AFF 2023: ‘The Hoof Trimmer’ shows the power of a good pedicure

AFF 2023: ‘The Hoof Trimmer’ shows the power of a good pedicure
Regular foot care for cows is humane and worth the investment. (Courtesy of Kate Woods)

By Denise Dunbar |

One of the great joys about attending a film festival is finding unexpected treasures – in the case of “The Hoof Trimmer,” literally in the midst of cow dung.

I went to the Alexandria Film Festival student showcase of films on November 10 mainly to see the short fiction “Flowers Die First” by Gwyn Newcomb. While that film was entertaining, I was blown away by the 13-minute documentary “The Hoof Trimmer” by Kate Woods, who earlier this year received her masters of arts from George Washington University’s Corcoran School of the Arts and Design.

The documentary was part biography, as Woods followed hoof trimmer Mark Burwell to various dairy farms in Virginia for six months, watching him trim cows’ hooves while telling us why foot care is so important to the well-being of cows and why he chose this vocation.

Through Burwell’s eyes, we come to understand why regular foot care is both humane for the cows and worth the investment for dairy farmers.

In a mere 13 minutes, Woods helps us ponder new ways of farming and how they clash with old. We also see that what’s more humane can also be more profitable and we gain a glimmer of understanding of what can motivate someone in their 30s to willingly undertake the grueling life of a farmer.

We also see cows doing amusing things, because all animals are funny if we watch them for a bit.

Woods seamlessly weaves all of these elements together in a documentary that’s interesting, thought provoking, educational and – just one bad cow pun – moo-ving.

In the question and answer session after the film, moderated by former AFF Director Margaret Wohler, Woods said part of her motivation in making “The Hoof Trimmer” was to show the human side of big agriculture.

“I realized that animal agriculture was not going anywhere, and so I wanted to make a documentary showing solutions” to some of the problems farmers face, Woods said. “I focused on solutions being put in place in an industry that isn’t perfect.”