A border town revisits its unsettling past.
“Bisbee 17 is no ordinary documentary,” said Alissa Wilkinson in Vox.com. Set in Bisbee, Ariz., a former mining town just north of Mexico, Robert Greene’s ambitious new film explores a crucial local historical event by having current residents re-enact it. On July 12, 1917, a posse of 2,000 deputized townspeople rounded up 1,300 striking miners at gunpoint, loaded them into cattle cars, and left them in the desert hundreds of miles away. Not every Bisbee resident knew about the deportation before Greene arrived, but many did, and as the re-enactment unfolds, “we can feel something in the town shift.” The arguments that so violently split the community in 1917 “divide it still,” said A.O. Scott in The New York Times. Some Bisbee residents argue that the roundup was necessary to preserve the town’s source of wealth, and neither side can escape the reality that 90 percent of the deportees were immigrants. All of it is past history, but not once the play-acting begins. “Every important thing this movie is about is still alive.” Greene never pushes the contemporary resonances, but they’re there, said Richard Brody in NewYorker.com. “The film is a form of drama therapy for a community that, in crucial ways, reflects the pathologies and the conflicts of the country at large.” ■