THE DALLES, Ore. (AP) - In two weeks, Maggie Hanna of The Dalles will have some of the most painful moments of her childhood - and some reflecting bravery and determination - splashed across the big screen in two major U.S. cities.
“It’s surreal to have other people view your life in 73 minutes,” she said. “But I really like the end product - it’s like a beautiful home video - and I hope everyone in the audience can find something meaningful to take away. “
The documentary “Hanna Ranch: One Cowboy’s Fight for Family and Land” will air May 16 in New York City and Los Angeles, and be distributed by Gravitas Ventures on Amazon, iTunes and other digital formats about one week later.
The film, produced by Listen Productions of Denver, Colo., has been described by James Redford, a director and son of legendary film star Robert Redford, as “Shakespeare on the high plains.”
The Huffington Post calls it, “Part homage, part love letter, part wakeup call.”
The movie was the 2014 documentary selection of the Starz Denver Film Festival and the Durango Independent Film Festival in 2014.
Front and center in the film is Maggie’s father, Kirk Hanna, and his quest to protect range land in Colorado from development and bad grazing practices. He was dubbed the “eco-cowboy” and featured in the book Fast Food Nation as a respected pioneer in Holistic Resource Management practices. He sat on numerous environmental boards and served as president of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association.
Also playing a prominent role is his wife, Ann, who was thrust into survival mode by her husband’s suicide, which happened six days before Christmas in 1998. Her struggle to keep the homestead intact for daughters, Maggie, then 9, and Emy, 7, is portrayed with her quiet dignity and strength of character.
Mother and daughters agreed not to watch the final version of the film together because they didn’t want to influence each other’s critique.
At the darkest hour after her father’s death, Maggie said Jay Frost, his half-brother and close friend, stepped in to help her mother manage the ranch. She said other community members reached out as well. Jim Hicks, a Wyoming cowboy and close family friend, came to Colorado to be a pall bearer at Kirk’s funeral - and stayed as the ranch foreman for the next 10 years.
“There were so many people who stepped up to take care of us,” she said.
Maggie finds healing from her father’s death to be an ongoing process, one that she expects will have new “milestones” as she marries, has children and experiences other memorable occasions that he is not around to celebrate.
Kirk took his life as struggles with depression, family, and conserving agricultural lands continued to mount, leaving him with a feeling of hopelessness on battlefronts that looked unwinnable.
“It has been very difficult for people to talk about my father’s death,” said Maggie. “There is a huge stigma around mental health and we hope to start that discussion by sharing our story.”