Bisbee Deportation Documentary Makes Splash at Sundance

Fernando Serrano in "Bisbee '17." | Courtesy of Jarred Alterman/4th Row Films

An Arizona-produced film about an infamous moment in the state's history recently premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah.

Bisbee '17 premiered in the festival's U.S. documentary competition. The film, which was shot in Bisbee and used local actors for re-enactments, details the 1917 Bisbee Deportation — in which some 1,200 striking miners in the Southeastern Arizona town were rounded up, loaded onto trains and shipped to New Mexico.

The film opened to largely positive reviews at Sundance. As the Los Angeles Times wrote in its festival diary:

In less assured hands, "Bisbee '17" might have come across as an overly schematic thought experiment, rather than the coolly riveting, emotionally galvanizing achievement it is: a movie that doesn't just put history on trial, but reminds us that we're never not living it.

And a review from The Hollywood Reporter provides insight into the film's production:

Locals responded to calls for actors, and together they created scenes. Some would be structured and then improvised, others choreographed and sung. It's when the film makes its first seamless, haunting move between real life and performance that it finds its ghostly pulse.

Rolling Stone, meanwhile, named Bisbee '17 one of the 20 best movies and performances from the festival.

There's no word yet on a wider release for Bisbee '17, but you can follow the film on Facebook to see when it might be coming to a theater near you.

To learn about another aspect of Bisbee's history, pick up a copy of the March issue of Arizona Highways, which hits newsstands this week.

 

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