Yesterday at the Hazel Wolf Environmental Film Festival I took in Arid Lands, a documentary of the early years of Hanford, and the people and geography of the Columbia Basin. Having grown up the area, I was particularly curious to see how this landscape of diversity, or even better irony, would be portrayed in a documentary.
A film by Grant Aaker and Josh Wallaert, Arid Lands is an excellent overview of the massive contradictions that confound the Columbia Basin. From war machine to environmentalism, irrigation and farming to rampant development. The Tri-Cities is a complacent community that’s as grateful for it’s nuclear history as it is wary of it…the entire area is inextricably tied to the wake of plutonium production, and now the biggest environmental cleanup in the history of the planet.
The film did well to not delve too deeply into issues that could easily sidetrack what was the star—the land. No mention was made of downwinders, while particular emphasis was placed on the changing landscape—quickly changing from an agrarian base to a service-based economy bolstered by tourism. While the wine industry flourishes, other agriculture is consumed by ever-expanding housing developments—quickly erected with little planning or thoughts of the native landscape.
It’s a well-rounded film with a great diversity of viewpoints, excellently shot and edited. If you’re at all interested in the history of Hanford and the Columbia Basin, this is highly recommended.