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Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Dave Huhn is a sheriff's deputy for Montezuma County, Colo., a stretch of sagebrush mesas and sandstone cliffs bordering Utah, Arizona and New Mexico, home to Mesa Verde National Park, where ancestral Puebloans' cliff dwellings still stand.

Huhn specializes in the complex world of water law. His job has become more important in this region after a series of hot, dry summers have made farmers more desperate for water, and more willing to steal it, or go to battle over it.

"You're bouncing off the atmosphere."

Early in director Damien Chazelle's First Man, this is one of the cautions given to Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) during his pilot training, years before he walked on the moon. That idea of the barrier between Earth and space, the violence of making the journey through it and the almost mystical experience of being on the other side of it forms the spine of the film.

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