Independent Lens: Facing The Storm: Story Of The American Bison
Airs Sunday, April 29, 2012 at 10:30 p.m. on KPBS TV
Friday, April 27, 2012
"Facing The Storm: Story Of The American Bison" is the far-reaching and complex history of human relations with the largest land mammal in North America. One of the most enduring and iconic images of the West — once numbering in the millions — bison have been reduced to a few pockets of remnant populations, and the land “where the buffalo roam” no longer exists.
Confronting the chasm between the myth and the reality of the American West, "Facing The Storm" introduces viewers to the rich sweep of human sustenance, exploitation, conservation, and spiritual relations with the ultimate symbol of wild America.
In a post- Manifest Destiny culture that has repeatedly brought the species to near-extinction, the film asks: Can we let bison be bison? Or are they destined to “range” only in zoos or ranches as a reminder of the once-wild West?
Featuring rare archival images, original animation, and stunning wildlife photography of these magnificent animals, this film is hosted by Mary Louise Parker. This story is told through the voices of its three main characters: the American bison, the Americans who understand and care about them, and the landscape they both inhabit: the American West.
The film reveals the bison’s behavior — in and out of their natural habitat, and in relationship to one another and to humans — helping us to understand and care about the life of this symbolic giant. Called “Faces the Storm” by Native Americans, bison were observed to turn and walk into snowstorms in order to get through them faster.
And while the bison can’t speak for themselves, their story is told by their modern-day heroes: Native Americans, biologists, ranchers and bison advocates who are collaborating in a visionary effort to re-establish bison in their native habitat.
Finally, the omnipresent character of the American West — real and mythical — the landscape in which the story unfolds, adds its own distinctive voice to the struggle for survival and ecological balance that continues to this day.
America is at a critical crossroads in its relationship with the bison. What we decide in terms of the animal’s future may hold the answer to many of the other critical resource decisions that must be made about preserving the American West.