Fieldwork: Three Documentaries from Harvard’s Sensory Ethnography Lab
- USA/France/Great Britain2009
- Ilisa Barbash, Lucien Castaing-Taylor
- Sensory Ethnography Lab
“Monumental … An anthropological work of art.”Robert Koehler, Cinema Scope
The film that heralded the Sensory Ethnography Lab at Harvard as an incubator of rarified and aesthetically immersive documentaries, Sweetgrass offers a spare, stoic look at a vanishing way of life in the American West. Created over eight years by the husband-wife team of Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Ilisa Barbash, this beguiling documentary chronicles the arduous journey of the last American sheepherders to migrate their flock into Montana’s rugged Absaroka-Beartooth mountains for summer pasture. In carefully composed, unhurried takes, we witness the captivating merger of landscape and labour, man and nature, as the shepherds struggle to steer their convoy of some 3,000 noisy sheep through the wilds, and countless miles, of Big Sky Country. It contains no narration, interviews, or score, yielding its mesmerizing power from unadorned observation and an almost haptic sense of embedded thereness. Wowing critics in 2009 with its visual grandeur and spellbinding minimalism, it returns in a brand-new restoration to mark its (belated) tenth birthday.
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“A one-of-a-kind experience … At once epic-scale and earthbound.”Ronnie Scheib, Variety
“A really intimate, beautifully shot examination of the connection between man and beast.”Manohla Dargis, New York Times
In response to the new provincial health orders, The Cinematheque has closed the theatre and cancelled in-person screenings from November 23 through December 7. We are pleased to be able to present a virtual screening of Sweetgrass at this time, and look forward to rescheduling the other films in this series at a later date.