I recently had the good fortune of spending a week driving around Texas, meandering through Hill Country, up to the Panhandle, and down along the border to the RGV. I don’t do this kind of thing very often – it takes time and gas – but when I do, I always remember that a good old fashioned road trip is the best way to appreciate the condition. No matter how ironic I might find inside my Austin bubble, when I go out and can see all of Texas unfold in front of me—watching the craggy hills of Balcones Escarpment in the fertile plains around the Metroplex, or the dry expanse of Llano Estacado sinking into the borehole oil fields of the Permian Basin – I remember how much I love this case. It is very big and very beautiful.
But there is so much you cannot see from the road that, like the fauna of our state, there are as many and varied as the landscapes that make up their habitats. Even if you were lucky enough to spot a bison or white-tailed deer, it would be from a distance, or a terrifying temporary glimpse in front of your headlights. If only there was a way to get a sweeping, sweeping view like that from a car driving 80 down Interstate 10, but with an intimate window overlooking the real, unspoiled everyday life of the most noble of Texans.
Well, there is now. It is a 98-minute nature documentary titled deep in the heartbest described planet earth But for Texas. Directed by Ben Masters, an Amarillo native, who made his 2019 documentary about the Texas border, river and wallHe was a critical lover, deep in the heart Opens in theaters June 3rd. Like the classic BBC series, deep in the heart It is a stunning visual journey through diverse landscapes and ecosystems, as you venture from the rugged Chisos Mountains to the bays of the Gulf Coast. It is all narrated by our state’s version of Sir David Attenborough: University of Texas Secretary of Culture, Matthew McConaughey. Filmed in high definition with cameras in the air, under water, and hidden in the brush near the den of the ocelot, deep in the heart Texas appears in the best possible light. In this Texas, there’s no traffic, no rising cost of living, and no legislature. There is only nature.
The narration follows a handful of native species, watching them quietly in their natural habitats while McConaughey’s voiceover highlights the various conservation efforts that have kept creatures like bison, black bear, ocelot, and blind catfish from being wiped out. There are a plethora of cinematic delights, from McConaughey’s delicious sound of “Guadalupe bass” to gorgeous time-lapse aerial videos over canyons and deserts. Viewers can watch thousands of bats squirt like smoke from Cave Volcanoes in Comal County (the largest bat colony in the world) and see ocelots cuddling their kittens in southern Texas. A particularly stunning fade turns between a single shot of a devastatingly dry riverbed during a drought to a scene of the same river overflowing its banks.
deep in the heart He doesn’t shy away from the dark realities of the natural world. We watch animals prey on each other, and not all of them survive. But even a scene like the scene where a pair of king snakes chase some little bats, or the scene where an ocelot goes missing, feels like gifts. These are opportunities to witness a layer of our environment that is usually hidden from view. Painful, but invaluable.
Early in his account, McConaughey said that deep in the heart It is “a story for all who love Texas”. And it is, but not Texas, that its name has been dropped during countless explanatory articles about our state’s recent population boom. Real estate, barbecues, or no income tax have little to do with this movie. Beneath the surface are environmental concerns about depleting aquifers and threatening wildlife populations, but this is not a film that confronts climate change head-on. But simply by showing Texas in its most flattering light, the film inspires the viewer to keep the state as beautiful and luxurious as it appears on screen. (If you want to learn more about how to do something like this, look up Texan by Nature, the film’s main sponsor.) This is the same space that has attracted settlers here for centuries, even millennia. Texas is a city plentiful but also captive, violent, and scattered, and when faced with this reality, it’s hard not to feel a deep sense of pride and love. It’s the same Texas I’d forget if I didn’t get back on the road. It is much cheaper and more beautiful to watch deep in the heart Than throw out gas money when the 80 I-10 drops.