In his second feature-length film, Ben Masters crafts a beautiful yet eye-opening filmic ode to our embattled nature in the Lone Star State. Photo courtesy of Deep in the Heart Film.
May 13, 2022
With cinematography as big as Texas, Deep in the Heart inspires.
The latest feature-length film by Ben Masters debuted at the opening night of the EarthX Film Fest at Annette Strauss Square in the Dallas Arts District on Thursday.
In 2019, the Texas filmmaker wowed Dallas film fest audiences with his epic trek down the Rio Grande River.
Last night, his new, nearly two-hour documentary likewise riveted its audience, who frequently punctuated scenes with appreciative outbursts. The film received an extended standing ovation.
The film contrasts feel-good wildlife recovery successes with the thrills of predator versus prey.
Some scenes sadden with wanton animal and habitat destruction, yet inform with deep knowledge of nature’s infinite wisdom.
Deep in the Heart deftly slips in important eco-lessons about the absolute assault Lone Star wildlife endures amid jaw-dropping scenery. Footage of immense West Texas storms, mass migrations of birds and technicolor landscapes make it a must to see on the big screen.
In Deep in the Heart, viewers become immersed in the epic imagery of Big Bend vistas and Bracken Cave’s emerging “batnados.” The film takes you undersea to swim among the intricate reproductive lives of coral in Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. You will glide through the evocative piney swamps of the Big Thicket National Preserve. And up close, you will witness exceedingly intimate moments in the lives of bison, mountain lions, black bears, white-tailed deer and even the elusive ocelot.
The animals’ heart-breaking risks and challenges will leave you breathless. Deep in the Heart is nonstop excitement and wonder.
Deep in the Heart showcases footage from a fleet of expert and dedicated cinematographers and camera-trap operators, elegantly edited by Sam Klatt. Enriched by Lyman Hardy’s tight sound design that brings nature vividly alive, at times overwhelmed by Noah Sorota’s lyrical score.
All is compellingly woven into an emotional love letter to Texas nature by director Masters. His poetic yet precise script is enlivened exponentially by Matthew McConaughey's down-to Earth narration. Supported by Katy Baldock and Jay Kleberg’s expert production.
Putting his passion for the Texas wildscape into profound action, Kleberg is campaigning to become the next Texas Land Commissioner.
"People have stepped up all over the state to protect our wildlife and wild places, and I just want to continue that," said Kleberg after the film screening.
ON THE BRINK
The film draws attention to the dangers mountain lions face from thousands of traps set out for them across Texas. Courtesy of Deep in the Heart Film.
The film pulls no punches. Narrator McConaughey notes that bison were not the only ones to fall in the 19th-century killing spree. Mountain lions and jaguars, white-tailed deer and antelope, alligators and otters, wolves and coyotes, and snakes were killed by the score.
"By the 1800s, our wildlife was decimated.”
It's still in crisis. More than 1,600 species, about one-third of all wildlife, face an elevated risk of extinction. [Read the GreenSourceDFW story about the Recovering America's Wildlife Act moving through Congress currently and ways you can help.]
As in Master's film 2017 short film Lions of West Texas, vignettes of mountain lions compel. It's shocking to learn that, unlike other states, Texas permits unregulated trapping. Animals die horrifying lingering deaths in snares, leg-hold trap, and cages — barbaric practices of a "bygone era." Of 16 Davis Mountain pumas in one study, the film notes, one was shot and the rest died in traps.
A black bear sleeps peacefully in Big Bend National. Park. Courtesy of Deep in the Heart Film.
Black bears, who also have few protections, were similarly pushed out of the mountains, but began returning in 1987. In Deep in the Heart, their progeny scamper up trees for acorns. The film asserts, evoking Masters' The River and the Wall, that the only way mountain lions and black bears survive in West Texas is their ability to seek food and safety in Mexico, something a border wall would cease.
CALL TO ACTION
Deep in the Heart completes its journey in the Big Thicket National Preserve, a vast wet woods in Southeast Texas, calling it "the greatest gift a generation can leave behind." Dallas environmentalist and lawyer Ned Fritz first led the campaign for its preservation, spending countless hours pushing legislation to save it. The film notes that Texas has lost half of its wetlands to reservoirs and that many rivers are so overused by agriculture and industry that they no longer flow.
In the discussion afterward on stage, Masters praised the work being done across the state to preserve and protect Texas wildlife and their habitat.
"You've got Texans that care about their land so much that they've created research institutes across the state. Scientists and land managers have dedicated their lives to figuring out some of these complex issues… All around Dallas, there are dozens of preservation organizations people should get involved with because they're looking for volunteers."
At the film's end, an essential action guide features groups to join and help preserve nature for generations to come. See a few in our list, below.
Deep in the Heart is a priceless gift to the nature-loving community.It is the clarion call Texas nature lovers have long awaited.
Screenings will be held across Texas starting June 3, including in Dallas, Fort Worth, Denton, Grand Prairie and Waxahachie.
Caprock Canyons State Park is the home of the Texas State Bison Herd. Courtesy of Deep in the Heart Film.
Support and volunteer for these organzations helping wildlife.
Audubon Texas (Find your local chapter)
Native Prairies Association of Texas (Find your local chapter)
Texas Master Naturalists (Find your local chapter)
Texas Rivers Protection Association
Bill is game changer for Texas wildlife, say advocates
Texas treasure endangered by wall, filmmaker says
EarthX Film Festival kicks off Thursday in downtown Dallas
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