Colby, Kansas, 1933, America is beginning to recover from the Great Depression but while recovery is beginning, the Great Plains, from the panhandle of Texas to western Nebraska is battling...
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Colby, Kansas, 1933, America is beginning to recover from the Great Depression but while recovery is beginning, the Great Plains, from the panhandle of Texas to western Nebraska is battling an even greater foe and much less forgiving one; nature. Rising out of the dust came two men, Ray Garvey and John Kriss, who saw that the ground in western Kansas and eastern Colorado was fertile and capable of raising wheat and did so conquering the odds, all at a time when the world needed more than just food, it needed hope. Written by
"Harvesting" manages to illuminate a slice of Dust Bowl history...it is, in my comparative view, the best Dust Bowl film of 2013.
The near simultaneous release of Dust Bowl (Ken Burns) and Harvesting the High Plains (Jay Kriss) presents an opportunity to compare and contrast their, (Burns and Kriss as directors), interpretation of the 1930's drought and dust event on the Great Plains. Looking at the films together, it is apparent what each of them, separately, does well and also illustrates the flaws of each. The differences between the films are significant. Source, intent, resources, politics and emphasis - all are in sharp contrast to each other. As the credits roll, however, Harvesting the High Plains, while certainly not perfect, and burdened by the lack of the familiar Burns name and lower budget, is the better film and the better interpretation of the Dust Bowl. ... A more important difference between the two films is sources. Burns's Dust Bowl is based on interviews - and mostly interviews with people who were children during the events they remembered and described. ... Harvesting, in contrast, relies on primary source letters as the historical base of its interpretation. Garvey and others involved in their operation exchanged upward of ten thousand letters over the decades. ... At first glance, a narrower look at the Dust Bowl era, Harvesting is, in the end, more multi-dimensional than Burn's one-note, yet longer, Dust Bowl. The Dust Bowl crisis of the 1930s did not occur within a historical vacuum. Despite its brevity, lower budget, and focus on one large wheat operation, Harvesting manages to illuminate a slice of Dust Bowl history while not excluding agricultural history. It is, in my comparative view, the best Dust Bowl film of 2013 and provides an alternate choice to Burns's more famous effort.
J. Courtwright (Reviewer) Agricultural History Journal Spring Issue 2014
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