Director-Ilisa Barbash, Lucien Castaing-Taylor

Scott’s Review #502


Reviewed October 28, 2016

Grade: F

While generally I am an advocate and champion of the film documentary- I always love to learn something new- Sweetgrass had a strange effect on me- simply put-I despised the film. Even if the subject matter is such that it does not particularly interest me, it will usually garner at least some recognition and praise for what it is.

Sweetgrass is a documentary about a group of sheepherders from Montana transporting their herd to another location- it was unclear to me why the sheep were being transported or where to, but I assume rather close by. The documentary contains no narrative and little dialogue except one of the sheepherders ranting and raving about how tough it is to be a sheepherder, all the while smoking incessantly.

Most of the time is spent literally watching sheep and sheep and sheep and sheep- and still more sheep wandering about and drifting down a mountain range.  Then we see still more sheep moving about. As my mind began to wander, I began to wonder if the sheep were a metaphor of some kind. Then some dogs and horses were thrown in for good measure.

The location scenes are nothing special and after a brief five minutes of appreciation of the gorgeous landscape I was over it.

At 1 hour and 45 minutes in length- way too long for a documentary that moves along at a snail’s pace- it is about an hour too long for my tastes.

After pondering the film, my only determination is that the film makers were hoping to give the viewers a real-life slice of what it is like to be a sheep herder- snore! I would have much rather experienced interviews and commentary with some merit on the subject.

Worse than the redundancy of the pacing, the constant mistreatment of some of the sheep is inexcusable and really has no bearing on the topic at hand- which I confess to being unsure what the point of the documentary even was- other than as a cure for insomnia. Sweetgrass is a complete waste of time.

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