Joe Albert’s Fox Hunt and Other Stories from the Pine Barrens of New Jersey

In JOE ALBERT’S FOX HUNT, documentary team Julie Gustafson and John Reilly experiment with the short story form in a series of vignettes about the people and environmental issues facing the New Jersey Pine Barrens, the last remaining open wilderness between Washington, D.C. and New York City. Once considered a wasteland, the Pine Barrens have become a battleground of conflicting interests between developers, conservationists and longtime inhabitants. Colorful characters include the developer of Crestwood Village, a 6000 unit housing project aimed at urban dwellers seeking a piece of the American Dream; a small town mayor who believes in biblical stewardship of the pristine aquifer that underlies the area; and Joe Albert, a fox hunter and member of the "Pineconers," a bluegrass group whose music descends from early English settlers. Albert laments, “I never thought it would go. I always thought it would be there. That's what the Indians felt.” Completed in 1979 and aired in 1980 on public television stations in New York and New Jersey. Anne Wooster of the VILLAGE VOICE said, “Autobiography and politics intermingle in personal tales from the last wilderness in the Eastern Megalopolis…a complex and compelling orchestration of passions.”

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0:12Copy video clip URL Info: WNET Thirteen. Recorded 25 Sept 79. Length 58:35. Series: Special. Pgm. No. 1. Title” “Joe Albert’s Fox Hunt.”

0:22Copy video clip URL Sponsors: From WNET New York, New Jersey Committee for the Humanities, Charles E. Culpeper Foundation, New York State Council on the Arts

0:38Copy video clip URL Joe Albert’s Fox Hunt & other stories from the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, by Julie Gustafson and John Reilly with Karen Mooney. Joe, a soft-spoken old white man who wears flannel and a brimmed hat, and his dogs begin their trip into the woods to hunt foxes. Narrator Julie Gustafson explains that he carries no gun and that “the sport is in listening for the sounds of the chase.”

05:25Copy video clip URL Joe reflects on the ways in which the woods have changed and been disappearing as developers build in the wilderness.

06:32Copy video clip URL Mayor West’s Tour: Mayor West gives the filmmakers a tour of the Pine Barrens, asserting their importance for the region and explaining why they need to be saved from wealthy investors trying to build on the land.

10:54Copy video clip URL The filming is interrupted by jets from the nearby air force base making a practice bombing run.

11:38Copy video clip URL West shows a strip-mining operation that has devastated the area. He discusses the need for citizens to act as stewards of the land.

12:49Copy video clip URL Home Rule: A meeting of the Pine Lands Environmental Council, in which members debate the use of Pine Barrens lands.

16:19Copy video clip URL Sounds of the Jersey Pines: The Pine Coners, a musical group devoted to preserving the region’s cultural traditions. The group plays music on guitar, fiddle, and banjo, with Joe on washtub bass and discuss the history of music and culture in the Pine Barrens.

20:12Copy video clip URL The Birches: A cranberry farm that has been in the Birch family for over a century is in danger because of developers’ plans for nearby land that would change the character of their water supply. The Birches show how they harvest their berries while discussing the difficult position they have been put in by the surrounding developments.

25:29Copy video clip URL A Developer: A development executive who wants to continue building houses in the Pines discusses how the newly built houses offer families a quality of life they could not otherwise enjoy, asserting that they try to preserve as much of the vegetation as possible.

29:08Copy video clip URL The Blueberry Picker: Mrs. Johnson and her husband, a middle-aged African couple from Philadelphia, talk about their annual tradition of coming to the Pines to spend two weeks picking blueberries. They do it every year because “it gets into your blood,” she says.

33:43Copy video clip URL Lunchtime at Johnny Broome’s: Several men – mostly elderly and white – eat lunch at a small restaurant and discuss the governor’s bid for re-election, and his promise to curb development in the Pine Barrens.

36:20Copy video clip URL Without Uncle Bill: The PineConers perform at a nighttime concert, although one of their members, “Uncle Bill,” has passed. The band members then reflect on the changes that they’ve witnessed in the Pine Barrens and the fragility of their way of life.

39:50Copy video clip URL Erich and the Batsto River: 11yo Erich Gordon and his family paddle through the water in the Pine Barrens in canoes. 

41:26Copy video clip URL Mayor Hill: Hill, a white man in his 60s, complains about how conservationists are forcing local residents to pay for the recreation of urban inhabitants.

44:36Copy video clip URL The Sierra Club: Members of the environmentalist group receive good news that local legislation will include the “Sierra Club compromise,” asserting that they are working to save the local culture and to help the people who have lived in the Pine Barrens their entire lives.

48:46Copy video clip URL The Pineys: Descendants of the original settlers of the woods discuss their problems with both development with the state’s restrictions on land use and expensive taxes.

52:37Copy video clip URL The State’s Word: A public meeting inviting comments from local residents.

55:55Copy video clip URL Joe Albert Again: Joe reflects on his own future.

57:29Copy video clip URL Joe sings with the PineConers as the credits begin.



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