87 minutes, 2008, DVCAM

“From its vast and stunning landscapes to the frontier mentality of its inhabitants, few regions inspire a stronger sense of place than the American West. Hell, even a mogul from Las Vegas has the wherewithal to realize that this just might be the Last Best Place. In any case, the West screams ‘story,’ so it’s no surprise that its ranks have been and likely will always remain packed with storytellers of the highest order.” Missoula Independent  (read full review)

“The movie transcends the story of Stiles, and 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  (read full review)

“A captivating film that succeeds in telling the story of the self-described hermit who has, over time, inspired a small cult following of his own the high desert of the Southwest. Stiles lives and works in unapologetic adherence to the Zephyr’s slogan—“Clinging Hopelessly to the Past”—and filmmakers Doug Hawes-Davis and Drury Gunn Carr give viewers a wonderful look into the day-to-day life of the activist publisher who long-ago settled in Moab. Through his cartoons and self-deprecating humor, Stiles manages to exude a resilient attitude and a feeling that all is not lost. The filmmakers in turn feed off that, producing this entertaining portrait of one of Southwest’s most eccentric characters.”  (read full review)

“Engaging and funny—but also informative and topical—this portrait of Utah-based alternative newspaper publisher Jim Stiles is a fine example of how American documentaries can simultaneously explore landscapes, political ideas and tales of individual and collective achievement. It’s also a tribute to Stiles’ great hero, legendary renegade eco-philosopher Edward Abbey, whose writings grow more prescient with each passing day.” Neil Young, Programmer, Bradford Film Festival/United Kingdom  (read full review)

“Aggression gives Stiles the energy to crusade as he’s been doing for nearly 20 years in his one-man newspaper The Canyon Country Zephyr.” The Durango Herald  (read full review)

“Critics pick 2008’s Best of the Big Screen. Sprung from the American West and shaped by two Missoulians, High Plains Films’ Brave New West is an engaging documentary profiling Utah environmentalist/journalist/curmudgeon Jim Stiles, greatly strengthened by Stiles’ own remarkable archives (16mm footage of Glen Canyon before it was damned, for example) and the wisdom of filmmakers Doug Hawes-Davis and Drury Gunn Carr in employing them. In doing so, they’ve strengthened their own place in the lexicon of Western storytellers.” Missoula Independent

“Delightful doc about Jim Stiles, longtime writer, publisher and artist of the Canyon Country Zephyr, a bulwark of liberal thinking in right-wing Utah. Doug Hawes-Davis and Drury Gunn Carr direct this tribute to an American original.” Kansas City Star

“Through interviews, voice-over letters to the editor and just following Stiles around Moab, you feel the love he has for Canyon Country - and the love he poured into the Zephyr as its publisher, editor, ad sales staff, designer and cartoonist—‘It’s either advocating or against nearly everything,’ he says. Also appearing are Stiles’ friend Ken Sleight, better known as the inspiration for Abbey’s Seldom Seen Smith in The Monkey Wrench Gang, and Herb Ringer, whose trip journals, commentary and photography of the West were printed in the Zephyr for years as the historical feature ‘Herb Ringer’s American West’.” Mountain Gazette

“Inspiring.” Tucson Citizen

Critics’ “Best Bet” - St. Louis Post Dispatch

“For nearly 20 years, Ed Abbey groupie Jim Stiles has been railing against the commercialization of the American West with controversial, hand-drawn cartoons in the Canyon Country Zephyr, his self-published, Moab-based newspaper. This funny, frank film profiles the flannel-clad curmudgeon and his one-man fight to save the landscape he loves.” Outside Magazine

“A nicely-wrought documentary. With at least five clips of Edward Abbey reading or talking, the grounding in environmental protest is complete. Stiles illustrated Abbey’s books and is also the editor, publisher, writer and cartoonist of the Canyon Country Zephyr, an independent newspaper if there ever was one. This is a portrait of a man who has carved out a life of his own far away from his roots in Kentucky. Within you’ll find the Abbey tribute and a nice rendering of Stiles’ friendship with Herb Ringer, a photographer and friend of the West.” The Durango Telegraph

“An engaging portrait of a plain-talking devotee of open space. Seeing his community and region with a cartoonist’s eye, Stiles is a western individualist whose story demonstrates the power of local action to protect the planet.” Arizona International Film Festival

“In 1975, Jim Stiles, a follower of Edward Abbey, arrived in Utah and became a park ranger, environmental activist and writer. Three decades later, he is trying to carry on Abbey’s legacy with his rabble-rousing, trouble-making newspaper the Canyon Country Zephyr. With humor, Stiles asks serious questions about civilization and sustainability. The Zephyr’s slogan is ‘Clinging Hopelessly to the Past’ and Stiles does just that—writing copy, drawing illustrations and caricatures, and pasting up pages with a hand-waxer and Exacto blade. The filmmakers include rare clips of Abbey and environmental protests to round out this entertaining, yet provocative, portrait of one of the Southwest’s more conscientious—and cantankerous—characters.” Mountainfilm

“An off-the-wall odyssey that tells the story of how one man’s passion for the natural world fuelled the creation of an extraordinary and unlikely institution in the American West. It also shows how the passion of youth is tempered and ripens with age into a balanced view of a natural world. Jim Stiles arrived in Utah in 1975, a follower of the cult of Ed Abbey, a copy of Desert Solitaire in his backpack, and a dream of preserving the natural beauty of the American Southwest via any means. Three decades on, with most of the Ed Abbey followers having long ago dispersed, Stiles remains—a on-man show who has devoted his life to carrying on Abbey’s legacy. When he realises that his beloved town of Moab, Utah is beginning to deteriorate with every new subdivision, Stiles begins a crusade. Stiles has been branded a curmudgeon, a hermit, and a modern-day Don Quixote, and he is no stranger to controversy. In his vision to keep his independent paper going, Stiles traverses the high ground around the more nebulous and difficult questions arising from concern about our environment.” Reel Earth/Aotearoa Environmental Film Festival

“A sparky and amusing documentary about environmentalist Jim Stiles, the engaging character who runs the alternative newspaper in the little town of Moab in Utah, Canyon Country Zephyr. Through use of his own home movie footage shot over many years intermixed with film archive and contemporary interviews, a picture is built of both a contrary and funny man and the changes which have come to the bleak but beautiful desert landscapes around that corner of Utah. Stiles and his friends stand for opposition to all the erosion of wilderness and thereby the old, often awkward, virtues of American liberalism and freedoms. The future is uncertain, as more and more people long for unspoiled country, and by taking a piece of it for themselves, inevitably spoil it. With his dry wit and old-fashioned methods, Stiles continues to live up to his motto ‘Clinging Hopelessly to the Past.’”