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Root & Vine at the Movies: Cowboy and Preacher

“With dominion comes responsibility,” says Tri Robinson, the main subject of the film Cowboy And Preacher. As a pastor, environmentalist, and true cowboy at heart, Robinson makes his home in the wilds of Idaho. With a virtual encyclopedia of knowledge of scripture to justify his beliefs, Mr. Robinson is confidence and conviction personified. He fills nearly every frame of Cowboy And Preacher with these qualities naturally and gracefully.

The film, by musician, writer, and filmmaker Will Fraser, follows the ins, outs, whys, and hows of Tri Robinson’s family, faith, outlook on the world, and devotion to God’s earth. 

Mr. Robinson, handsome and fit, has the essence of a quintessential modern-day cowboy, as he imbues every sentence or glances across the horizon with his straightforward, no-nonsense presence throughout the film.

Part biopic and part infomercial for the burgeoning Christian environmental movement, known as Creation Care, Cowboy And Preacher deepens viewers’ knowledge of a man and his purpose. The film is set against the stunning western vistas with panoramic views and includes a cast of characters made up of Tri’s family and friends. 

The film chronicles personal stories of Tri’s life, from growing up in Idaho, to smuggling bibles into Hong Kong as a grown man. It reveals trials his family has gone through as well. For instance, his granddaughter’s struggle with alopecia as a child is a particularly moving and uplifting story. It was later discovered her disease was brought on by a predominantly processed foods diet and after switching to a gluten-free lifestyle, her hair grew back. The Robinson’s see this instance, and many others, as actionable examples to care for themselves and the world around them.

Other standout moments in the film include a harrowing and heartbreaking moment grounded in the reality of living “with, not off” the land. In the scene, Mr. Robinson stands beside a goat he has killed and prepares to slaughter. He begins to tear up and then to openly cry with gratitude for the animal’s life and sacrifice. In this short scene, the viewer gets a peek of the heart behind the rugged exterior. Another shows Mr. Robinson, speaking of his own slow walk early in his life toward a more intimate relationship with his faith. “They say that there’s orthodoxy, then if its true orthodoxy, it should be ortho-proxy, which is practice,” explained Robsinson, noting his commitment to putting belief into action.

Filmmaker Will Fraser cuts to his own spiritual journey about midway through the film, an unforgettably beautiful little scene of him playing the pipe organ at his home church is a highlight. The viewer comes to fully understand in this fleeting moment that this film, as much as it is a story of a cowboy and his convictions, it’s also a story about an artist using his work to come to a closer understanding of his own faith and what that means to him as a Christian.

Cowboy And Preacher is more than a character study of a man, it is a personal journey documenting the connection of faith and the earth. This film is filled with inspiration, passion, and purpose – it’s a feel-good story about the kind of change one person can affect with just the sweat of their brow and the love in their heart

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