Iowa-based film crew creates gripping short film set on the Iowa countryside

The short film, titled “Inherited,” was shot in Hendrick, Iowa. The narrative piece follows a young woman who inherits a farmhouse from her grandparents.


Daniel McGregor-Huyer

Director of the short film Inheritance Brandon Oest is a homegrown filmmaker based in Coralville Iowa. Brandon Oest is seen at North Ridge Park in Coralville on March 9 2021.

Maddie Johnston, Arts Reporter

I believe we all experience a desire to escape sometimes, be it from a job, our school, our families, or any of our different non-glamorous realities. Where do we go when we want to escape, and what are we leaving behind? The all-Iowan film crew behind Inherited creates a gripping experience that leaves viewers to ponder these questions and others.

Written and directed by Coralville-based filmmaker Brandon Oest, Inherited follows a woman in her mid-20’s, Anna, who has moved to a farmhouse in Iowa left to her by her grandparents. The film was released on March 1.

Anna takes up rehabilitating the old farmhouse, giving the dirty walls a fresh white coat and painting the old window frames bright sky blue. Throughout the film, her reclaiming of the house turns to her destruction of the house, as an anonymous airplane drops notes from above, urging her to find money hidden within the walls.

The film begins with a Sylvia Plath quote about the desirability of a fig tree; how every fat purple fig represents a separate wonderful future, “beckoned and winked.” Plath compares each fig to a different life path. One is a beautiful family, another, a different country to visit, and another, Plath’s life as a poet. Beyond those exist more that she can’t quite make out. But Plath says she remains, “in the crotch of the tree,” starving, unable to choose which fig she should choose, for picking one means losing the rest.

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Anna’s isolation on the farm left viewers with little context. The film remained relatively quiet with the exception of voicemails left for Anna by her family and friends that play over her actions on the farm.

“I know you’ve been unsure what you want to do since you graduated school, but if that’s your issue, I just don’t think you’re going to find the answers out there,” her mother tells her.

In many ways, the film does a great job of balancing secrecy and transparency. The absence of dialogue was one of the systems that allowed this balance to work. The details of Anna’s life came together somewhat, but I was still left with questions, like “Why isn’t Anna coming home? Who’s leaving her these notes? What’s she trying to escape from?”

It was fascinating to watch Anna destroy her grandparents’ house while also watching her participate in what might be her own self-destruction. She runs from her normal life and avoids the job offer that looms in her voicemail box. I believe Inherited will strike resonance with people who struggle to settle on one solid life path — people who would rather run from a decision than risk making the wrong one.

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The film also introduced questions for me about escapism. When is it right? Who does it hurt? How do we know which fig to pick?

The cinematography of Inherited beautifully conveys this dream-like essence of escapism. The familiar bright greens, yellows, and blues of the Iowa countryside matched with the warm sun casting into the cool gray rooms of the farmhouse all aided in creating the transcendental and pastoral quality of Anna’s situation.

I think the vast Iowan landscapes showcased in Inherited are Anna’s own fig tree, with every acre of land representative of the vast possibilities for her own future. Although Anna’s character remains mostly silent, actress Lauren Galliart does an excellent job of portraying her subtle desperation.

Overall, Inherited is a film that kept me engaged from start to finish. The film can be found on the website, along with more information about the award-winning crew.