+ otherwise pictures llc

Film/Video

Progress, Pork-Barrel, and Pheasant Feathers

1966  |  16mm  |  bw  |  sound  |  27 min
Holly Fisher & Romas V. Slezas
Fisher/Slezas Films Inc.
Holly Fisher & Romas V Slezas
Romas V. Slezas
Cambridge Records
Mrs. Archie Carr, Burt Dosh (editor), John Crouse (naturalist, environmentalist), US Senator William Proxmire, State Senator Edwards

Narrator: Paul Benedict
Distributor: Leo Dratfield, Contemporary Films Inc.

Blue Ribbon (Environment), The American Film Festival (1966)


The Florida Audubon Society Grant


The American Film Festival, New York, NY (1966)



The film is an intimate case study of pork barrel politics, framed within the on-going controversy over construction of the Florida Cross State Barge Canal by the US Army Corps of Engineers – a civil works project originally cooked up by President Henry Jackson, picked up and dropped by President Kennedy, and periodically re-visited by local groups with assorted vested interests. The Barge Canal was designed to shorten the oil-shipping route from Texas to New Jersey by cutting across the top of Florida, linking the Atlantic with the Pacific. The Oklawaha River, one of Florida’s last remaining wild rivers, was slated as primary water feed-source for the Canal. As a cinema verité depiction of a grass roots attempt to save the river from destruction, Progress, Pork-Barrel, and Pheasant Feathers is a story of profit pitted against beauty, made several years before the word “environment” was even in the political activist lexicon.

We began our project with the filming of an all-day hearing at the Tallahassee State Capital, 1965, which in fact was the only hearing ever to take place concerning the fate of the river.  From here we shot footage of grass root protests held at the edge of the pristine Oklawaha, plus ospreys, alligators, cypress, snakes, and turkey buzzards at home in this habitat, which we laced within interviews with local citizens, engineers, press and politicians pro and con. At the time of our shooting this project was considered by US Senator William Proxmire, who appears in the film, to be one of the worst pork barrel projects ever to come out of Washington. It’s a sad and shocking comment to say that this film is as relevant today as it was in the mid-sixties when we made it; every battle raging today between fossil fuel interests, grass roots and indigenous peoples, and the reality of global warming is fundamentally the same story of passion, greed and ignorance – from Florida to Nigeria, Canada to the Andes, to a pending dam project in Burma…