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BISBEE '17

Synopsis

BISBEE ’17 is a nonfiction feature film by Sundance award winning director Robert Greene set in Bisbee, Arizona, an eccentric old mining town just miles away from both Tombstone and the Mexican border. 

Radically combining documentary and genre elements, the film follows several members of the close knit community as they collaborate with the filmmakers to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Bisbee Deportation, where 1200 immigrant miners were violently taken from their homes by a deputized force, shipped to the desert on cattle cars and left to die.

When the last copper mines closed in 1975, the once-booming Bisbee nearly became another Arizona ghost town, but was saved by the arrival of a generation of hippies, artists and eccentrics that give the place its strange vibe today. Bisbee is considered a tiny “blue” dot in the “red” sea of Republican Arizona, but divisions between the lefties in town and the old mining families remain. Bisbee was once known as a White Man’s Camp, and that racist past lingers in the air.

As we meet the townspeople, they begin to confront the violent past of the Deportation, a long-buried secret in the old company town. As the 100th anniversary of Bisbee’s darkest day approaches, locals dress as characters on both sides of the still-polarizing event, staging dramatic recreations of scenes from the escalating miner’s strike that lead to the Deportation. Spaces in town double as past and present; reenactors become ghosts in the haunted streets of the old copper camp.

Richard plays the sheriff in a Western, Fernando portrays a Mexican miner in a Musical, a local politician is in her own telenovela. These and other enacted fantasies mingle with very real reckonings and it all builds towards a massive restaging of the Deportation itself on the exact day of its centennial anniversary.

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The Filmmakers

Robert Greene Director

Robert Greene is a filmmaker and writer. His latest film, Kate Plays Christine (2016) won a Jury Award for Writing at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. Robert’s previous documentaries include the Gotham Awards-nominated Actress (2014), Fake It So Real (2011) and the Gotham Awards-nominated Kati With An I (2010). Robert was among four filmmakers chosen as an inaugural Sundance Art of Nonfiction fellow in 2015. He’s a two-time nominee for Best Director at the Cinema Eye Honors. Robert has edited over a dozen features, including Golden Exits (2017), Queen of Earth (2015) and Listen Up Philip (2014) by Alex Ross Perry, Amanda Rose Wilder’s award winning Approaching the Elephant (2014) Charles Poekel’s Spirit Awards nominated Christmas, Again (2015) and Douglas Tirola’s Hey Bartender (2013). He was post-production supervisor for 4th Row Films from 2002-2012. Robert writes for Sight & Sound and other outlets and is currently the Filmmaker-in-Chief at the Murray Center for Documentary Journalism at the University of Missouri.

Susan Bedusa Producer

Susan Bedusa is a documentary film producer and Senior Vice President of Production & Development at 4th Row Films where she works with filmmakers from development through distribution. Her 11 feature docs have all premiered at the world’s most prestigious festivals including Sundance, Tribeca, Berlin, Edinburgh and SXSW. Her work has played in theaters nationwide and has been acquired by premiere networks including HBO, Showtime, A&E, MTV and Netflix. Susan’s most recent films include last year’s Sundance winner Kate Plays Christine, and A&E Indiefilm’s Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon, which premiered at Sundance and was acquired by Magnolia Pictures, Showtime Networks, and Netflix.

Douglas Tirola Producer

Douglas Tirola is an award-winning producer. He has produced 11 documentary films that have premiered at the world's most important film festivals including Sundance, Berlin, Tribeca, Hot Docs and SXSW before going on to be theatrically released. He has produced all of Robert Greene's films including the Sundance award-winning KATE PLAYS CHRISTINE. He is also the producer of the award winning MAKING THE BOYS. As a director his films include DRUNK STONED BRILLIANT DEAD - The Story of the National Lampoon which premiered at Sundance and was released by Magnolia Pictures, the James Beard nominated HEY BARTENDER which premiered on Netflix, ALL IN: THE POKER MOVIE which premiered on Showtime and his first documentary AN OMAR BROADWAY (HBO Documentary Films) which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival - Robert Greene was the editor and one of the producers of this film. Most recently, his documentary DRUNK STONED BRILLIANT DEAD was optioned by AETV Studios to be adapted into a scripted TV series, Douglas will serve as Executive Producer. Douglas has worked as a screenwriter for studios including Paramount, Fox and Sony. He began his career working in film production in New York City on films by directors Woody Allen, Robert Benton, Mike Nichols and Steve Zaillian. His first job was as a PA on "When Harry Met Sally."

Bennett Elliott Producer

Bennett Elliott is an Emmy-award winning producer based in New York. She was the co-producer of Robert Greene’s award-winning Sundance documentary KATE PLAYS CHRISTINE (2016). The short film that Bennett produced, FLY ON OUT,screened in Selection at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. Bennett has produced digital content for brands including Vogue, American Express, Tommy Hilfiger, Audi, and her credits as a production coordinator in television include multiple series for Bravo, MTV, and Food Network. She was previously the Head of Production at Mustache, a Brooklyn-based creative agency, as well as the co-founder and Producer with the production collective House of Nod.

