An old man decides he has an important story to tell about a friend he knew back in the day when he was a farmer. He sits down at his desk and begins to write. To my surprise: The story is important. It’s not about the good old days, or a yarn about the way things were when people believed in God and community. No, his story is about how farmers in North Dakota were radicalized by socialist activists. The plot: In the early years of the 20th century, banks are foreclosing on farms, big businesses are making all of the profits, and farmers are losing everything they own and suffering in the cold. No matter how hard they work, they cannot beat the system. After the people have had enough of this raw exploitation, they give the activists their political support. One of these activists is Ray (Robert Behling), the friend of the old man (who turns out to be the former secretary of the Socialist Party). Ray and his organization take on the banks and win. Laws are changed and the grievances of the farmers are finally addressed. The point of the film, which is beautifully photographed (the ice, the snow, the low clouds, the crooked teeth of Ray’s lover Inga), is that much of this radical past has been forgotten. One must also keep in mind that the film was made in 1977, three years before the Reagan revolution would completely remove this history from American memory. Northern Lights is the cinema of Kshama Sawant.

Support The Stranger