Sponsored Project

Exquisite Wasteland

Director:
David Vassar
Producers:
David Vassar, Sally Kaplan

A rollicking and unpredictable documentary explores the magnificent deserts of California, Nevada and Arizona; the Mojave, Great Basin, and Sonoran.

A cultural journey begins 12,000 years ago with native American rock art and concludes with popular songs and film clips of the 20th Century. Together this desert "mash-up" illustrates how the human perception of desert has evolved from sacred space to "wasteland."

Complex desert ecosystems are illuminated by scientists as they stalk an exotic landscape for unknown species. Extraordinary biological mechanisms that enable desert plants and animals to flourish are brought to life with computer animation.

The popular misconception of desert as a worthless and barren place has provided the rationale for the exploitation of pristine lands without question or consequence. Precious metals along with oil and coal have been extracted with little or no regulation. Water - the rarest of desert elements - has been overdrawn to irrigate agricultural crops on an industrial scale. Atomic bombs have been detonated leaving irradiated waste buried in the sand. And in the most recent iteration, mega-utilities are bulldozing thousands of acres of unspoiled desert for renewable energy; solar and wind farms.

By the end of the film, the audience is left with a new perception of desert. Rather than a worthless wasteland, desert is portrayed as a wonderland teeming with remarkable life. The grand desert expanse of the American West is among the last and largest places where one can still experience unbroken vistas, wildness, silence, and solitude.

Desert has become a place we risk losing; a place worthy of preserving; a place we must care for and fight to protect.

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