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March 5

Sweetgrass by Ilisa Barbash and Lucien Castaing-Taylor

Filmmakers Ilisa Barbash and Lucien Castaing-Taylor in Person
Special Event Tickets $12
Free for Harvard ID holders, HFA Members and Peabody Museum Members

Friday March 5 at 7pm


By Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Ilisa Barbash.
US/France/UK 2009, 35mm, color, 101 min.

Celebrated since its Berlin and New York film festival premieres, Sweetgrass offers both a sweeping panorama and intimate portrait of the vanishing way of life of Montana’s possibly last generation of sheep herders. Sensitively documenting the efforts of a small group of herders to drive their sheep into Montana’s Beartooth Mountains for summer pasture, Sweetgrass reveals a breathtakingly epic study of man in nature that is shaded by a mournful eulogy for the vanishing frontier that recalls the revisionist Westerns of the 1970s. Barbash and Castaing-Taylor make their points visually, beginning with the sheep and only gradually coming to focus on the herders themselves, and using an evocative sound design that doesn’t necessarily foreground speech over the sound of wind and bleating sheep. Indeed, the spoken word comes later, reaching its apotheosis during a tearful cell phone call from a herder in a remote meadow. Sweetgrass is equally successful as an observational documentary as a landscape film, with the filmmakers’ background in visual anthropology clearly evident in their skillful rendering of the herders’ life and labor. Carefully avoiding any romanticization of the pastoral, Sweetgrass is instead an unsentimental witness to the changing nature of man’s relationship to the environment. Barbash and Castaing-Taylor’s many hours of incredible footage – filmed across several years since 2001 – previously appeared in several shorter works, including a video installation.

This program is presented in conjunction with the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, The Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study and The Department of Anthropology. The screening will be followed by a reception.

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