Eugene videographer Tim Lewis says when he first found out about the controversial mining at Parvin Butte in local newspaper stories, he thought, “That’s a hell of a story” for a film project, “but I have no time to do that kind of stuff.”
Bob Emmons of LandWatch Lane County tried to persuade Lewis, whose video footage was used in the Oscar-nominated film If a Tree Falls, to go out to Dexter. He wanted Lewis to meet the citizens who were fighting the large gravel mine that was tearing down a scenic butte in their midst. But Lewis says, “I didn’t want to because these people had already lost.”
After meeting with the locals, Lewis changed his mind. The result is All About Parvin: Voices from a Lost Valley, a serialized documentary that will have its Eugene premiere Nov. 6. Audience members will have the opportunity to see the first five episodes at once. After that, each 12 to 15 minute episode will be released one at a time, every other week online at allaboutparvin.com.
Parvin Butte stands near Dexter Lake in the center of the community of Dexter. It is owned by Lost Creek Rock Products, a business of Greg Demers and his partners, Melvin and Norman McDougal. The neighbors have fought Lost Creek every step of the way as the butte has been logged and blasted.
Lewis says, “What’s key is that Parvin Butte is a microcosm for what is happening all over this county, this state and all over the world, really.” He says, “Politicians are bought by those who have the resources to do that, change the codes and take the resources from places like Parvin Butte.”
Emmons, whose land-use watchdog group has long taken on various developers, resource extractors and government agencies over the years, appears in the documentary saying, “It’s an endless circle: They make the money, they continue to be able to make the money by weakened laws that they help to weaken by putting money in the hands of legislators.”
Lewis says one thing that has frustrated him about making a documentary is that, “It’s made, it takes five years to release it, you watch it at the Bijou and it’s all over.” He says he wanted to make a documentary that follows the action as it happens, so he will continue to make episodes and release them online as the fight over Parvin continues.
All About Parvin is as much about the people as it is about the butte, Lewis tells EW. They are funny and surprising, he says, and he documents things people wouldn’t expect from a film about a serious issue, like “how it affects love lives, how they are getting along, whether they leave or stay.” The action ranges from Lane County to the town of Pilot Rock on Oregon’s east side, a place troubled by a wood waste landfill that keeps catching fire.
The first five episodes introduce the characters and the politics, Lewis says. A later episode of the film features a chance interaction with Melvin McDougal in a segment called “I’m Mel, By the Way,” but Lewis says while he hasn’t yet persuaded the McDougals and Demers to give an interview, “they are good characters in an episodic series” as they provide a sort of antagonist.
Lewis says he’d like to interview the business partners and “get a sense of who they are” because they “are part of the culture of Oregon,” but that culture of logging and resource extraction is changing, “and do they change with it?”
EW asked Demers for comment on the film, and he responded that he wished to preview Lewis’ film as well as EW’s article on the premiere because, “If you publish inaccurate information, and I am damaged as a result, I will sue to recover those damages.” While EW will fact check articles, we do not allow sources to review articles prior to publication.
All About Parvin premieres 6:30 pm Nov. 6 at First Christian Church, 1166 Oak St. The event is $10, sliding scale, and food and refreshments will follow. — Camilla Mortensen