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American Experience: Grand Coulee Dam

Narrated by Michael Murphy , Stephen Ives  |  NR |  DVD
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Narrated by Michael Murphy
  • Directors: Stephen Ives
  • Format: Color, Dolby, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: PBS (DIRECT)
  • DVD Release Date: May 8, 2012
  • Run Time: 120 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B006WDE95G
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #227,997 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

Featuring the men and women who lived and worked at Grand Coulee and the Native people whose lives were changed, alongside historians and engineers, this AMERICAN EXPERIENCE film explores how the crucial tension between technological achievement and environmental impact hangs over the project s legacy.

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty good December 6, 2013
This is a solid documentary on the Grand Coulee dam, covering the motivations for its construction, the process involved in moving it from concept to completed structure, and its positive and negative effects for communities, the nation, and the environment. I would have liked more information about the planning, design, and construction of the dam, but I'm an engineer, whereas this documentary was surely intended for a general audience.

In my opinion, a central and general lesson from this documentary is that any human project involving such scale and complexity will have both intended and unintended effects, manifesting across time frames ranging from immediate to very long term, both positive and negative, and affecting various stakeholders differently. So whether such a project can be called a 'success' will largely depend on who you ask, and possibly also when you ask.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great pic January 13, 2013
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What a wonderful DVD. If you are interested in Native American things this has a side that is most interesting. You see for yourself the befores and afters. But what caught me the most was the moving picture of the people fishing prior to the dam. That fishing area is gone and will never come back. It changed the peoples lives. They did not get what they were promised. It was a cost for Native Peoples to better the community. The local community never did get better, they were the cost cause it all went to the bigger cities. Very interesting history. Sometimes we dont see the bigger picture.
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A good view of who did what when to change the place of the Columbia River in the lives of the inhabitants of the region, the effects of which are still felt today.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Where the rippling waters glide July 31, 2012
`Grand Coulee Dam' is a 90 minute DVD. It has English subtitles, and scene selectors, no extras. It tells the story of the Columbia River and how the Grand Coulee Dam came to be built. The problems of irrigation and hydroelectric power in the region are discussed with some of the too many talking heads that are used throughout the film. The construction of the dam is show with period films.
The promises that were made to the residents, especially the Indian tribes who had their sacred ground and burial grounds and fishing livelihood destroyed are emphasized. The Indians never did get the cheap electricity they were promised and it took 50 years for a financial settlement to be made. The abundance of fish and especially the salmon industry was all but destroyed.

Coverage is given on both the pros and cons of the dam. What is especially emphasized in the pro side is that without the dam and its hydroelectric power much of the manufacturing for WWII would not have been accomplished. The dam is credited with shortening and helping to win the war. The postwar world of industry is covered as well as the attempt to recover the salmon fishing.
Woody Guthrie's songs and information on the documentary film he was hired to do are included.

The dam is summed up as the price of progress, the ecological damage is well documented and the film does lean more to this side, including the devastation to the native Indians' lifestyle.
The narrator is a bit nasal at times and the prevalent talking heads can be an irritation, but this is still an interesting and educational DVD for those interested in the Columbia River area and the time period from the depression until now and the effects of dams on the environment.
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