Updates

BISBEE '17 to air on POV on July 15th, 2019

3/13/19

Learn more about POV's 32nd season here.

A.O. Scott names BISBEE ’17 his shared choice for #1 film of the year

12/5/19

Scott calls BISBEE '17, MONROVIA, INDIANA, HALE COUNTY THIS MORNING, THIS EVENING, and MINDING THE GAP "lyrical, visionary documentaries" that "add up to an indelible composite portrait of America right now."

Congratulations to the BISBEE '17 team and all of the filmmakers on this incredible recognition!

See the full list of films here.

BISBEE '17 is coming to theaters! Starting Sept. 5th

9/4/18

BISBEE '17 premieres in NYC at the Film Forum on Wednesday, September 5th, and will expand to theaters in 35+ cities in the next few weeks. The full list of dates and cities can be found here

For more information on the NYC premiere, click here. Director Robert Greene will be doing Q&A's during opening week at the Film Forum:

9/5 @ 7:00PM w/ Bilge Ebiri 

9/6 @ 7:00PM w/ Yance Ford 

9/7 @ 7:00PM w/ the Vera Institute of Justice 

9/8 @ 3:45PM w/ Labor Notes 

9/9 @ 1:00PM intro for a special SVA Screening (Q&A to follow with Greene & producer Bennett Elliott)

Visit the BISBEE '17 Official Site for more information. 

THE LATEST FROM @Bisbee17Film ON TWITTER

RT @POVdocs: #LastCall: Locals stage a re-creation of their town's dark and controversial past in @Bisbee17Film. Watch #Bisbee17PBS, NOW ST…

Retweeted from @POV on PBS

August 12, 2019

RT @Hatch_2116: @Bisbee17Film Such a compelling story that cuts to the heart of who we are, and challenges us to consider who we should be.

Retweeted from @John Hatch

August 4, 2019

RT @POVdocs: A small town’s sordid past comes alive in @Bisbee17Film. NOW STREAMING on @POVdocs: #Bisbee17PBS https://t.co/j1LRzC7Gof

Retweeted from @POV on PBS

August 1, 2019

Follow @Bisbee17Film

Festivals & Awards

Sundance Film Festival

2018

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 toward 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.

+ Festival Website

Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival

2018

This Sundance 2018 favourite chronicles the quirky town of Bisbee, Arizona, just down the road from Tombstone and the Mexican border. Once home to one of the largest copper mines in America, it was relegated to near ghost town status with the inevitable mine closing in the 1970s. Today celebrated as a community of harmless eccentrics, Bisbee was the site of a notorious and brutal tragedy in 1917, when 1,200 striking mine workers were violently rounded up from their homes and streets. Targeted for their pro-union sympathies, the mostly immigrant workers were forced at gunpoint onto cattle cars and deposited in the middle of the New Mexican desert to die. Award-winning filmmaker Robert Greene pushes the boundaries of traditional non-fiction storytelling as he and the townsfolk recreate and dramatize the infamous events of 1917. Their often hilarious efforts attempt to better understand this mostly whitewashed event and the role it played in shaping the consciousness of their past and present. 

- Chris McDonald

+ Festival Website

BAMcinemaFest 2018

2018

A town’s traumatic past reverberates into the present in this stirring, complex look at American struggle and resistance. In 1917, the copper mining workers of Bisbee, Arizona—many of them immigrants—went on strike to fight for safer working conditions. In response, a posse of 2,000 men rounded up 1,200 strikers, dumped them in the desert, and effectively exiled them from the town forever. One hundred years later, Bisbee’s residents prepare to reenact this dark episode—a sort of historical exorcism that brings to light contemporary tensions between labor and management, union-building and capitalism, immigrants and nationalists. Directed with rousing cinematic flair by Robert Greene (Kate Plays Christine, BAMcinemaFest 2016), Bisbee ’17 resurrects a neglected slice of American history and connects it to our own urgent political moment.

+ Festival Website

Reviews

[A] profoundly haunted and haunting film. What we are witnessing is not the commemoration of a past disaster but its reanimation. Every important thing this movie is about is still alive.”

-A.O. Scott, The New York Times

A haunting, surreal meditation on collective memory, social injustice and that notion about us being done with the past…but the past not being done with us.”

-David Fear, Rolling Stone

Sterling...An investigation into memory, intolerance, corporate-labor conflicts and race relations that’s as audacious as it is timely—and further confirms that director Robert Greene is one of America’s finest new voices in nonfiction.”

-Nick Schager, Variety

A fascinating exercise in nonfiction filmmaking as a performative, interdisciplinary, collective act, as well as a provocative inquiry into how selective memory, ideology, shame and unspeakable trauma shape what we come to accept as official history”

-Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post