History repeats itself in this lyrical, emotionally resonant doco on the centenary of the Bisbee Deportation, in which thousands of immigrant miners were transported into the New Mexico desert and left to fend for themselves.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2018
In 1917 Arizona, nearly 2,000 miners belonging to the Industrial Workers of the World, a radical labour union supporting immigrants and minorities, organised a peaceful strike, only to be violently removed by mobs from their homes and exiled to the middle of the barren New Mexico desert. Filmmaker Robert Greene, an expert at exploring the spaces between reality, recreation and performance, heads to the small ex-mining border town of Bisbee for his latest documentary, a fascinating contemporary excavation of a painful past.
Although now part of the town’s tourist trade, the infamous Bisbee Deportation remains largely unaddressed. Greene’s investigation sensitively probes the personal stories of townsfolk, many of whom are related to either the deportees or mining corporates, and then dives deeper by restaging the whole incident with a cast made up of present-day residents. It’s a wilfully contrived yet cathartic re-enactment that, in recalling the method of confrontation in The Act of Killing, offers healing and closure for the community, but also a powerful, lasting double image: of active racial and political fault lines, then and most especially now. — Tim Wong
“The film is a large-scale study of political psychology, an expedition of historical archaeology, and a form of drama therapy for a community that, in crucial ways, reflects the pathologies and the conflicts of the country at large. With microcosms of microcosms and reflections of reflections, Greene offers a passionately ambitious, patiently empathetic mapping of modern times.” — Richard Brody, New Yorker