farms.
Kastelic said he was saturated in storytelling growing up, which inspired his fierce love for cinema. He studied theater at Eastern New Mexico University and later trained at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in Los Angeles. He returned to New Mexico in 2012 and earned a degree in filmmaking from the University of New Mexico in 2017.
Through his production company, Balian Pictures, he has written, directed and starred in a host of award-winning short films encompassing a wide range of genres.
Kastelic said De Smet Dairy and his long standing relationship with the family is very special to him and has played a role in several of his 15 short films.
“The De Smet Dairy has that yesteryear quality and feel to it which serves as a big part of ‘The Countryman,’” said Kastelic. “They’ve invited us into their homes, their lives and they believe in what we’re doing.”
Mike De Smet, a third generation owner of the farm, said it’s always a pleasure to work with Kastelic. Their relationship began about 10 years ago when Kastelic approached the farm looking for a place to shoot one of his first films.
“He was a little defeated the first time he came. He was young and he was talking to some of the bigger farmers in the area and everyone wanted to charge him so much per hour,” De Smet remembered. “I was like, ‘Look, the only thing I ask of you is I want to see the movie when it’s done.’ He brought it over to us and after I watched it I was like, ‘Holy crap! You have free reign of this place, whatever you want to do, just remember me when you become famous!’”
As such, it felt right that Kastelic would shoot the entirety of his last short film at the De Smet Dairy.
“The Countryman” is set in the postwar era of the 1950s when many family farms were bought out by big corporations, which ignited tension and mistrust within the smaller farming communities.
“The film is a marriage of real history. Huck De Smet, Mike’s dad, got a kick out of it because he remembers some of that, farmers and agricultural people turning on each other because it was kind of a scramble to survive for many of them and the thought of losing your farm was enough to start sabotaging your neighbors,” said Kastelic.
Kastelic said “The Countryman” was inspired in part by the cinema of the 1940s and 1950s. He especially wanted to give it the feel that it was made during the Hays Code era, which was a time between the early 1930s and late 1960s when films had to follow certain guidelines.
“You couldn’t use profanity, show sex, criticize the church, etc. What came from this was a lot of very clever films in working around those rules,” he said.
The striking black-and-white imagery of the film is inspired by photojournalist W. Eugene Smith. Kastelic said a particular photo of his especially contributed to the film’s inception and idea behind the main character, an outsider seeking to bring peace to the town, who Kastelic portrays.
“There was a famous photograph in Life magazine in 1948 of a retired doctor coming over into a community, storms brewing behind him, carrying his doctor’s bag with him, and that image always struck me, so narrative wise that was probably the genesis.”
“Also, his photographs have a very gritty feel to them because he’s off the cuff. He was always at the frontlines of major conflicts, putting his life at risk. So his photographs inspired it and his ideology of all or nothing,” said Kastelic.
During the climax of the film, a huge fire is set to the fields. Kastelic said when he wrote this scene, he didn’t know exactly how he was going to go about it, but retired Bosque Farms fire chief Spencer Wood, who is a family friend of the Kastelics, came to his aide.
Wood noticed a brush pile in one of the De Smet’s fields that needed to be burned and suggested they burn this under supervision of the Bosque Farms Fire Department.
“Never in a 100 years did I think I would be able to do that, but Spencer is the man,” said Kastelic. “We had 10 to 15 firefighters there that day and everyone got some benefit out of it. (The De Smets) needed a brush pile gone, the fire department needed a training day for some of the new recruits and I needed fire on film,” the filmmaker said. “You usually can’t pull that stuff off without a lot of money, so we’re very grateful to people like Spencer and the De Smets who make this possible for productions with smaller budgets.”
Kastelic said this is going to be his last short film as his goal is to start breaking into feature films. He said “The Countryman” is a good film to serve as his short film finale because it’s a culmination of everything, creative and technical, he and his team have honed throughout the years.
“I want to have this body of work in short filmmaking as a demonstration of talent and vision so I can ask for a higher price tag for my first few feature length projects, because those can make or break you,” he said.
Throughout the years, the De Smets have hosted a variety of independent filmmakers, photographers and even some big film studios on their land. De Smet said seeing their farm, representing three generations worth of hard work, immortalized in films is an amazing feeling.
“We’ll always have that piece of film to look back on and show our kids and they can show theirs, and not everybody has that,” said De Smet. “Andy, especially, finds these little nooks and crannies of our farm and really brings them to life and turns them into so much more than what they actually are.”
Kastelic encourages the community to support local talent and come out to the New Mexico premier of “The Countryman” at the Albuquerque Film & Music Experience. It will premiere at 12 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 1, at The Historic Lobo Theater in Albuquerque.
Kastelic said he hopes “The Countryman” will serve as a gentle reminder for viewers to consider and appreciate their fellow man.
You can view more of Kastelic’s work on his website, andykastelic.com.
Felina Martinez was born and raised in Valencia County. She graduated from the University of New Mexico in 2021. During her time at UNM, she studied interdisciplinary film, digital media and journalism. She covers the village of Los Lunas, Los Lunas Schools, the School of Dreams Academy and the town of Peralta.