The great surprise [of the 2009 Berlinale] was the feature-length documentary Sweetgrass, by Ilisa Barbash and Lucien Castaing-Taylor, filmmakers better known in the art world and anthropology circles than on the festival circuit. Inspired by video art in their approach to their subject, the last sheepherders in the West, the film bears witness to the daily life of Montanan ranchers, as they hurtle over hundreds of kilometers trailing their bands up into the Absaroka-Beartooth mountains.
Recalling the work of Pierre Perrault and Albert Maysles, the duo thread together mind-boggling images of waves of sheep invading the screen, punctuated with rare, intimate moments spent with the herders… evoking a Far West that is still alive today. With this film, the documentary genre has given us the greatest Western produced in twenty years.
May 26, 2009