Lee Anne Schmitt
The Last Buffalo Hunt
16mm and Video
78 Minutes
The Last Buffalo Hunt
Created by Lee Lynch and Lee Anne Schmitt
Directed by Lee Anne Schmitt
Produced by Lee Lynch and Lee Anne Schmitt

76 Minutes; 16mm and DV

We were at the only open gas station in Hanksville, a town in remote Southern Utah, when we saw the decapitated head of a buffalo in the back of an idling pickup truck. One of the last free ranging herds of American Bison is located in the nearby Henry Mountains. Each year a hunt is held on the herd to cull its numbers; we followed this hunt for five years.

The Last Buffalo Hunt is not a documentary about hunting buffalo. It is a film about cowboys, history and landscape, a film that documents the experience of one of the last open landscapes in America even while depicting its demise.

The film complicates images of the Utah landscape with images of taxidermy, helicopters, shotguns, casinos built in the shape of twelve story barns and plastic teepees, gas stations and snack shops advertised with figures of Indian chiefs from tribes long since displaced and robotic hunters selling sporting goods.

The Last Buffalo Hunt makes space for the construct of American individuality to reverberate alongside the marketing of the hunt, faith and belief, and the image of the American West, questioning the authenticity of our myths and the foundations of our frontier ideology.

The Last Buffalo Hunt skillfully synthesizes two documentary genres—the ethnographic film and the nonfiction essay… The buffalo becomes a catalyst for sifting through entrenched American myths, particularly the exaltation of individualism as mediated through hunting rituals.
– Richard Porton, Cineaste

Lee Anne Schmitt’s The Last Buffalo Hunt also tracks a vanished presence, the American West evacuated of its once-plentiful bison, the cowboys and ranchers who roamed its plains, and the grandiose mythology of the frontier…. This is a contested land, lashed by strife – it’s apparent not only in poor resource management, a faltering economy, and the commodification of the West, but also, as Schmitt’s voiceover and intertitles explain, in the very ideas that shaped its history, for better or for worse. This is a promise land broken; its destiny manifest on Terry Albrecht’s weary, weathered face.
– Genevieve Yue, Senses of Cinema

… Listen to Terry Albrecht explaining how burned out he feels from decades of guiding tourist-hunters for a shot at the once-plentiful beasts: "You know how it is ... another day at the office." A documentary pitched uneasily between third-person essay and first-person observation, The Last Buffalo Hunt is the result of more than five years of tracking Albrecht and his patrons in Utah's choked Henry Mountains. Lee Anne Schmitt and co-producer Lee Lynch do not make this material easy to absorb either at the level of sensory impressions or intellectual understanding. It's a familiar story by now — that as the West was won, it was made consumable as iconography and fantasy — but rarely has the laboriousness of this task been brought into such close focus as it is here.
– Max Goldberg, San Francisco Bay Guardian

Schmitt creates complex filmic textures in which the image and the sound-track, while perfectly, crisply defined, are in uncertain, floating relation to each other – like tectonic plates. The voice is never a straight commentary on what we see (or think we see); the index of the filmmaker’s presence is put in question; the spectator is not given a full image, or at least not an unproblematic image… By opening and modulating this gap, this area of indeterminacy (in the Cagean sense), Schmitt creates a dense, sensual, seductive atmosphere through which the spectator gets a glimpse of what it means to have lost, at the very moment you reached it, this utopian reality called America.
– The Viennale
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