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The Rancher (2012)

Kelly Sears

Sound | 2012

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  •  While Sears used sampled newsreel footage of Lyndon B. Johnson, 36th president of the United States, the central character in this film is intended to be an anonymous president. Says Sears: "the narrative of The Rancher parallels LBJ's administration as well as others from more recent history." 
  •  Johnson received criticism for his handling of the Vietnam war, escalating American involvement and deploying more troops, which resulted in more American casualties and a large anti-war movement.  
  •  While he began his presidency with widespread approval, support for Johnson declined as the public became upset with the war. 
  •  In 1969 Richard Nixon was elected the 37th president of the United States, and Johnson returned home to his family's ranch in Stonewall, Texas.  
  •  Credits 
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“The Rancher,” made by Houston filmmaker Kelly Sears as part of TAMI’s Mess With Texas program, is a short fictional narrative in which President LBJ begins having anxiety dreams that he is unable to speak publicly, his voice distorted or absent during speeches. The dreams begin affecting his presidential performance during the day, making him aggressive and demanding. The Mess With Texas program was produced in partnership with Aurora Picture Show and the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston.
This video was produced as part of the 2012 Mess With Texas program, commissioned for the exhibition Perspectives 178: CINEPLEX at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, in partnership with Aurora Picture Show and the Texas Archive of the Moving Image. Texas-based film/video artists Kelly Sears, Mark and Angela Walley, Scott Stark, Alec Jhangiani, and Alex Luster delved into the vast collection of movies, newsreels, and homemade films in the Texas Archive of the Moving Image and created entirely new works from the footage. These new reworkings are creative intersections of past and present, bringing new life to cinematic memory. 

For a list of the original films used to create the Mess With Texas shorts, click here.
Kelly Sears is an animator and filmmaker living in Houston, TX. She received a B.A. from Hampshire College and an M.F.A. from the University of California, San Diego. Her collage films are created from foraged magazines, books, orphaned films and other ephemera. Her interdisciplinary media practice draws from genres such as experimental film, documentary, essay films, recycled cinema and critical fiction. She uses appropriated imagery from our nation’s past to create speculative historical narratives that resonate with present-day events. Her work combines video, digital animation, stop-motion animation, digital imaging, and sound design. She has screened her work at museums, galleries and film festival, such as The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, MOMA, The Hammer Museum, Machine Project, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Light Industry, Sundance Film Festival, Ann Arbor Film Festival and Black Maria Film Festival. Her films have won awards at Chicago Underground Film Festival, Dallas International Film Festival, Black Maria Film Festival, Ann Arbor Film Festival, and the Toronto After Dark Film Festival. She teaches experimental animation, found footage cinema, hybrid media, and collaborative art practices classes at the University of Houston. (from the filmmaker’s website.)
Thirty-sixth president of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson, was born on a hill country farm near Stonewall, Texas on August 27, 1908 to Samuel Ealy Johnson, a former Texas legislator, and Rebekah Baines Johnson.  He attended Southwest Teachers College, now Texas-State University, graduating with a degree in history and social science in 1930. LBJ spent one year as principal and teacher in Cotulla, educating impoverished Hispanic elementary school students. LBJ became the secretary to Texas Congressman Richard M. Kleberg in 1931; the four year position helped him gain influential contacts in Washington. Johnson married Claudia Alta “Lady Bird” Taylor on November 17, 1934.
LBJ acted as Director of the National Youth Administration in Texas from 1935 to 1937. Johnson won his first legislative election in 1937 for the Tenth Congressional District, a position he held for eleven years. He was a firm supporter of President Roosevelt’s New Deal and in 1940 acted as Chairman of the Democratic Campaign Committee. In 1948, following his service as a Lieutenant Naval Commander during World War II, LBJ ran as the Democratic nominee for Senate. In a cloud of controversy, he narrowly defeated former Texas Governor Coke Stevens and easily beat his Republican opponent in the general election.  Before winning his second senate term, LBJ was elected Majority Whip in 1951, became the youngest ever Minority Senate Leader in 1953, and was voted Majority Leader in 1954. Johnson unsuccessfully ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1960 but was selected to be Vice-President under John F. Kennedy. 
Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as Commander and Chief aboard Air Force One following President Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963 and won reelection in 1964. President Johnson passed landmark legislation with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Debate over military efforts in Vietnam intensified in late 1963 when the President stated that the United States would not withdraw from Southeast Asia. Escalation of the war against North Vietnam brought disapproval from Democrats, claiming the efforts were misguided, and from Republicans who criticized the administration for not executing sufficient military vigor. Antiwar protests, urban riots, and racial tension eroded Johnson’s political base by 1967, which further dissolved following the Tet Offensive in January 1968. On March 31, 1968, President Johnson announced that we would not seek a second Presidential term.
After returning to Texas, Johnson oversaw the construction of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum on the University of Texas campus in Austin. Throughout his political career, LBJ was an influential figure in Texas affairs; his policies brought military bases, crop subsidies, government facilities, and federal jobs to the state. After suffering a massive heart attack, former President Johnson died at his ranch on January 22, 1973. In February of the same year, NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston was renamed the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, in honor of one of the country’s most influential Texans.