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. The camera records and the images speak for themselves; there are no talking heads, voice-over, or music in Sweetgrass. The start of the journey has a surreal quality, as the sheep are driven at high speed through a sleeping Western town. Later, the camera stands in the middle of the herd, or atop a towering mountain. The bleating of sheep is heard in the background, along with the cries of the men, who are struggling to retain control of the herd. This evocative road movie maintains an appropriate distance from an isolated community that is teetering on the brink of disappearance, a distance that allows it to penetrate all the more.
Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Ilisa Barbash
Lucien Castaing-Taylor for The Film Study Center at Harvard University, Ilisa Barbash for The Film Study Center at Harvard University
Ilisa Barbash, Lucien Castaing-Taylor