2015 Sundance Docs in Focus: WESTERN

westernThe penultimate film in the US Documentary Competition brings today’s profiles to an end: Bill Ross and Turner Ross’ WESTERN, in which towns on both sides of the Rio Grande face the threat of drug cartels.

Sundance Program Description:

In his classic novel A TALE OF TWO CITIES, Charles Dickens famously wrote “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” That line sums up the story of WESTERN, the latest film from Bill and Turner Ross, a documentary destined to become a classic itself. Eagle Pass, Texas, and Piedras Negras, Mexico, two towns on opposite sides of the border, have shared a harmonious history until the specter of cartel violence threatens to divide them.

In Eagle Pass we meet Martin Wall, a fifth-generation cattleman, and Chad Foster, the longtime mayor. Defined by self-determination with livelihoods as old as the desert around them, both cowboy and lawman are stripped of life as they know it by forces beyond their control.

With their ravishing signature verité, brimming with metaphor, the Ross brothers have crafted a contemporary story of idyllic harmony suddenly shattered, of darkness on the edge of town. Aptly titled, WESTERN is both a modern take on a classic cinematic tradition and a timely examination of life on the American frontier today – all the more potent because it is true.

Some Background:
This project is the fourth documentary feature by the Ross Brothers; their first, 45365, debuted at SXSW, where it claimed the Best Documentary Award, while the following films, TCHOUPITOULAS and RIVER, received nods from Hot Docs, CPH:DOX, and several other events. Joining them as producer is Court 13’s Michael Gottwald, a Sundance alum with PING PONG SUMMER (2014), and the US Dramatic Grand Jury Award-winning and later Oscar-nominated BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD (2012). Gottwald’s Court 13 partners Dan Janvey and Josh Penn serve as executive producers together with Bill King, Libby Thompson, and Catapult Films’ Lisa Kleiner Chanoff (an executive producer for past Sundance winners WATCHERS OF THE SKY (2014) and FRUITVALE STATION (2013)).

Why You Should Watch:
The Ross Brothers’ work has consistently been infused with a distinct sense of place, and that continues in this beautifully observed, well-constructed portrait of unanticipated violence that threatens to besiege sister border towns, precipitating suspicion and fear where friendship and openness once prevailed. With a patient, unforced pace that melds perfectly with its setting, the film profiles its stalwart, iconic heroes as they come up against a modern-day menace that is all the more sinister because it remains just out of sight.

More Info:
For more information, visit the Ross Brothers’ Facebook page or website. For their thoughts on the film, watch their Sundance Meet the Artists profile and check out their Indiewire filmmaker interview. For screening dates and times at Sundance, click the link in the first paragraph.

To experience the festival through the eyes of this year’s filmmakers, follow my Sundance filmmaker class of 2015 Twitter list.


Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

2 responses to “2015 Sundance Docs in Focus: WESTERN

  1. Norma

    Where cam I buy a DVD of “Western”, a documentary film by Bill and Turner Ross

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