Movie Reviews With an Off-Grid Perspective

By Cam Mather

Now that it’s cool and dark in the evenings Michelle and I are watching more TV. I try to read, but I’m usually bagged and fall asleep in about 5 minutes. I can stay awake for moving pictures. Thankfully we have a great video store in Tamworth where Tim, the owner, provides a great selection of movies. ( The movies that I’m about to describe are in no way about being off grid, but since we watched them on our ‘solar-powered’ TV, it’s kind of related.

Apart from the movie “Bridesmaids” and a few other similarly “deep” ones, our movie viewing has had an historic theme lately.

First off we watched “The Way Back” ( It’s about a group of prisoners who escaped from a gulag in Siberia and walked 4,000 miles to India. People got sent to gulags if they didn’t tow the communist line. Question the party or communism and it was off to a gulag! And the outcome was not generally good. The group shown in the movie knows the reality so they decide to escape. Of course Siberia was a wasteland and the walk out was horrendous. I thought it was a great movie and the scenery was amazing. I also like to be reminded of the reality of communism.

We had recently watched “The Last Station” about Leo Tolstoy. He lived in Russia and that movie’s perspective on communism didn’t seem so bad. But the gulags! Wow, what a horror show.

These movies got me thinking about ‘other’ political systems. The concept of communism, everyone being equal, is a good one, I think. But like George Orwell said in his book “Animal Farm,” ‘All animals are equal, but some (the pigs) are more equal.” So if the system is going to end up lop sided, you might as well be in a democratic society so at least you can complain without ending up in a gulag.

Then we watched “The Conspirator” ( which is about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Being a Canadian, I didn’t know much about this. The movie follows the military trial of Mary Surratt, the first woman to be executed by the U.S. Government. She was the mother of one of the men who were involved in a plot to kidnap Lincoln. Mary is represented by a young lawyer who still believes in the rule of law, versus a government/military system hell bent on revenge and sending a message. It really reminded of what happens when governments end up in disarray, kind of like the U.S. after 9/11. She was denied all the basic constitutional rights that were put in place to prevent abuse. It’s quite frightening. It reminds me of how quickly the Patriot Act was passed and makes me wonder why, a decade after 9/11, President Obama signed another extension to the Patriot Act. Was it necessary?

As a Canadian perhaps I have no right to have an opinion here, especially since my own government was busy using bad intelligence and renditioning terrorist suspects to countries that still torture. What is that saying? “Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.” It always good when a historical movie has relevance to present day events.

The last historical movie was “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” with Brad Pitt as Jesse James.  ( I really like Brad Pitt. He was a panic in the movie “Burn After Reading” ( and “Inglourious Basterds” ( and he’s great in this movie too. People often mistake me for him, so there’s that too. (For new readers to my blog, this is sarcasm)

I also didn’t know much about Jesse James. I sort of thought he did his thing in the wild, wild west, but he seemed to live in cities or towns that were fairly well developed. The movie takes place during the 1880s, which is when our house was built. So the movie is kind of about living off grid, since everyone lived “off grid” at that point. Which didn’t seem too bad actually. Except for all the work keeping your house warm and growing your own food. It sure makes you appreciate how good we have it, now that we’ve discovered how to use our manservant “oil” for so much of our labour.

Michelle and I like to think about what life would have been like when this house was built. It really was a case of people hacking out a living from the bush. The work would have been back breaking and exhausting. They would have spent their time obsessed with staying warm and eating. That’s pretty much all they would have done. We often joke, as we’re poking around the barn foundation, or the basement of the house, that we hope to come across a secret stash of gold bars that previous inhabitants might have hidden. Man, what a pipe dream. If they had managed to make a few bucks selling milk to the local cheese factory I’m sure they would have had to spend it on flour or a new wagon wheel to replace the broken one or perhaps an axe to use for cutting firewood. I’m sure they would have used money to buy something of use to them, as opposed to a lump of metal to hide in a wall.

Oh well … I can dream.

3 Responses to “Movie Reviews With an Off-Grid Perspective”

  • Rest assured Cathy that we don’t make a special trip to town to rent a DVD. We only rent one when we are in town for other reasons (to pick up our mail, for example since we don’t get mail delivery way out here) and only when we will be able to return the DVD without making a special trip. Netflix or any other online service wouldn’t work for us. Our internet comes via satellite and has very limited download allowance which would be quickly chewed up downloading videos….. ~ Michelle ~

  • I’ll remember to call you Brad next time I see you!


  • Cathy:

    Opinions are like belly buttons, we all have(at least)one of them. Here’s mine….
    For instance, renting movies is a thing of the past. I go on line to Netflix. I don’t have to use gasoline to go into town to get a movie and it’s month fee of $8.73 incl. tx. is a whole lot less than gas and renting one movie a month.

    Lately I’ve been watching flix and documentarys on the Jewish exerience in Russia, Europe, Middle East and here. They have been targeted for hundreds of years, wherever they go. Yet they have survived and thrived. I pray they have peace along with the rest of the world.

    History and mistakes seem to repeat themselves when we loose the opportunity to experience or hear first hand, how things were or how to do something differently. Books and movies are enjoyable but hands on, one on one, face to face leaves a lasting experience. It’s like watching the cooking channel to learn how to cook. If you can’t taste it, touch it or smell it, will you really know what it is all about?

Subscribe to this Blog!
To receive a notification whenever a new post is added, please provide your email address!
Do you enjoy this blog? Why not show your appreciation with a donation? Big or small, we are grateful for them all!
Find Us on YouTube!
Do You Shop at Amazon?
If you use this link to access the amazon website, we will earn a very small commission on anything that you purchase. (For, use this link first and then link through to the Canadian site from here.)
For information about upcoming workshops at Sunflower Farm please use the pull-down Workshop tab above. Hope to see you soon!
About Cam
Cam Mather and his wife Michelle live independently off the electricity grid using the sun and wind to power their home and their CSA. Cam is working towards the goal of making his home “zero-carbon” and with his extensive garden he aims to grow as much of his own food as possible. He is available to speak at conferences and other events and has motivated many people to integrate renewable energy into their lives, reduce their footprint on the planet and get started on the path to personal food, fuel and financial independence.
Posts from the Past
Mother Earth News
Many of you found this blog through our writing on Mother Earth News. Use this link to subscribe to the magazine and I will receive a small commission, which helps me to pay for this site! Thanks! Here's the link to use;