Synopsis by Nathan Southern
Peter Richardson's probing documentary Clear Cut: The Story of Philomath, Oregon paints a lingering portrait of a town in the American Northwest being torn asunder by the perpetual struggle between conservative tradition and liberal progressivism. The cultural and moral foundations of Philomath first began to shift when its economic base of logging dwindled, only to be replaced by a Hewlett Packard plant. Meanwhile, the area's older generations felt thwarted by the arrival of new residents, particularly young employees of the nearby university, who propagated leftwing values and what the elders perceived as more loosely-knit behavioral standards. Not long after, Terry Keisler, a Chicagoan émigré, accepted the position of Philomath High School superintendent, and made a series of controversial decisions that ignited the community tinderbox. Keisler first drew the ire of the town's longtime residents by establishing a gay/straight alliance at the high school, then eliminated the school's "Warriors" logo employed by its sports teams. Furious over these decisions, Philomath resident Steve Lowther - whose father made his wealth as a logging entrepreneur and established a college scholarship for local high school students - took drastic action. Lowther first attempted to oust Keisler, then withdrew the scholarship altogether as a form of protest, and ultimately reinstituted it under severely restrictive terms, Filmmaker Richardson uses his cinematic study of the town to make an allegorical statement about the inner forces that continue to divide Middle America.
conservatism, culture [social culture], economic-development, liberalism, logging, progressivism, social-change, tradition, values