In the movie Bisbee 17, it’s 2017 in Bisbee, Arizona, an old copper-mining town just miles from the Mexican border. The town’s close-knit community prepares to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Bisbee’s darkest hour: the infamous Bisbee Deportation of 1917, during which 1,200 striking miners were violently taken from their homes, banished to the middle of the desert, and left to die.
Townspeople confront this violent, misunderstood past by staging dramatic recreations of the escalating strike. These dramatized scenes are based on subjective versions of the story and “directed,” in a sense, by residents with conflicting views of the event. Deeply personal segments torn from family history build toward a massive restaging of the deportation itself on the exact day of its 100th anniversary.
Radically combining collaborative documentary, western and musical elements, the film follows several members of the close knit community as they attempt to reckon with their town’s darkest hour. In 1917, nearly two-thousand immigrant miners, on strike for better wages and safer working conditions, were violently rounded up by their armed neighbors, herded onto cattle cars, shipped to the middle of the New Mexican desert and left there to die. This long-buried and largely forgotten event came to be known as the Bisbee Deportation.
Check out images from the movie Bisbee 17: