Unique feature documentaries produced for the DOCUTAH Film Festival

The desert has an energy and a mystery all its own. You never know what you’ll find there. For example, a high-quality documentary film festival in a tiny corner of Utah and a University film program producing professional, feature length documentary films. While DOCUTAH screens films from all over the world, its team also has a passion for our own part of the planet and the amazing people and stories that emerge from the challenges and benefits of living in and near the wilderness. The emptiness and starkness of the desert landscape brings out a different kind of creativity and drive in its inhabitants. Just as the animals and plants adapt, so do the people. It is for that reason that Phil Tuckett, Professor of Digital Film and Executive Director of DOCUTAH, and the staff and students of the DSU film program produced, the High Desert Chronicles for DOCUTAH, a series of films that spring from the environs of the desert Southwest. Now DOCUTAH offers them to the world as one contribution to all people during this stressful time of pandemic and isolation.  

Watch DOCUTAH discuss the High Desert Chronicles  @pbsutah –  Contact with Mary Dickson

Della Lowe discusses High Desert Chronicles @pbsutah


 My Father’s Highway – My Father’s Highway is the epic story of how an impossible road was built on an improbable route and the people who overcame every obstacle, even death to make sure it happened. To this day it represents one of the most expensive and spectacular engineering feats in the history of the United States Interstate Highway System. The finished road takes a traveler on a 500-million-year geological journey, on a four- lane super highway that has become the economic lifeline of the Desert Southwest. 

This film is also available for purchase through DSU Films – contact Phil Tuckett at [email protected]

Tuacahn: Miracle in Padre Canyon –  From ancient Anasazi hunting grounds to a world-renowned outdoor amphitheater, this film tells the history of the Tuacahn Center of the Performing Arts woven through the development of its musical production of Shrek. A behind the scenes look at the 2017 theatrical season of Tuacahn Amphitheatre interwoven with the story of how it came to be. Two years ago, the DOCUTAH International Documentary Film Festival launched the Festival with Tuacahn Miracle in Padre Canyon. The film, which was produced through the generosity of Dave and Nanette Pugsley and the hard work of Dixie State University film students, is streaming on  PBS Utah  until March 2021.

 Town for All Seasons: The Story of Leeds – This is the story of the unique Utah town of Leeds, which celebrated its sesquicentennial in 2019. Although small in size, the town of Leeds and its surroundings hold a unique place in the history of the settlement of the American West. The film recounts the agricultural, mining, business and pioneer importance of the town. Three distinct geographical zones meet in the area, the Mojave Desert, the Great Basin and the beginning of the Rocky Mountain range. Because of that, Leeds has survived, in spite of hardship, and is now, surrounded by eight ghost towns that all disappeared. You’ll be amazed at the town’s characters and laugh with them at their life stories. 

This film is also available for purchase through DSU Films – Contact Phil Tuckett at [email protected]

Dreams of the Black Echo – The Story of  The Vietnam War Told by Veterans from Both Sides –  Dreams of the Black Echo is a unique co-production with Duy Tan University in Vietnam and DSU film students, faculty and staff. The film has been updated with additional footage and interviews, which enhance an already gripping look at this controversial war and the healing process which happens when soldiers can communicate after the conflict. Dreams of the Black Echo is not a sweeping 14-year saga but rather the story told through one event – the battle of Khe Sanh which took place January to July 1968. Everyone in film gives eyewitness testimony of what they saw and experienced in that battle. Although there was plenty of propaganda pumped out on both sides, these veterans were completely oblivious to the propaganda because they were living the reality of war on the ground. It comes down to a basic shared experience told from both sides of the front lines. 

This film is also available for purchase through DSU Films – Contact Phil Tuckett at [email protected]

Moonshot Through the Double Helix – A revolution in cancer research is taking place and the world is starting to take notice. Utah’s Intermountain Healthcare and famed genomic researcher, Dr. Lincoln Nadauld, who came to IHC from Stanford University, are initiating a novel approach to the treatment of cancer by instituting personalized cancer medicine using cutting edge genetic sequencing technologies. This film tells the story of how this came to be the “Moonshot for the 21st Century” with Vice President Joe Biden leading the charge. The team of Dr. Lincoln Nadauld, Dr. Derrick Haslem, Dr. Pravin Mishra at Intermountain Healthcare and others are changing the way serious cancers are treated by sequencing a patient’s DNA in search of genetic mutations known to cause cancer. Those mutations are then targeted by specific drugs.

The Devil and the Angel – The violin has been referred to as the “devil’s instrument.” Throughout history, violin players and makers were rumored to have sold their souls to the devil in order to master their craft. Despite this reputation, Kevin Lee sets out to prove otherwise. Known as a Master Luthier, Kevin follows in the footsteps of the famous violinmakers from hundreds of years ago, since the first violins were created.