DOKUFEST: SELECTOR’S SELECTIONS DAY 2
As well as our daily insider tips appearing on the website to guide you through DokuFest’s extensive program, festival director Nita Deda has picked out a selection of highlights. Today it’s Bisbee ’17 which is screened tonight at 18:00 at Shtëpia E Kulturës.
In Robert Greene’s fifth feature he once more flexes his austere blend of non-fiction and performativity, this time pulling chilly focus on a little-known and frankly heinous moment in American history.
In 1917 a thriving mining town on the Arizona-Mexico border, Bisbee, responded to an organised labour strike against the leading mine company by deputising a two-thousand strong civilian throng and having them forcibly transport over thirteen-hundred strikers and their sympathisers into the desert, then left for dead.
Bisbee ’17 takes on the town and its history with a full century’s hindsight. Now prey to economic deprivation and an apparently changed world. It is only after the mine’s closure that the matter of ‘The Bisbee Deportation’ has seeped back up into the consciousness of the town, and Greene has the townsfolk remember this event via re-enactment. It is through this en masse psychological LARPing, that the attitudes of the revolving cast — some of whom directly descend from the original agents on both sides of the deportation — are disclosed, and the resonances to the present are made plain with a pitch-dark humour.
Greene’s dramatisation has a decidedly Western aesthetic. Likewise does the documentary smoothly lacerate in and out of it’s own production, existing as both the blockbuster historical drama and its making-of living on top of each other in close quarters. These concerns with the cinematic make for a broader meditation on American-ness; on its historic and cultural construction, its past, and its present. The centenary of this horrific act is Greene’s entry point to view the wounds of a place under the duress of conflict (then the First World War effort), rising threat to the working classes, and the very real danger of expulsion (for a majority Latino workforce) at the hands of authority and a newly empowered mob.
It is an uneasy two hours, but strongly lyrical and hard to shake.