Disappointment Valley: A Modern Day Western (2017)

105 min.Documentary | Adventure | Drama
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This is the story America's wild horses tell us about ourselves, globalization, and the ability of a storyteller to persevere, despite being targeted by the most powerful government in the world. In Disappointment Valley, filmmaker James Anaquad Kleinert discovers a unique, undisturbed band of wild horses, living free in Disappointment Valley, their natural habitat in Southwestern Colorado. Kleinert documents his relationship with the majestic herd, led by their iconic stallion, Traveler. This relationship is brutally interrupted by government helicopter roundups; Traveler is injured and separated from his family, the tribe of wild horses is devastated. The event is a turning point for Kleinert, who sets out to understand the reasons behind the brutal roundups by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that are pushing the herd to the edge of extinction. As he fights to get Traveler free, Kleinert discovers that the extraction industries have been ignoring and perverting the laws to protect the mustangs, jeopardizing the fate of both wild horses and public lands. The BLM is the agency that is supposedly protecting the wild horses, but the US government's second-largest source of income is the leasing of Public Lands to extractive industries. Oil and gas fracturing, uranium and other "rare earth" mining, is immanent in Disappointment Valley. Through interviews with the Department of the Interior, politicians, scientists, attorneys, miners, cowboys, Indians, and innocent people telling of their lives destroyed, Disappointment Valley shares a revealing look into the modern day American West. Kleinert is tagged as a potential eco-terrorist and put under surveillance by the government; he partners with one of the nation's leading FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) attorneys to investigate the surveillance. The fear created by the surveillance and the stress of being labeled a terrorist - no habeas corpus, just long-term prison sentences - forces Kleinert to flee to safety in Norway, where he experiences a receptiveness to his work he never experienced in the US - and finds love. He is called back from Norway to Washington D.C., where he brings his case - Kleinert vs. BLM - to federal court and wins a major victory. Federal Judge Bates strongly admonishes the BLM for its improper FOIA withholdings; it is clearly revealed that the BLM was working to thwart Kleinert's investigative documentary. Kleinert vs. BLM has set important precedent for future public records and legal proceedings with the BLM, helping citizens, western public land issues, and upholding the right of the public to full disclosure and Truth. After almost two years away from the wild horses, Kleinert returns to discover Disappointment Valley is on the verge of extensive extraction. Under the deregulation policies of the Trump administration, the BLM is managing herd dynamics with the controversial birth control drug, PZP, which has significant consequences on social behavior and reproductive cycles of wild horses. Kleinert doubles his efforts to educate the public on the plight of the wild horses, which so clearly mirror our own human quest for freedom. By protecting the rights of these majestic creatures, we are taking a giant leap forward in the protection of the wild spaces that support us, connect us, and that define the "land of the free, and the home of the brave".  Less

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