By HANNAH SIEVERT
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
In the new HBO documentary film “Our Towns,” Academy Award-nominated filmmakers Steven Ascher and Jeanne Jordan share stories of struggle and achievement in eight towns in the U.S.
“Hopefully this film takes you around the country and feel what other people are dealing with, ways they’re imaginative, ways they’re stymied,” Ascher said. “We wanted to show the darkness and the light. We hope people get a fresh view of America.”
One of the towns featured in the film is Bend.
Ascher and Jordan say Bend added a perspective of how a city can recover and recalibrate after big change.
“We were particularly interested in Bend because it really stands for a place that suffered a huge setback during the timber crash, and brought itself back and reinvented itself as another kind of town,” Ascher said. “A lot of towns look to Bend as a role model of what they might be able to do themselves.”
The filmmakers spent two weeks in Central Oregon in 2019, documenting its past and present and interviewing long-time Bendites, new residents, city leaders, remote workers, business owners and ranchers.
“We talked to a lot of different kinds of people,” Ascher said. “We talked to Mike Hollern and Bill Smith, who had done big developments, and then we talked to people like Sky at his ranch, who are thinking about the natural environment and growth in a different way.”
The film explores themes of growth, environment preservation, diversity and changing work environments.
Bend brings all of those themes together and closes out the film as the last town featured.
“We didn’t want to tell some rose-colored glasses story of America,” Jordan said. “We wanted it to be a realistic portrait. But we also saw so much hope out there. Towns and cities can do amazing things. So the fact that Bend could tell that story quickly, it just, we were really glad we came there. It was the perfect ending.”
“Our Towns” can be streamed on HBO starting April 13.