‘Bisbee ‘17’ uses unique tools to entertain audiences

Robert Greene portrays the effect of one event on the small town of Bisbee, Arizona.

“Bisbee ‘17,” created by filmmaker-in-chief of the Murray Center Robert Greene, premiered at Ragtag Cinema on Oct. 19. The 2017 documentary focuses on the small town of Bisbee, Arizona, and how the violent deportation of over a thousand miners in 1917 is still affecting citizens a century later. Throughout the movie, the audience watches as community members first discuss the deportation and then organize a reenactment in honor of its 100-year anniversary.

One aspect of “Bisbee ‘17” that Greene mastered was portraying a contrast between attitudes and events of the current day and 1917. In the final scenes of the movie, as the reenactment is taking place, the miners are being loaded onto constructed railcars for their staged deportation out of Bisbee. A man playing one of the deputies makes a comment about how the values of 1917 allowed for an event like this to happen, and how it would not happen with values of America today.

This is an interesting comment to consider when looking at the political climate of today’s society, especially in regards to immigration and deportations occurring across the U.S. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement reported 61,094 removals from Jan. 20 to Sept. 30 in 2017. When looking at these statistics, it can be seen that events like 1917 Bisbee deportation still occur, just with more resistance and political backlash.

Not only does “Bisbee ‘17” challenge audiences to think on the similarities between 1917 and 2017, but it combines elements of several genres to create a unique experience. Along with the typical aspects of a documentary, Greene utilizes musical and Western elements in the recreation of the Bisbee deportation. Citizens acting as the miners often sing old union songs, giving authenticity to the reenactment. The costumes of the actors builds on this, all the while giving the scenes of reenactment a western feel.

Perhaps the most impactful aspect of “Bisbee ‘17” is the metaphor created by citizens of the present repeating the actions of those of the past. They are both physically and metaphorically the past of Bisbee—the deportation is a part of them, and has affected their lives in many ways.

The film was also unexpectedly funny at certain points. Many sequences were edited in such a way that would portray the irony of one shot when paired with another. In other instances, singular shots were simply entertaining to watch, such as one in which the audience watches as a turtle slowly crawls across the floor of a store towards an unbothered man.

“Bisbee ‘17” has already begun to receive a large amount of positive praise, as well as a nomination for the 2018 Gotham Independent Film Awards. It is in the running for “Best Documentary” and has the chance of winning an audience award. In the documentary category, it’s up against “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” and “Minding the Gap.” The quality of the film leaves no doubt that it has a great chance of winning one, if not both, of the awards.

Documentary fans of all types should take the time to watch “Bisbee ‘17” if they are looking for a unique experience. Greene expertly brings in new elements to the documentary genre that will without a doubt impress audiences.

Edited by Siena DeBolt | sdebolt@themaneater.com

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