Director: Jake Mahaffy
Screenwriters: Jake Mahaffy

Institute History

  • 2004 Sundance Film Festival


Set amid the disappearing world of family farms, WAR reveals an unseen America wrapped in the fog of a centuries-old conflict. In this stark and mysterious film, the gradual decay of the country becomes a subtle apocalypse. The New World has grown old: Transmissions of evangelical radio drift though the barren landscape like ghosts, and the film's black-and-white realism recalls Civil War photographer Matthew Brady.

Jake Mahaffy's innovative feature debut centers on three isolated characters struggling to survive in a dying society. A door-to-door preacher confronts a quiet dread; a father tries to raise his son as his farm slowly falls apart; and a junkman labors to keep the land and its contents in order. Intermittent humor and patient observation draw us into each character's inner world while we become more aware of our own fragility.

Mahaffy studied cinematography in Russia, which may account for the film's dreamlike atmosphere and hauntingly beautiful imagery. He single-handedly made this film, even manually winding the camera when he couldn't afford a motor. His solitary perseverance over four years, filming on the abandoned farms of northwest Pennsylvania, creates a unique, intense, and authentic vision of hope in despair. Not just a movie, WARis a spiritual declaration.

— Mike Plante

Screening Details

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