A couple years ago a fellow I know named Peter Richardson directed a documentary called Clear Cut: the Story of Philomath, Oregon which focused on the controversy surrounding the unique Philomath High School scholarship and the Clemens Foundation. As a graduate of PHS and native "Philomath-ian," Peter was in a unique position to be granted interviews with the big personalities involved in the conflict. The doc had its "premiere" here in Corvallis and was then shown at various film festivals throughout the country, winning several awards and ultimately playing at Sundance.
This week the film has its broadcast premiere on the Sundance Channel as part of Redford's new series "The Green." It is being promoted as an eco-film but that is, in fact, an oversimplification. Yes, environmental issues are addressed in it (particularly with regard to the logging industry), but the film is actually more of a fascinating insight into human nature and the role it plays in city-school politics; a microcosmic picture of our nation's culture war: the "battle" between newer, more liberal "politically correct" ideas and older, more "traditional," conservative values. Unlike a Michael Moore product, however, Clear Cut has no agenda. Telling its story without the use of a voice-over narration (which is actually very difficult to do), Clear Cut presents an incredibly objective and balanced portrayal of both sides of the argument. It highlights the complex issues that were involved in the town's nationally recognized story and shows that there is no real "clear cut" answer behind it. Were it not for the fact that I personally knew the director, I would never have been able to deduce his own perspective on the events from what is depicted onscreen. In addition to being one of the finest documentaries I've ever seen, it's one of the best works of cinematic journalism I've ever witnessed.
Finally, because the director is well-acquainted with me and my family, my sister Debra, who is currently trying to break into the music industry, was asked to compose the film's music score (her first effort in that area) and I think what she came up with was very good, similar to the kind of work produced by Phillip Glass for an Errol Morris documentary. Now, naturally I am, of course, biased in my opinion of both the film and its music, but don't take my word for it. If you get the Sundance Channel, check it out and decide for yourself. Clear Cut shows Friday, June 1st at 10:35 P.M. and Sunday, June 3rd and 3:35 P.M.