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Brave New West


"The movie transcends the story of Stiles, publisher of the renowned independent paper, The Canyon Country Zephyr. At its heart, it's about the devastation of loss and irreversible change, about finding kinship in this big strange world and about gathering the strength to do what you think is important even when discouragement is everywhere." The Daily Planet

Jim Stiles
1 hour, 27 minutes

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Product Details

Genres Western, Documentary
Director Drury Carr, Doug Hawes-Davis
Starring Jim Stiles
Studio High Plains Films
MPAA rating NR (Not Rated)
Purchase rights Stream instantly Details
Format Amazon Video (streaming online video)

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By Brent R. Swanson on February 15, 2009
Format: DVD
Before sitting down to this movie, you ought to seek and read the book of the same title, in which Jim Stiles collects his thoughts from 20 years of editorials and articles from the "Canyon Country Zephyr," and chronicles how both a small Utah town and an activist movement lost both their way and their souls.

In the book, Moab becomes a metaphor for what's happening in the American West at large. This movie, however, isn't so much an explication of the book as it is of the man who wrote it, his circle of friends, and his adopted home. Jim Stiles became intoxicated with Southern Utah as a youth, worked as a seasonal ranger at Arches National Park in the early '80s, and drifted into activism by way of acquaintance and then friendship with Ed Abbey, as well as becoming a cartoonist for the Abbey-inspired Earth First! But Stiles also became acquainted with his neighbors in Moab, as well as visitors like Herb Ringer, an expert photographer and profound memorialist. He found himself as interested in having a dialog with somebody as he was in supporting a cause, preferring to spend a day disagreeing, if need be, but ending the day as friends.

Unfortunately, the opposing factions in the environmental preservation debate have become further polarized in the years since Stiles launched the "Canyon Country Zephyr." This movie makes some strides at humanizing the debate by introducing us to some of the faces and voices, including Ken Sleight, Dr. Rich Ingebretsen, and archival footage of Ed Abbey. It would have been nice to have had more footage or photographs of the pre-1990s Moab, but there's an eyeful of the current scene: condos going up where trees and pastures once predominated.
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Format: DVD
I'd probably give the video a 5 except that it is not Close-Captioned. Received this as a gift and I'm thrilled with it but being hearing-impaired I've had to strain to understand most of the dialogue. Apart from that the film is well-done, particularly well edited bringing together a number of characters in a meaningful way and creating a good flow. I'd never heard of Jim Stiles and don't know how I missed him!

Like most I am a huge fan of Edward Abbey and consider the Moab area, particularly Canyonlands, as the most spectacular desert in the country. Not only is this a great profile of Stiles but also of men introduced by Stiles to us. The Stiles story is the troubled story of people in conflict over an [mis-]understanding of the nature of wild places. For me wild places always means solitude and so, yes, tourism can be just as much a violation of the wild as is development. High Plains productions...great documentary, story well told. And, the extra 1950's film of the Colorado River canyon before the Glen Canyon Dam screwed it up is fabulous, worth the price of the DVD alone! Thank you for including it.
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