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New Zealand International Film Festival

July to November NZ wide | TVNZ

Sweet Grass: Film Festival


USA 2009, 101m
Directors: Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Ilisa Barbash
Festivals: Berlin, New York, Vancouver, Amsterdam Documentary 2009

Shot over three seasons by Harvard anthropologists Ilisa Barbash and Lucien Castaing-Taylor, this film captures a team of 21st-century cowboys, the last in a long and often romanticised American tradition, as they make their annual journey, herding thousands of sheep across Montana's Absaroka-Beartooth Mountains, to summer on the high grasslands of the national park.

Closely attentive to the skill, harshness and relentlessness of shepherding, the film is more rewardingly fascinated by sheep than most New Zealanders would consider possible. It also contains moments of bravura filmmaking: its depiction of a miserable cowboy on his cellphone complaining bitterly to his mother about lousy weather, ornery sheep and exhausted horses is as vital an addition to the western genre as John Wayne's slouch in The Searchers. - BG.

"A really intimate, beautifully shot examination of the connection between man and beast." - Manohla Dargis, NY Times