January 08, 2006 12:02 AM by Joe Blackmon
In September 1998, filmmaker David Sutherland introduced PBS viewers to the Buschkoetters, the rural Nebraska family profiled in his documentary series “The Farmer’s Wife.” Over three nights, more than 17 million viewers tuned in and embraced Darrel and Juanita Buschkoetter, whose struggle to hold onto their family farm ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â¬” and their marriage ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â¬” resonated with people from all walks of life.
Seven years after the triumph of the film the Chicago Tribune hailed as “one of the extraordinary television events of the decade,” David Sutherland returns to PBS with a major new work: COUNTRY BOYS, a moving portrait of the trials and triumphs of Chris Johnson and Cody Perkins, two teenaged boys coming of age in eastern Kentucky’s Appalachian hills.
Filmed over three years (1999-2002), COUNTRY BOYS tracks the dramatic stories of Chris and Cody from ages 15 to 18. Sutherland’s new film bears witness to the boys’ struggles to overcome the poverty and family dysfunction of their childhood in a quest for a brighter future. Airing Monday-Wednesday, January 9-11, 2006, 9:00-11:00 p.m. ET, COUNTRY BOYS also offers unexpected insights into a forgotten corner of rural America that is at once isolated and connected, a landscape dotted with roughshod trailer homes and wired with DSL.
“While this new film tells the very specific story of two boys growing up in one remote part of America,” says filmmaker Sutherland, ” … it also tells a universal story about the awkward yet essential journey through adolescence we all must make.”
Cody Perkins is an orphan. His mother’s postpartum suicide left the infant boy in the care of his father, who, 12 years later, killed his seventh wife before turning the gun on himself. Bounced around among relatives he barely knew, Cody eventually chose to live with his former step-grandmother, Liz McGuire, who took the troubled boy into her home. Offering unconditional love and strict maternal guidance, Liz helps transform Cody from an angry, depressed child into a compassionate young adult.
Chris Johnson lives in a rundown trailer in a Kentucky “holler” with his mother, Sheila, a high school dropout who cleans hotel rooms for a living, and his father, Randall, an alcoholic with terminal cirrhosis of the liver. With his mother often absent and his father lost in an alcoholic haze, Chris is thrust into the role of both mother and father ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â¬” cooking, cleaning, and taking care of his younger siblings. He also supports the family with the monthly Social Security disability check he receives for his learning disorders.