Review: ‘Clear Cut: The Story of Philomath, Oregon’

Providing a useful microcosm of the culture wars currently raging across the U.S., Peter Richardson's debut docu "Clear Cut" focuses on a small Pacific Northwestern town where conflicts between tradition and progress came to an ugly head. Absorbing feature is a natural for pubcast and educational exposure.

Providing a useful microcosm of the culture wars currently raging across the U.S., Peter Richardson’s debut docu “Clear Cut” focuses on a small Pacific Northwestern town where conflicts between tradition and progress came to an ugly head. Absorbing feature is a natural for pubcast and educational exposure.

Philomath, Ore., prospered as a logging center for decades, but has suffered in recent years due to that biz’s downturn and tightened environmental restrictions. Meanwhile, citified types affiliated with the local university and a Hewlett-Packard plant have moved into Philomath. Townie vs. newbie strife exploded around “politically correct” policies instituted by new school superintendent Terry Kneisler, who came from Chicago. His approval of a high school Gay-Straight Alliance and disapproval of Warriors team icon, among other things, infuriated longtime residents. Steve Lowther, whose late timber baron father endowed a college scholarship available to every graduating Philomath student, demanded Kneisler’s ouster. In protest, Lowther withdrew the scholarship fund, then re-instituted it under highly restrictive terms. In leading players’ righteousness and unwillingness to compromise, this real-life drama encapsulates current U.S. society’s tug-of-war over values. Package is smartly assembled.

Clear Cut: The Story of Philomath, Oregon

Production

A Bicoastal Films production. Produced by Peter Richardson. Executive producers, Melody Korenbrot, Jordan Curnes. Directed by Peter Richardson.

Crew

Camera (color, HD), Michael A. Brown, Richardson; editor, Richardson; music, Debra Arlyn. Reviewed at Sundance Film Fest (Spectrum), Jan. 20, 2006. Running time: 72 MIN.

With

Steve Lowther, Terry Kneisler, Chris Nusbaum, Mark Phillips, Joanne Eby, Dr. David Grube.

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