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...
See full summary »
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
Heroes shaping hope out of the 1930's Dust Bowl tragedy
I have just seen the new documentary, "Harvesting the High Plains," from Inspirit Creative and directed by Jay Kriss. As a point of full disclosure, I know the composer of the film score (part of the reason I'm motivated to post this review).
Director Kriss, whose work I've not seen before, hails from Kansas, which is flat as a pan and the start of the tale. "Harvesting the High Plains" is a documentary that takes place during the Dust Bowl events of the 1930's (the "Dirty 30's"), the same topic covered by Ken Burns's four-hour (!) film on the Dust Bowl that aired on PBS. Both films reshape archival footage to create a moody, immersive retelling of the time, but the screenwriters (Kriss and Sydney Duvall) take a different tack.
The sweep of the story is impressive. The story starts in the dust bowl and continues through 1947. It's clear that we're not going to hear a tale of disaster, but of the heroic efforts of farmers maintaining their lives against horrific odds. The story follows farmers working to partner with and repair the land after the disastrous effects of the "great plow-up" from the teens and 20's that instigated the drought of the 30's. The story's spine is GK Farms, a wheat farming operation that began in 1933 as the farm land in western Kansas began to blow away. Apparently, the screenwriters based this film on a huge trove of correspondence, an incredible resource comprising over 10,000 documents.
Kriss uses extensive re-enacted footage that helps tell the story to better understand how the farmers tried, failed, and learned, in their pursuit to hang onto the American Dream. It's a story of tenacity and overcoming.
The starkness of the time is captured in footage that is largely rendered in black and white, and the sweep and personality of the time is captured incredibly well in Rob Pottorf's score.
Worth seeing more than once.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?