In the summer of 2003, a group of shepherds took a herd of sheep one final time through the Beartooth Mountains of Montana, in the extreme northwest of the United States. It was a journey ... See full summary »
In the summer of 2003, a group of shepherds took a herd of sheep one final time through the Beartooth Mountains of Montana, in the extreme northwest of the United States. It was a journey of almost 300 kilometers through expansive green valleys, by fields of snow, and across hazardous, narrow ridges - a journey brimming with challenges. The aging shepherds do their very best to keep the hundreds of sheep together; the panoramic high mountains are teeming with hungry wolves and grizzly bears. Written by
International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam
A documentary on the life of Montana sheepherders, "Sweetgrass" looks for all the world as if it had been strung together from a series of "Brokeback Mountain" outtakes. I guess that's inevitable given the subject matter and setting, but this seems almost like a nonfiction version of that movie - minus the movie stars and gay romance, that is (and it's not as beautifully filmed).
What most distinguishes "Sweetgrass" from other documentaries is that there is no voice-over narration to explain or analyze what's going on. And the individuals who appear in the film are every bit as taciturn and tight-lipped as one would expect the people in this particular setting to be. The movie simply chronicles the day-to-day task of raising, herding and shearing sheep without feeling the need to comment on what it's showing us. The drawback is that we never get to know much about the rugged men and women involved in the business, what makes them tick (indeed, they talk to their animals more than they do each other). At some point, however, we do begin to understand the toll all this loneliness, physical exertion and exposure to the elements begins to take on the people who do this job.
The result is an admittedly repetitive and frequently tedious exercise in filmmaking that also casts a strangely hypnotic spell over its audience. Perhaps it's the fact that movies rarely just show us people working at their professions that makes this film compelling in its uniqueness. And the image of hundreds of sheep crowding down the main street of town on their way to pasture is bound to stick with you despite any doubts you might have as to whether they are truly fit subjects for a full-length feature.
1 of 6 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?