78 minutes, 2010, HDCAM

“Do humans really want a home where the buffalo roam?”

Tallahassee Democrat - January 11, 2013

by Mark Hinson

If you have ever visited Custer State Park in the Black Hills of the Dakotas, its hard to miss the Do Not Pet the Buffalo signs that are posted everywhere. Does anyone follow that wise rule? No. Tourists, bikers and other assorted flatlanders are always getting out of their vehicles to approach the bison and have their photo taken with the wild animals. They must think it is DisneyWorld, or something, and the one-ton beasts are simply mechanical animals. The most enjoyable segment in the enlightening documentary FACING THE STORM: STORY OF THE AMERICAN BISON is a montage of camera-toting tourists being flipped, trampled and flattened by bison at national parks. The montage doubles as a metaphor about the problematic relationship between humans and bison that has existed for the past 12,000 years or so. There is a lot of misunderstanding going on between the two species. Directed by Emmy Award-winner Doug Hawes-Davis, FACING THE STORM follows the bisons ancient roots in the Great Plains (when 30 million roamed the land) to the beasts near-extinction in the late 19th century (fewer than 300 survived the human-driven massacre) to contemporary times (the livestock industry in Montana still hates free-ranging bison). At one point, the railroads hired out special passenger cars that allowed armed tourists with rifles to shoot buffalo at will just for the heck of it. Hmmmm, just how were the bison herds pushed to the edge of extinction? FACING THE STORM is highly recommended for anyone with children (middle-school age and up) who are willing to learn how the West was really won and dang near ruined.