Wednesday, December 9, 2009

End of an era in the West?

Documentary ‘Disappointment Valley’ explores saga of wild horses

Express Staff Writer

Filmmaker James Kleinert rides his adopted wild horse, Austin, throughout his travels in the West. Kleinert’s documentary film “Disappointment Valley” will screen at the nexStage Theatre in Ketchum. Photo by

The American West's wild horse saga will not end without a good fight from lovers of the land and the animals.

Emmy Award-winning filmmaker James Kleinert has been documenting the struggle of the wild horse and its disappearance from the West for the last six years. Kleinert has been gathering footage and commentary from wild horse lovers and at roundups. He will share his work, "Disappointment Valley," with the Wood River Valley on Saturday, Dec. 12, at 6 p.m. at the nexStage Theatre in Ketchum. The screening will also include a post discussion with Kleinert, author Michael Blake and valley resident Steve Garman. Tickets for the event are $15. They are available at the door.

"The wild horse will be annihilated as an American symbol," Kleinert said. "The Bureau of Land Management is pitting horse advocates against ranchers, but there is a greater issue."

The larger issue is the mining of public land, he said.

"In southwest Colorado, uranium mining is on the comeback and nuclear energy is also on the rise, especially in the Four Corners area," Kleinert said. "We are looking at the end of an era in the American West. Change is coming. Public lands will be shut down and wild horses taken away. We must take a stand and go forward with alternative energy sources."

Through interviews with scientific experts, ranchers, historians, wild horse owners, animal rights activists, environmentalists, movie stars, uranium prospectors and other colorful characters, Kleinert examines the origins and effects of recent legislation clearing the way for the roundup and auctioning of wild horses in America.

The film interviews Jim Baca, BLM director under the Clinton administration; Rep. Raul M. Grijalva, D-Ariz., and chairman of the National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee; Michael Blake, writer of "Dances With Wolves" and wild horse advocate; Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter Sheryl Crow; actor Viggo Mortensen; and actress Daryl Hannah.

Kleinert's film includes discusses wild horses being removed for oil, gas, mining and corporate cattle grazing. The film also explores the vast exploitation of public lands to meet what is presented as a failed energy policy and offers alternatives.

Kleinert said he does not oppose the management of horses, just the reasoning for and degree to which it is done.

"Wild horses do have to be managed," he said. "The range can only support a certain amount."

Sabina Dana Plasse:

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