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.