87 minutes, 2008, DVCAM

‘Clinging Hopelessly To The Past’  that’s the irresistible slogan of the Canyon Country Zephyr, an alternative six-times-a-year newspaper single-handedly edited and published in Moab, Utah (pop.4,779) by Jim Stiles. Originally from Kentucky, Stiles moved to this under-populated corner of the Mormon State in 1975, inspired by the writings of legendary environmentalist/provocateur Edward Abbey (The Monkey Wrench Gang, Desert Solitaire). Over the decades, from Moab and more recently from Monticello (about 50 miles south) he’s observed the impact of progress upon Utah, the USA and the world in general and he’s often been appalled at what he’s seen.  A couple of years back he penned Brave New West - Morphing Moab at the Speed of Greed, and now Stiles and his book have become the subject of this enormously engaging, pressingly topical documentary. It’s a portrait of an individual ornery, witty, indefatigable and of a semi-underground movement of old-fashioned American liberal scepticism, one that, after eight long years of George W. Bush, may well be set for a revival.  From the directors of Emmy-nominated LIBBY, MONTANA,  BRAVE NEW WEST skillfully combines Stiles’ own 16mm home movie footage with archival interviews featuring Abbey (who died in 1989), plus copious present-day contributions from Stiles and many others with strong views on the controversial matters his work explores.  The spellbinding results, according to the Missoula Independent, ensure that Hawes-Davis and Carr have “strengthened their own place in the lexicon of Western storytellers”. The Daily Planet went even further: “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.” Neil Young, Programmer, Bradford International Film Festival