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CLEAR CUT: THE STORY OF PHILOMATH, OREGON(director: Peter Richardson; cinematographers: Peter Richardson/Michael A. Brown; editor: Peter Richardson; music: Debra Arlyn; cast: Steve Lowther, Terry Kneisler, Chris Nusbaum, Mark Phillips, Joanne Eby, Dr. David Grube; Runtime: 72; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Peter Richardson; Sundance Channel; 2006)
“The film should interest PBS type of viewers concerned about the culture wars between traditionalists and progressives … .”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A fiery documentary with social commentary that offers a balanced report about a small logging town in Oregon and its recent problems with giving away college scholarships. In 1959, Philomath, Oregon’s wealthy timber businessman Ray Clemens and his wife established the Clemens Foundation, which used profits from the area’s timber industry to provide all graduates from Philomath High School with the opportunity of getting college scholarships to Oregon State University located in nearby Corvallis. The public service film should interest PBS type of viewers concerned about the culture wars between traditionalists and progressives that is causing a Red state and Blue state divide across the country.

After the founder Ray’s death in 1985, Clemens’ nephew Steve Lowther became the head of the Foundation and has decided in the late 1980s that he was uncomfortable with the “politically correct” direction the school was taking. In particular he resented the proposals to change the high school’s “Warriors” mascot, teaching environmentalism in class, and more recently that the new superintendent, Terry Kneisler, was an outsider from Chicago, approved a high school Gay-Straight Alliance and that the town was catering to a new citified citizen who migrated from urban areas and didn’t have the same rural spirit and love for farming he desired.

Things turned ugly as longtime residents resented the newbies and that they influenced the town’s new environment laws which they claim is hurting the timber business. The prickly outspoken Lowther, who gets a lot of face time, has an agenda that holds no love for things that are not the ‘old way.’ Lowther used his muscle as the man controlling the purse strings of the fund to at first withdraw the scholarship then to bring back the scholarships, but with changes to the provisions to meet his right wing agenda. The fund will no longer give scholarships without the recipient conforming to these changes–like no hippies with long hair need apply.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”