Review Of Remembered Earth: New Mexico’s High Desert
© by Jessica Schneider, 1/21/10
It is here on this cold December day just a little less than three weeks shy of Christmas that I felt the warmth of New Mexico’s High Desert in my living room, after having watched John Grabowska’s documentary film, Remembered Earth: New Mexico’s High Desert. This half hour feature will allow one to witness the American West against time and timelessness and marvel at the beauty one sees, but also to feel a part of it in knowing that having lived it, one ultimately becomes it.
Once again John Grabowska and his team (stunning photography by Steve Ruth and haunting musical score by Todd Boekelheide) create another cinematic experience that pulls both mind and memory into this beloved landscape. Presented by Idaho Public Television, this PBS documentary is not to be overlooked. Rife with wildlife and yet seemingly stark, New Mexico’s High Desert is presented as a reverie unto itself.
While the narration ruminates upon the varying vastness, Grabowska offers
style of prose: “to imagine that we touch it with our hands at every season
and listen to the sounds that are made upon it,” and “recollect the glare of
noon,” and “reality dries romance into full retreat.” We are shown images
of dewdrops upon a leaf that will later likely be dried by the high sun, only to
then float above a series of canals carved by centuries into stone. Shadows of
plants stretch across rocks, and condors glide over quiet peaks.
The American West offers the imagery we cannot escape from, for as shown
in the documentary, footage of old westerns brought on by Hollywood have created
their impressions into our minds. These images have become part of us, and we a
part of them.
remember the earth is the documentary’s request, for when one is within the
presence of such land, this is the closest we come to ever traveling back in
time: to experience nature as it ever was, long before any human had ever
The American West is not just a matter of nature, but one of culture and one of ethics (as interpreted within the film by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer N. Scott Momaday). This land is our history, and humans are a part of it. We are our history, we are our land. Beautifully this sentiment is evoked by way of the last lines and the film’s quiet end: “It is here I want to live forever, and it is no matter that I must die.”
In having lived it, one ultimately becomes it. Grabowska’s film will take you there and grant an experience that will become yours.
[An expurgated version of this article originally appeared on the Examiner.com website.]
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