2020 MOFF Official Selection

About This Project

Special Note:

New England Premiere


Henry Kinder

Total Running Time:


Filming Location:

Utah, USA

Filmmaker Origin:

Brooklyn, NY


Desert Mourning is a film about what is lost when landscapes change. Focused on the ongoing conflict over the Grand Staircase-Escalante national monument in southern Utah, this short documentary investigates how individuals from different communities neighboring the land grapple with boundaries, and lifestyles, in flux. The film takes a deep, personal dive into this ongoing conflict by exploring how the Monument’s 2017 reduction has affected the lives of three people who live on the monument’s edge: Harlan Featherhat, a Pauite man who helped determine the monument original boundaries in 1996; Lonnie Pollock, a mormon rancher and retired schoolteacher; and Megan Smith, a former backcountry ranger on the monument and advocate for public lands. Megan and Lonnie share a unique bond that links them in their love for the land and their understanding of what is at stake, while Harlan draws connections across plateaus and generations recalling ancient forefathers and asking us all to protect our national treasures in the name of his granddaughter Allie. By investigating what may disappear, we begin to understand why this particular dispute is so bitter. When landscapes and economies change around us, whose values do we prioritize, and who gets left behind?

Thoughts from the filmmaker:

1. Desert Mourning would not have been possible without the essential contribution of Marsha Holland, who runs the Southern Utah Oral History Project. This collection of audio recordings documenting the stories of those who have lived in Southern Utah for generations was a crucial entry-point for our team’s understanding of this place. AND she conducted all of the interviews in the film… so big shouts out to Marsha, and long-live local history! 2. Only after we met Megan and Lonnie individually and were struck by their personal stories did we learn of their connection through Bowdie. 3. The score was composed by Joey Fishman, a musician who lives on the Grand Staircase!

This film to be screened at:

8/08/20 – Eastern Promenade – Portland

2020, 8/8 Eastern Prom, 9/4 Rangeley