Cadillac Desert

Watch Cadillac Desert

  • 1997
  • 4 hr 30 min
  • 8.7  (75)

Cadillac Desert is a 1997 documentary film based on the book of the same name by Marc Reisner. The documentary tells the story of the American Southwest and the intense competition for resources that has characterized the region's history. Filmmaker Jon Else weaves together archival footage, personal interviews, and stunning cinematography to create a powerful and poignant tribute to the desert landscapes of the American West.

The film begins with the earliest settlers in the region and their struggles to cultivate the arid land. It then traces the history of water development in the Southwest, from the building of the Hoover Dam to the construction of the Central Arizona Project. Throughout, the film highlights the many conflicts and controversies that have arisen over the years as communities and industries have fought for access to this scarce resource.

One of the central themes of the film is the tremendous power wielded by the Bureau of Reclamation, the federal agency tasked with managing the West's water resources. The film exposes the Bureau's long-standing biases in favor of big agriculture and power companies, and its disregard for the ecological consequences of its actions. It also explores the political and economic forces behind water development, from the influence of powerful agriculture lobbies to the role of federal subsidies in fueling unsustainable growth.

The film features a range of interviews with people affected by water development in the American West, including farmers, ranchers, environmental activists, and government officials. These firsthand accounts offer a humanizing and complex portrait of the struggles and sacrifices associated with life in this arid region. They also reveal the deep sense of attachment and connection that many people feel to the land, despite its harsh and unforgiving nature.

Throughout the film, director Jon Else employs striking visuals to underscore the stark beauty and fragility of the American West. From sweeping vistas of the desert landscape to intimate portraits of desert fauna and flora, the film presents a poignant reminder of the preciousness of this ecosystem and the urgent need to protect it. The cinematography is especially effective in capturing the ways in which water development has transformed the landscape, from the creation of man-made lakes and reservoirs to the destruction of natural habitats.

Overall, Cadillac Desert is a thought-provoking and powerful documentary that offers a comprehensive look at the history of water development in the American West. Through its blend of personal stories, archival footage, and beautiful cinematography, the film offers a nuanced and multifaceted portrait of a region that remains at the center of some of the country's most pressing environmental and social challenges. It is a must-see for anyone interested in the history and future of water resources in the United States.

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  • Release Date
  • Runtime
    4 hr 30 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    8.7  (75)