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Hanna Ranch Despite the Odds

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If one accepts symbolism, then the idea of Mother Nature, is surely the feminine aspect of reality. And as global chaos reminds us every day, the Mother is having a fit. Our environmental urgencies are like menstrual outbursts... the damn is breaking. Some say these changes are inevitable; most think that we have toyed with the earth for too long... she's mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore.

Hanna Ranch tells the story of a four-generation cattle ranch in Colorado. These are hard-working people who really look good in cowboy hats. The Hanna family suffered when Clark, the patriarch was killed in a freak accident and leadership fell to the hands of the sons... from the original family and a second group, the Frosts, who joined the posse when the mom, a widow, married a neighbor rancher. That's a lot of land and a lot of fighting kids.

The family members each give their side of the story and it is Shakespearean in its drama and impending tragedy. Brother against brother, big expansion against the purity of the ranch. Kirk Hanna, the dynamic and visionary second son takes the reins and leads his ranch to becoming environmentally friendly; he's the first to do this in his world making daring moves. All of his progress, however, is weighed against a deteriorating relationship with an older brother Steve, converted to Mormonism, and much less interested in keeping the homestead whole.

I've been to these parts, it's stunning and this film shows Colorado's beauty off to great advantage. One of the producers is Eric Schlosser of Fast Food Nation. He helps relate this family tale as well as explain the intricacies of ranching and the importance of grassland to our world. Mitch Dickman, the director, really knows and seems to love his subject, patiently leading his story along, as we get to graze in the lushness of Zachary Armstrong's cinematography.

The golden cowboy Kirk may be too utopian for his own good. His world is not keeping pace with his dreams. When Kirk's baby half- brother Jay rides his pony up to a butte and stays there, in grief, we are reminded of Kirk Douglas's Jack Burns in Lonely Are the Brave, struggling to get his horse across a speeding freeway.

For me, the issues with his brother Steve are not fully realized; did the Mormon church put a spell on Kirk that sent him into a downward spiral? I would like to hear a more honest reckoning from this side of the tale, but perhaps it's still too touchy for the truth to come to light.

What we do discover is that the feminine, his wife Ann and two daughters, twenty years later, are now the stewards of the land and they like Kirk work to keep it whole. The mothers prevails.

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