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LAST COWBOYS OF FLORIDA
(USA, 2007, 75 min., color & B/W, North Florida Premiere) In the USA, World
of Docs, A Family Affair Library, Sat.- 2:45 & 6:45 pm
If you were asked to participate in an exercise of association and given the topic Florida, you would
probably answer sunshine, beaches, oranges, retirees and Disney World. Filmmaker Victor Milt would like to enter cowboys and
cattle ranching into your thought process with his documentary, Cracker: The Last Cowboys of Florida.
It was quite
a revelation to learn about the real cowboys, ranchers, cattlemen and women that have played such an integral role in the
state for so long. Milt’s film demonstrates the history, culture, work, surroundings and struggle of this simple, yet
beautiful, albeit often laborious, way of life. Milt and his wife Kim, who produced the documentary, had a long career making
television commercials. Kim grew up in Arcadia, a small town in Central Florida southeast of Tampa and north of Cape Coral.
It was on the couple’s trips to see family in the area that Victor’s interest in cowboys was whetted. After retiring,
the couple decided to make the Sunshine State their permanent residence.
Milt set out to pay homage to the cowboys
and land that intrigued and captivated him on his many visits by capturing them in photos and paintings. His hobby quickly
evolved and eventually grew to be the now-celebrated documentary. From the scenic prairies and rustic corrals to the rip-roaring
rodeos and convivial town parades, the film gives you a real sense of not just what these people do, but who they really are.
High morals, a tenacious work ethic and reverence for God, family and land permeate through the culture with the utmost sincerity
and sanctity and are not a shtick performed when the stereotype is being called upon.
Mostly told in first-person
interviews, it is apparent that the project was conceived and made from a place of veneration. Cracker makes a major tone
shift from the triumphant and often jubilant stories and philosophies of the cowboys, ranchers, rodeo performers and historians
to a very serious SOS sent to audiences about the affect of ever-increasing development. Cattle families that have worked
in the industry for many generations from the same land are being forced to sell to developers because of persistently accelerating
taxes and costs. There is also less land for their herds to graze.
It’s a call that transcends politics
and economic debate, going straight to the human concerns that range from a dying culture and diminishing virgin forest land
to questions about food supply. The message of preservation comes swift and is in no way seamless, but makes sense in the
context. Milt effectively introduces the people, their work and their land knowing that you will quickly go from backwoods
curiosity to affection. Without taking a breath, he shows how close the entire culture and pristine land is to being lost
It’s more than a message to Florida residents about preservation, it’s a warning to anyone
in the world that watches, about the sense of urgency that must be embraced. His plea is simple: do something. It’s
not heavy-handed, but rather very real, very inspiring in the sense of at least spreading awareness. The charm of the cowboy
and cattle rancher way of life doesn’t take a second seat to the message of conservation. Cracker: The Last Cowboys
of Florida gives viewers the important chance to see both land and a way of life that is uniquely unaffected by the fast moving
world around it . . . before it is developed into nonexistence.
Director: Victor Milt, Executive Producer:
Barbara Carlton, Kim Milt, Producer: George Pratt, Mac Martin, Martin Ross. –By Brenton Crozier
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Between getting confused
about the new Public Library and the Old Public Library (we still can’t quite seem to get them straight), we somehow
managed to make it to the screening of Victor Milt’s documentary on Floridian Cowboys, Crackers.
know they existed? For the record, neither did we.
Although we went into the film with an amount of enthusiasm
equitable to what one would experience while undergoing a root canal, we were treated with an unexpected surprise. Milt’s
piece served not only as an account of a little-known figure in our states history, but as a testament to our dying
wilderness and a call to action to save it.
Depicting Machiavellian real estate developers without demonizing them,
Milt urged each and every viewer to take control and urge politicians to enforce conservation laws, a kind of MLK-esque solicitation
that would have even the most famous peacemakers smiling.
Cracker received a joyous reception elicited from people of
all walks of life, and Milt and his lovely wife Kim were gracious and hospitable to the very end.
The world can’t
be changed in a day, but according to Victor Milt, each one of us doing our parts will ensure the sun soon rising again on
the great state of Florida.
SETH HEDSTROM/ Jacksonville.com
Filmmaker, environmentalist, and inspired
genius Mr. Victor Milt