Synopsis by Hal Erickson
Filmmaker/critic Pare Lorentz was the creative force behind the landmark documentary The Plow That Broke the Plains. The project was underwritten by the United States Resettlement Administration, a New Deal organization. Lorentz' film accomplished visually what President Roosevelt's radio speeches had been doing orally: serving as a wake-up call to those Americans unaware of the deprivations of the "Dust Bowl." The film details the ecological causes for the natural disasters befalling farmers in Oklahoma and Texas. It then illustrates in up-close-and-personal fashion the devastating effect those disasters had on the farmers and their families, who were already reeling from the Depression. Lorentz concludes his film on an upbeat note, showing the efforts made by the Resettlement Administration to improve conditions for the unfortunate farmers, and to make certain that environmental reforms are put into effect to prevent another Dust Bowl. The Plow That Broke the Plains was followed by the Tennessee Valley Authority-sanctioned The River, likewise assembled by Lorentz.