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Literate and erudite profile of Alaskan wilderness, 15 November 2013

I saw this film at the American Conservation Film Festival where it won the Audience Choice Award, and with good reason. It has all the hallmarks of a great nature documentary on a remote wilderness, with gorgeous landscape photography and sweeping music and amazing images of huge brown bears (so many and so close together it was almost to the point that there were herds of them).

But what struck me most was the writing, both its reticence -- there's not much narration in the film -- and its eloquence. What little there is in the film is written like poetry. Inspired by the essays of the great natural history writer Loren Eiseley, the script is thoughtful, intelligent and poignant. I may never make it to Alaska, particularly not to this remote wilderness, but just because I am old and no longer hike in the back-country does not mean raw wilderness like Katmai and Aniakchak are not important to me. In the words of another great writer, Wallace Stegner, wilderness like that of the Alaska Peninsula "is important to us when we are old simply because it is there--important, that is, simply as an idea." Grabowska's film captures that perfectly.

Exquisite documentary on a little-known history of the Land of Enchantment, 14 February 2012

I saw Breath of Life on KNME, the PBS affiliate in New Mexico, and immediately knew I had to have a copy to watch again and again. I was completely taken by the mood and method of this sensitive, thoughtful, artistic interpretation of the poignant and tragic history of the Salinas Pueblos. It was obvious an enormous amount of research went into the production of this history of a little-known corner of New Mexico, the prehistoric pueblos of the Salinas Valley and the coming of the friars and governors of the Spanish Colonial Era. Breath of Life sensitively and intelligently captures the cultural clash that resulted and shows that, as Faulkner said, the past is not dead -- it isn't even past.