You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Last Buffalo Hunt

A meandering jumble that's unpleasantly vivid when portraying hunting tourism in modern-day Utah.

With: Terry Albrecht, Dudley Elliot, Joe Roach, Ronnie Albrecht, Kelly Whytock, Debbie Holland, Greg Heil, Ron Taylor.

Documentarian Lee Anne Schmitt says “The Last Buffalo Hunt” isn’t about about hunting buffalo, but rather “the image of the American West, questioning the authenticity of our myths and the foundations of our frontier ideology.” That sounds good in press interviews, but what’s onscreen is a meandering jumble that’s unpleasantly vivid when portraying hunting tourism in modern-day Utah. Pic otherwise channels historical errata and vague disapproval toward a mythic West’s degeneration. Hitting smugly superior notes at times, yet thematically opaque, docu will score further fest dates but struggle for broadcast exposure, partly due to graphic footage of animal gutting.

Principal interviewee here is Terry Albrecht, a Utah native who’s worked as a guide for buffalo-hunting visitors for three decades, though he’s considering retirement. He provides campout facilities, horses, meals, support staff and weaponry for seasonal “high rollers” who want to spend their vacation stalking and shooting slow-moving bison in public lands, as legally permitted during annual hunting season.

Early on, Schmitt’s occasional voiceover narration provides historical background on the immediate area (the nearest town, Hanksville, was founded by a follower of Brigham Young) and the relevant beast, which once numbered in the tens of millions but has been reduced to near-extinction by white settlers’ over-hunting.

But then we’re mostly stuck with verite footage of Terry’s customers, who are shown cracking racist or “dirty” jokes clad in full camouflage gear — not exactly flattering. Nor does one superficially genial wife, coaxed into hunting by hubby, make a good impression with her recitation of prior multinational exotic kills, or her preference for mall shopping over roughing it. “Why won’t the durn thing die?!” she giddily exhales, as her multiple bad shots only prolong the death throes of one stubbornly life-clinging bull.

Buffalo were killed off in the 19th century partly to destroy dependent Native American populations, we’re told. Sole “Injuns” seen here are kitsch feathered “braves” and nubile “squaws” on statues and billboards advertising motels or tourist traps.

Shots of cheesy audio-animatronic mannequins at historical “museums” (aka gift shops) and ever-waving Old Glory convey a sense not of the American Dream’s sorrowful degradation, but rather of contempt for those being portrayed. That would be fine if Schmitt (whose producer Lee Lynch gets a co-creator credit) had the courage to actually lay out a directorial, even political perspective.

But “Hunt” feigns observational neutrality even as it chooses to amplify and exploit ugly behavior. Shot over six years’ course, it suggests we’re simply watching Albrecht’s “last” hunting season and its aftermath instead. Once his thread ends, the shapeless pic needlessly extends itself with footage of another hunt someplace else, involving people never even identified.

Lensing is mostly rough and ready, except for numerous stationary landscape shots that aim for a meditative James Benning quality. While pretty, their contribution ultimately makes the feature seem pretentious and slow rather than poetic.

Popular on Variety

The Last Buffalo Hunt

Production: A Lynch-Schmitt production. Produced by Lee Lynch, Lee Anne Schmitt. Directed, written by Lee Anne Schmitt.

Crew: Camera (color, 16mm, DV-to-HD), Schmitt, James Laxton, Dave Fenster, Lee Lynch; editor, Schmitt; music, Rogier Pijpers; sound (Dolby), Ben Huff. Reviewed at San Francisco Film Festival, April 27, 2011. (Also in Buenos Aires Film Festival.) Running time: 74 MIN.

With: With: Terry Albrecht, Dudley Elliot, Joe Roach, Ronnie Albrecht, Kelly Whytock, Debbie Holland, Greg Heil, Ron Taylor.

More Film


    Berlin Winner Manuel Abramovich’s “Pornomelancholia” Taps French Funding (EXCLUSIVE)

    MEXICO CITY — Argentina’s Manuel Abramovich, a 2019 Berlinale Silver Bear winner for “Blue Boy,” has tapped French funding for its follow-up, “Pornomelancholia,” one of the highest-profile projects at Mexico’s Los Cabos Film Festival, which kicks off today with a gala screening of “The Irishman,” Financing from the Region Nouvelle-Aquitaine, a building film-TV hub in [...]

  • CDMX-Film-Pitchbox

    Filmarket Hub Announces Projects for First CDMX Film Pitchbox (EXCLUSIVE)

    When Variety unveiled the CDMX Film Pitchbox, a new movie project pitching forum that will take place in Mexico City on Nov. 29, organizer Filmarket Hub announced that executives from Alazraki Entertainment, Cinema 226, Cinépolis, Lemon Studios, Perro Azul and VCS Capital had already confirmed they would attend. Since then, Dynamo, Endemol Shine Boomdog, Exile Content Studio, [...]

  • Flora y Fauna

    Los Cabos Pix-in-Post Draw Picture of a Troubled Mexican Nation

    MEXICO CITY —  A portrait of age-old custom (“Gods of Mexico”), a troubled mother-son relationship (“Summer White”) and three film which came in at Mexico’s heart of darkness – its violence – from different angles, shape a Work in Progress section at this year’s Los Cabos which could hardly be more concerned about the current [...]

  • The Sweeties

    China's Phoenix Buys Italian Body-Positivity Comedy 'Sweeties'

    Chinese distributor Phoenix Entertainment Group has bought all China rights to the Italian comedic drama “The Sweeties” from Germany-based Media Luna New Films. The movie is the second feature from director Francesco Ghiaccio and stars Valeria Solarino, Vinicio Marchioni and four young newcomers in their acting debut. It deals with issues of bullying and body-shaming [...]

  • The Upside TIFF

    'The Upside' Poised for China Theatrical Release

    “The Upside,” a 2017 American remake of the 2011 hit French drama “The Intouchables,” will get a China release on Nov. 22. The film was directed by Neil Burger and stars Nicole Kidman, Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston. It tells the story of an unlikely friendship that forms between a rich quadriplegic and the struggling [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Virginia Leith, Female Lead in Stanley Kubrick's First Film, Dies at 94

    Actress and model Virginia Leith, who starred in Stanley Kubrick’s first film “Fear and Desire,” which he later disavowed, has died. She was 94. According to family spokesperson Jane Chalmers, Leith died after a brief illness at her home in Palm Springs, Calif. on Nov. 4. Born on Oct. 15, 1925, Leith met Kubrick in [...]

  • Sarah Bolger's 'A Good Woman Is

    Film News Roundup: Sarah Bolger's 'A Good Woman Is Hard to Find' Bought by Film Movement

    In today’s film news roundup, “A Good Woman Is Hard to Find” and “After Parkland” find homes, Jack Johnson is honored, AGC closes deals on Neill Blomkamp’s latest and Paramount is in talks for a “Power to the People” project. ACQUISITIONS Film Movement has bought North American rights to the thriller “A Good Woman Is [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content