sweetgrass, by lucien castaing-taylor and ilisa barbash, documents an instance of the long-standing practice of grazing private livestock on public land: the summer pasturing of several herds of sheep in the montana mountains. in 2003, we trailed a sheep band during our poorly planned foray into the bridger-teton wilderness in wyoming's wind river mountains; for ten days, we walked through montane forests filled with crushed saplings and grassy bowls stripped of grass and roiled into mud. public land grazing is perhaps ill-suited to the scale of industrial ranching.
but this is incidental in sweetgrass. for much of the film, the camera is the stable lens into a world of sheep, dogs, and people running, walking, eating, and being frustrated at each other; it achieves the appearance of the true ethnographic eye—invisible to the participants and capturing the range of their daily experience.
remarkable and worthwhile.