Sweetgrass Screen 4 articles

Sweetgrass

2009

Sweetgrass Poster
  • The dominant sound throughout SWEETGRASS is the clanging of the cowbells hung around the sheep’s necks, along with the rush of a nearby stream. Over time it becomes maddening, but it is necessary to enter the shared lifeworld of the cowboys and sheep, to understand the symbiosis that allows them all to partake in a ritualized existence.

  • The beginning fascination with the spectacularly craggy, sculptural topography, shifts invisibly to a deliberate focus on the pure strangeness of a sheep herd's resemblance to other natural patterns, from avalanches and the sliding sands on a dune to the steady train of ants on the move. A beauty consumes the screen; the scientifically observed morphs into art.

  • The inclusion of sync-sound from radio mikes in shots where the subject is a mile or more away from the camera provides an estranging sense of entering into a sheepherder’s stream of consciousness, eavesdropping on semi-verbal monologues to himself, a horse, a sheep. This occasionally jarring and paradoxical relationship between the immensity of the seen world and intimacy of the heard mouth and throat is among the film’s most memorable qualities.

  • Sweetgrass follows a long line of documentary films focused on cultural practices on the decline in a world of global capital and accelerated technological development. But through thoughtful cinematography and sound design, the directors avoid romanticizing the sheepherders and their business, while dutifully presenting the awesomeness of the Montana backcountry and the remarkable spectacle of 3,000 sheep.

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