Director/writer David O’Shields will appear with his award-winning documentary “America’s Lost Landscape: The Tallgrass Prairie” for a special Truth First Film Alliance event at the Figge Art Museum on Saturday, June 4 at 2 p.m.
O’Shields will take part in a Q & A session following the 60-minute film in the museum auditorium, 225 W. 2nd St., Davenport. The special National Prairie Day event is free to the public and sponsored by Living Lands and Waters, Produce Iowa, and the Northwest Illinois Film Office.
“America’s Lost Landscape: The Tallgrass Prairie” tells the rich and complex story of one of the most astonishing alterations of nature in human history, according to a release from Truth First Film Alliance (TFFA).
Prior to Euro-American settlement in the 1820s, one of the major landscape features of North America was 240 million acres of tallgrass prairie. But between 1830 and 1900, in the space of a single lifetime, the tallgrass prairie was steadily transformed to farmland. This drastic change in the landscape also brought about an enormous social change for Native Americans; in an equally short time their cultural imprint was reduced in essence to a handful of place-names appearing on maps, the release said.
“America’s Lost Landscape” examines the record of human struggle, triumph, and defeat that prairie history exemplifies, including the history and culture of America’s aboriginal inhabitants.
The story of how and why the prairie was changed by Euro-American settlement is thoughtfully nuanced. The film also highlights prairie preservation efforts and explores how the tallgrass prairie ecosystem may serve as a model for a sustainable agriculture of the future. The extraordinary cinematography of prairie remnants, original score and archival images are all delicately interwoven to create a powerful and moving viewing experience about the natural and cultural history of America, the release said.
The film features writer Dayton Duncan (Ken Burns’ “Country Music,” “Muhammad Ali,” “Civil War,” among others), actress Annabeth Gish (“The X Files,” “Law and Order,” “Nixon”) as the film’s narrator; and Native American writer/actor John Trudell (“Smoke Signals,” “Thunderheart,” “Incident at Oglala”) as the voice of Sauk leader and warrior Black Hawk.
Wes Jackson of The Land Institute, biologist Laura Jackson, linguist Jerome Kills Small, historian Anton Treuer, landscape historian Lance Foster, writer Richard Manning, and Nina Leopold Bailey and Carol Leopold — two of Aldo Leopold’s children — were interviewed for the film.
“America’s Lost Landscape: The Tallgrass Prairie” was produced by David O’Shields, and executive producer Daryl Smith. The film received the prestigious Pare Lorentz Award from the International Documentary Association Awards in 2005.
Awards for the film
It won the CINE Golden Eagle Award, Best Eco-Cinema from the Napa Sonoma Wine Country Film Festival, the Katherine A. Knight Award at the EarthVision International Environmental Film and Video Festival, Merit Award from the International Wildlife Film Festival, Best of Festival at the Hazel Wolf Environmental Film Festival, and the CINE Focus Award at the Montana CINE International Film Festival.
O’Shields’ film work has been broadcast and distributed in the U.S. on national PBS and Netflix, and broadcast internationally in Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.
He regularly serves on film festival juries, and from 2009-2014, served as a cultural ambassador and film expert for the U.S. State Department’s American Documentary Showcase. He is an adjunct instructor, and the documentary filmmaker in residence, at the University of Northern Iowa. His new documentary on artist Gary Kelley will premiere in October 2022.
The June 4 event is the second public program hosted by TFFA, a non-profit organization that supports and encourages the production and exhibition of documentary films, and narrative films based on true stories, through public presentations and educational programs in the Quad Cities region.
For more information, visit TruthFirstFilmAlliance.org.