Director's Cut: Bringing Environmental and Social Concerns to Film

Two directors create documentaries to express concern over environmental and social issues without force-feeding the audience morals.


Photo by Chad Harder

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“Environmental problems aren’t just about land or resource use. They’re rooted in our culture, our economy, in society in general. We make films that speak to those root causes.”

—Drury Carr

LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION: Drury Carr and Doug Hawes-Davis were tired of conventional documentaries about endangered wildlife habitats and species. The two environmental studies grads shared a common vision: to make films that illuminate environmental and social concerns without force-feeding the audience a moral.

MIX MASTERS: Since establishing High Plains Films in Missoula, Montana, in 1993, Hawes-Davis and Carr have won more than thirty awards at film festivals worldwide. Their subjects range from hunting in Varmints and Killing Coyote to a rural mining community besieged by asbestos exposure in Libby, Montana.

THE CALL: “Our purpose is to encourage people to think critically about questions we present in our films,” says Hawes-Davis. “We don’t point fingers or preach; we present interesting information artistically and allow our subjects to speak for themselves.”

QUIRKY EXPOSURES: The duo’s third feature-length film, This Is Nowhere, explores America’s RV subculture, specifically wanderers who camp in Wal-Mart parking lots. Humorous and smart, the film raises provocative questions about community values, liberty, consumerism, and the American dream. Says Carr, “It’s a window into how people view landscape, economy, and culture, but it’s still an environmental film at heart. It illuminates the connections between planetary health and our life priorities.”

SEE IT YOURSELF: Purchase the documentaries on video: