S E A R C H D V D B e a v e r
Ilisa Barbash and Lucien Castaing-Taylor
An unsentimental elegy to the American West, Sweetgrass follows the last modern-day cowboys to lead their flocks of sheep up into Montana's breathtaking and often dangerous Absaroka-Beartooth mountains for summer pasture. This astonishingly beautiful film reveals a world in which nature and culture, animals and humans, and vulnerability and violence are all intimately meshed.
"Sweetgrass" is an unexpectedly intoxicating
documentary, unexpected because it blends high artistic standards with the
grueling reality of one of the toughest, most exhausting of work environments.
Theatrical Release: February 4th, 2009 - Berlin International Film Festival
DVD Review: Cinema Guild - Region 1 - NTSC
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|Distribution||Cinema Guild - Region 1 - NTSC|
Average Bitrate: 5.56 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s
NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.
|Audio||English (Dolby Digital 2.0), English (Dolby Digital 5.1)|
commentary by filmmakers Ilisa Barbash and Lucien Castaing-Taylor
I really enjoyed Sweetgrass - especially with the included commentary that clarified multiple points on what was actually transpiring onscreen - it was like a second, educational, film. The bulk of the documentary is essential devoid of dialogue but this promotes the bonding with nature for the viewer that is ongoing throughout the arduous trek. One must think of the two cowboys in Brokeback Mountain who, essentially, had the exact same job portrayed in Sweetgrass - taking a heard of sheep to pasture in the mountains over the arid summer. Simply put one 'herder' is the cook and the other protects the flock. It is quite a beautiful and unsentimental exploration of this highly unusual occupation.
The Cinema Guild DVD is dual-layered and progressive - and it looks glossy in spots as I believe some of it was shot with digital. The Montana mountain ranges and open sky vistas are breathtaking and look good but never stupendous on the SD-DVD transfer. This would, no doubt, have been more impacting on Blu-ray with the cinematography elevating to a more immersive presentation. On a standard system this will look occasional impressive but won't blow your socks off visually. Colors, contrast and there is some depth too - are all very sound. For this medium it looks as good as it can.
Audio gives two options - stereo and 5.1 surround. The latter actually does produce some surprising range with animal noises (sheep bleating and predators scurrying away from rifle fire). There are no subtitles but while they aren't necessary (due to the lack of dialogue) there were spots where we can only hear faint conversation - this was probably an intentional verite effect but had me curious as to what I might be missing.
Extras include the aforementioned commentary by filmmakers Ilisa Barbash and Lucien Castaing-Taylor (husband and wife is how they introduce themselves - *I think*). He sees the film in a very poetic sense and this was very refreshing as he also was the expert on the technical proceedings of what was happening in Sweetgrass - regarding most of the why's and wherefores of the rancher-hand existence. I was very keen on the extensive amount that animals were part of this documentary - beyond the sheep, there were pack-mules to carry supplies, horses for transportation, varying dog types for herding and protection - then potential predators - bears, Timber wolves, coyotes or ferocious wolverines. This was quite fascinating. There are also ten additional scenes from topics of 'docking lambs' to 'weighing in and trucking out'. Some of these are quite long (over 15-minutes) but don't carry the same relevance as the overall impact of the entire film experience. There is also a fan photo gallery, theatrical trailer and an 8-page liner notes booklet featuring essay by film critic Robert Koehler.
Great stuff - I've been VERY fortunate lately with two excellent documentaries in the past few days - The Art of the Steal and Sweetgrass. Both are highly recommended - although this one may be less accessible to viewers who are anticipating something more explanatory - this is where the included commentary will support excellent value. I absolutely recommend.