Bisbee '17 is an exposť about the dark past of Bisbee, Arizona. On July 12th, 1917, 1,200 miners, most of whom were immigrants, went on strike. They were soon forced into cattle cars and left in the middle of the New Mexico desert to die. Director Robert Greene deserves credit for tackling a human rights issue that's equally heartbreaking, horrifying and enraging, especially when it comes to how the tragedy was covered-up throughout the years. Unfortunately, this documentary suffers from sluggish pacing, lack of profound insight and scope. Even the awkward opening shot, although unconventional in its style, fails to hook the viewer. Are the static shots supposed to be meditative, artsy or both? They don't come across as neither nor do they help to make the film any less lethargic. Greene interviews the Bisbee townspeople and films them participating in re-enactments of the events that transpired on July 12th, 1917. Those re-enactments are the only moments that Bisbee '17 manages to be at least somewhat captivating. How do the deportations of the miners in 1917 relate to the current situation involving Trump's deportation of immigrants? Trump isn't even mentioned once throughout the film, but one can't help but wonder if anything has really changed since 1917. What about interviewing the town's mayor or history scholars? That might've added some much-needed insight and scope. At a running time of 112 minutes, which feels more like 3 hours, Bisbee '17 is a squandered opportunity to shed light on an important human rights issue. It opens Wednesday, September 5th at Film Forum via 4th Row Films.
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