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Losing the West    cover photo

Losing the West 2013, 2016


Distributed by Green Planet Films, PO Box 247, Corte Madera, CA 94976-0247; 415-377-5471
Produced by Alex Warren
Directed by Alex Warren
DVD, color, 88 min.

High School - General Adult
Agriculture, Economics, Ecology, Sociology, Cowboys

Date Entered: 09/16/2016

Reviewed by Michael Fein, Coordinator of Library Services, Central Virginia Community College, Lynchburg, VA

This visually stunning production looks at the loss of open agricultural spaces in America by focusing on the life of a real cowboy, Howard Linscott of Ouray, Colorado and his family. The production also looks at how urbanites in southern California are using various innovative ways to bring back small-scale agriculture in the locales where they reside. This latter secondary focus seems to be almost an afterthought and does not really add to the production. The stunning vistas of southwestern Colorado are much more memorable than the urban landscapes of SoCal and, while the producer does show how small changes in lifestyle can conserve water and enable people to grow much of their own food, to this reviewer these scenes did not integrate well with Howard’s life story. Interspersed in all of this are comments by academics, politicians, various advocates of causes, and some of the locals of Ouray. These range from the interesting to the mildly annoying.

The viewer sees Howard with his family and compadres moving cattle, branding them, and all of the other aspects of life in agriculture. The Linscotts – Howard, his wife, and their three daughters with their own families are quite tough. They remind this reviewer of his maternal grandmother who was born in a “soddie” in Oklahoma Territory and an uncle who had been a farrier, rodeo clown, meat packer, and farmer, among other things, in central Kansas. The life they live is not for the faint-of-heart or the soft-handed. It is a tough life, but one that they find rewarding. Howard and his friends discuss the changes to the area where they live as it becomes more urbanized and the culture more “professional” and less blue collar (i.e., agricultural.) It is more profitable to sell the open spaces for development rather than to sell the land for continued agricultural use. For a person to start up a cattle ranch would require millions of dollars up front. One local asks why a person would spend all that money and hard labor for so little return. Howard is a quiet stoic with a toughness that is direct and oftentimes blunt, but within resides a heart of gold that is generous to help and will always have your back.

Picture and sound (English 2.0 Dolby) quality are excellent. Subtitles (SDH) are clear and easy to read.

This production is an excellent example of how a film can be a springboard to discussion of a topic. Libraries with collections in agriculture, economics, environmental issues, government policy, sociology, and U.S. History (the Old West) should consider.