2018 Sundance Docs in Focus: BISBEE ’17

Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Jarred Alterman/4th Row Films

Robert Greene confronts a dark episode in a small border town’s history, 100 years later.

Festival Section:
US Documentary Competition

Sundance Program Description:

It’s 2017 in Bisbee, Arizona, an old copper mining town just miles from the Mexican border. The town’s close-knit community prepares to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Bisbee’s darkest hour: the infamous Bisbee Deportation of 1917, during which 1,200 striking miners were violently taken from their homes, banished to the middle of the desert, and left to die.

Townspeople confront this violent, misunderstood past by staging dramatic recreations of the escalating strike. These dramatized scenes are based on subjective versions of the story and “directed,” in a sense, by residents with conflicting views of the event. Deeply personal segments torn from family history build towards a massive restaging of the deportation itself on the exact day of its 100th anniversary.

Filmmaker Robert Greene confronts the current political predicaments of immigration, unionization, environmental damage, and corporate corruption with direct, haunting messages about solidarity and struggle. With consummate skill and his signature penchant for bending the boundaries of documentary, Greene artfully stirs up the ghosts of our past as a cautionary tale that speaks to our present.

Some Background:

  • Robert Greene
    Past Sundance docs:

    KATE PLAYS CHRISTINE (2016, US Documentary Special Jury Award for Writing)

    Greene received support from the Sundance Documentary Film Program for this, his second feature at Sundance. He was also an Art of Nonfiction Fellow (2016), and has extensive credits as an editor, including Sundance narratives GOLDEN EXITS (2017), LISTEN UP PHILIP (2014), and CHRISTMAS, AGAIN (2014). Greene is the filmmaker-in-chief at the Murray Center for Documentary Journalism at the University of Missouri.


  • 4th Row Films’ Douglas Tirola and Susan Bedusa
    Past Sundance docs:

    DRUNK STONED BRILLIANT DEAD: THE STORY OF THE NATIONAL LAMPOON (2015, Tirola as director/producer, Bedusa as producer)

    Tirola was also an executive producer of fiction alum KILLING TIME (2002). Both have worked with Greene on all of his previous features.

  • Bennett Elliott
    KATE PLAYS CHRISTINE (co-producer)

    The Emmy-winning Elliott was a Sundance Institute Creative Producing Fellow for this project.

Executive Producers:

  • Impact Partners’ Dan Cogan, Geralyn White Dreyfous, and Jenny Raskin
    Combined past recent Sundance docs:

    BENDING THE ARC (2017)
    DINA (2017)
    ICARUS (2017)
    STEP (2017)
    TROPHY (2017)
    UNREST (2017)
    AUDRIE & DAISY (2016)
    NUTS! (2016)

    Impact Films’ Co-Founder/Executive Director Cogan is also an executive producer of several fellow 2018 Sundance titles: World Cinema Documentary Competition titles OF FATHERS AND SONS and OUR NEW PRESIDENT, Documentary Premieres title WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR, US Dramatic Competition title THE TALE, and Premieres title THE LONG DUMB ROAD, as well as co-executive producer of US Dramatic Competition title NANCY.

    Co-Founder of both Impact Partners and Gamechanger Films, Dreyfous also executive produced 2018 Next documentary 306 HOLLYWOOD and Documentary Premieres title GENERATION WEALTH, as well as WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?, OF FATHERS AND SONS, THE TALE, and THE LONG DUMB ROAD, and co-executive produced NANCY.

    Impact VP Raskin also executive produced OF FATHERS AND SONS and OUR NEW PRESIDENT, and co-executive produced WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR.

  • Regina Scully
    Past recent Sundance docs:

    DOLORES (2017)
    NEWTOWN (2016)
    RESILIENCE (2016)
    UNDER THE GUN (2016)

    The Artemis Rising Foundation philanthropist is also an executive producer for GENERATION WEALTH, WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR, and 306 HOLLYWOOD, and a producer for THE TALE.

Assistant Editor:

  • Kellan Marvin

    This marks Marvin’s first Sundance project. She previously produced, shot, and assistant edited the Field of Vision short CONCERNED STUDENT 1950.

Why You Should Watch:
Greene continues his thoughtful interrogation of the nonfiction form, this time via extensive re-enactments and his actors’ contemplative reactions to their roles. The result is a provocative confrontation with contested history crossed with a town-wide group therapy session – at once both specific to Bisbee and disturbingly universal in our increasingly xenophobic present.

More Info:

For Sundance screening dates and times, click the film title in the first paragraph.

1 Comment

Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Sundance

One response to “2018 Sundance Docs in Focus: BISBEE ’17

  1. Daniel Carl Mecklenburg

    There’s another good history written by a Bisbee local.

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