Film:  Sweetgrass

Year:  2009

Director/s:  Ilisa Barbash & Lucien Castaing-Taylor

Bonus:  Q & A with Lucien Castaing-Taylor

Venue:  Curzon, Renoir

Other Info:


Sheep 1

Sheep 2

Sheep 3

Sheep 4

(& over 3000 sheep-extras!)

Non-Verbal-ly – All Verney-ly.

Officially out on Friday 22nd April but showing as part of Curzon’s DocDays on this night, and complete with a Q & A with co-director, Lucien.

As always, I’ll try to keep ‘spoiling’ to a minimum but I feel I have slightly more license or reason for doing so a little on this film. The reasons? Well, firstly it’s a documentary with not much to jump off the screen to surprise you [that’s not talking the movie down but simply a fact] and therefore much can be revealed without ruining things too much.

The second reason is simply because the director himself pre-empted us, the audience before the screening itself: Lucien told us that – perhaps thanking us for coming & putting up with it, because – the movie is approximately 2 hours and one of long & therefore slow [well, ‘still’ I guess would be a better description] shots…and is a film of practically non-verbalness.

But, verbally or written I shall take this chance to state that although the dialogue may be thin on the ground – I mean, this is a film about “Sheep” for god’s sake! – when any talking does come our way it is rather amusing.

If there is was one thing I wanted to take away from this movie screening it would be paintings from the many shots of the sheep. It is pretty immense to see so many sheep juxtaposed onto the backgrounds like they are. So different from what we see every day. Around 3,000 sheep in some of these ‘stills’ – stills, you see because these filmed animals are moving in bulk across land and so it can appear that they’re not moving at all. Just think life paintings, still-life pictures and perhaps Constable. If I was perhaps more cultured and knew much of Renoir’s work I could make a witty comment on his work and the name of this venue.

Talking of sheep (because that’s what this film is), although we, throughout our adult life are taught the common sense of not laughing at other peoples’ mannerisms, we definitely make an exception here – well, these are not human. But…their sounds can be human-like, what with the varying baas they give out. You’ll no doubt chuckle, along with the audience if such a sound tickles your funny bone. Listen out specifically for angry-sounding baas at an apt moment or two in this cinematic docu-piece.

(“I’m NOT taking a leak”)

Let’s not forget a little bit of shearing, lambs being born and oven a man taking a ‘piss’ whilst chatting to his pal about a ‘pistol’ (or did he mean ‘pisstol’) …hmmm words can not explain or express…

Well, that’s almost it from me about Sheeping, Shearing and Soothing-Shots.

Facts & Figures from the Fantastic (director) Q & A:

[Although I could have called this section “On The ‘Castaing’ Couch”]

Lucien answered regarding the appeal for the film in the first place. One reason being his astoundment that not only would it takes many weeks to get from one area to the next, but that the last couple of weeks would be needed to scale the final hillside or mountain, call it what you will.

Lucien also explained:

* About the town, town-folk and that he had camera attached to his front during all the time but the folk (and sheep!) would be unsure if he was or was not filming.

*That he occasionally helped out..herding etc

*There was over 200 hours of footage to whittle down and edit to the couple of finished-product hours! This said, it was only really physically possible to look at approximately 120 or 130 hours of footage, out of the 200 or so.

*It was edited / cut by 20 min for USA TV

Other facts:

In the area which this film focuses on, a permit has to be obtained for grazing.

11 inches of rain per year.

The shooting of over 3,000 sheep [not that kind of ‘shooting’!] – Yes, although most of the film has 3,000 sheep in shot at any one time there were approximately 3,500 sheep in total.

In summary, a rather wonderful insight ranching ..Made more interesting by What we read at The End.

The End indeed. It was time to head ‘baa-ck’ home, go to bed and if necessary I was sure to be able to lay there counting sheep.