Around Crab Orchard

Vintage Photograph of Bunkers
Video still, Around Crab Orchard

Crab Orchard calls itself “a unique place to experience nature.” As the only wildlife refuge in the United States whose mission includes industry and agriculture alongside conservation and recreation, Crab Orchard claims a harmonious balance between uses and users that strike many as incompatible. This story of harmony is maintained through the production and enforcement of physical, visual, and political boundaries — boundaries that, once crossed, quickly dissolve. This essayistic documentary maps the filmmaker’s discovery of Crab Orchard’s complex and hybrid nature. When a request by a security guard to put away the camera leads to a surprise visit by the FBI, the filmmaker begins a journey to uncover the refuge’s history and understand its contradictory present. Crab Orchard’s status as a contaminated refuge emerges less as an exception and more an example of the power and perils of “nature” as we understand it today. From its use by historic Native Americans as a source of food, its continued role in an economically vulnerable region, and the use of its polluted lake as a water source, the film explores themes of invisibility, loss, and shared but profoundly unequal risk. Assembled from documents, found footage, and conversations with activists, writers, and local residents, the film meditates on the persistence of history, the creation of knowledge, the limits of representation, and the commonplace of environmental hazard. “Around Crab Orchard” ultimately argues for forms of storytelling, image-making, and activism that cross existing conceptual boundaries to respond to the full complexity of the social and ecological landscape.

Trailer

Twenty-Minute Excerpt

Select Screenings

Emerald Earth Film Festival, Eugene, 2020

UnionDocs, New York, 2014

University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, 2014

Banff Centre, Alberta, 2014

Appalachian State University, 2014

Ohio University, 2014

Headroom Microcinema/University of Iowa, 2014

Furthermore Gallery, Washington, D.C., 2013

Cabaret Voltaire/ETH Zurich, Zurich, 2013

School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 2013

Interrobang Film Festival, 2013

Echo Park Film Center, Los Angeles, 2013

Southside Projections, Chicago, 2013

Athens International Film and Video Festival, 2013

University at Buffalo, 2013

35th Big Muddy Film Festival, 2013

Awards

Best Iowa-Produced Film, Interrobang Film Festival

John Michaels Award for social justice filmmaking, Big Muddy Film Festival

Juror’s Special Mention, Big Muddy Film Festival

Credit

Sarah Kanouse, “Around Crab Orchard”, HD video, 69 min, 2013. Contact me for private link to full-length video.