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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sweetgrass - Low Key Cowboy Sheep Herding Documentary

Sweetgrass is documentary about a family run sheep farm taking their herd high up into the Montana mountain plains for one last time to graze.  Have you ever seen "Brokeback Moutain" ?  It is that kind of cowboy film only there isn't one ounce of homosexuality and Sweetgrass is a completely non-dramatized, true, documentary.

Sweetgrass doesn't sound like much fun to watch but this film is captivating.  It is the truest blue collar, workingman's film I've ever seen. There is no embellishment either. You won't see any contrived labor scenes with molten metal pouring in the background and some shirtless muscle bound man pounding some red hot piece of Iron for no apparent reason.  Sweetgrass reveals the dirty, tedious life of a sheep farmer in a very unfiltered manner.  These farmers / cowboys spend their days out in the cold, working with wool spattered, rusty equipment, among hundreds (thousands?) of constantly bleating sheep. They feed them, help them give birth, sheer them, and sheppard them between the elements outside then back into the rustic (dilapidated?) confines of the barns.

What makes Sweetgrass so original is that there is no narration, no interviews, and no voice overs.  The viewer completely relies on the camera lens and his or her own ability to deduce what is going on.   The folks on this farm, though they seem happy together, don't have much to say. It seems words are to be used only when necessary.  This film evolves over a slow, take its own time way and I didn't mind at all.

The crescendo of the film is when they take the entire flock up into the mountains where the cowboys must tend to the sheep while they graze, keep the flocks together and protect them from bears and wolverines.  The conditions are harsh and backbreaking to Cowboy, their dogs and horses alike.

This is a terrific film to watch. If I had just one complaint, I do wish a bit more was explained in the film like, why do they take them way up into the dangerous, hardscrabble mountains?  The farm, I think any viewer would agree, seemed to feed the sheep just fine.  Also, how does this farm makes its money? It is from the wool they shear, which doesn't seem that much for all the effort?

Still, it is a great flick that any documentary buff will enjoy.  The scenery is some of the most beautiful I have ever seen and the life of a cowboy has never been seen in such an unfiltered way.

Check it out.

If you want to check out the movie image of Sweetgrass or check out the DVD, click the link below


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