DocHouse: Open City: Sweetgrass

DocHouse: Open City: Sweetgrass

Join writer Joanna Pocock for a screening Sweetgrass, followed by a discussion of her new book, Surrender, a narrative nonfiction work on the changing landscape of the West, inspired by a two-year stay in Montana.

Amongst the first key works to emerge from the Harvard Sensory Ethnography Lab, Sweetgrass follows the last modern-day cowboys to lead their flocks of sheep on the perilous journey into the Absaroka-Beartooth mountains of Montana for summer pasture.

A beautiful but unsentimental portrait of a dying way of life, set against a majestic backdrop of the American West's mythic landscape.

"The anthropological gaze in Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Ilisa Barbash’s 2009 film Sweetgrass about shepherds in Montana, is a gaze that I carried with me as I moved through the landscapes of the American West writing about alternative social movements, land-based rituals and environmental breakdown in Surrender, a work of narrative nonfiction published in May 2019 by Fitzcarraldo Editions. Where Sweetgrass takes a detached, ethnographic look at a group of modern-day shepherds leading their sheep through Montana's mountain ranges for summer pasture, Surrender takes a very personal approach to the subject of land in the American West and the people who survive in extreme relationship to it — from ecosexuals, nomadic rewilders and urban hunter-gatherers to river reclaimers and scavengers. While using different approaches, Surrender and Sweetgrass both share a desire to explore the intimate relationship between humans and the land of the West"

- Joanna Pocock

Joanna Pocock is an Irish-Canadian writer living in London. Her writing has notably appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Nation, Orion and on the Dark Mountain blog. She was shortlisted for the Barry Lopez Narrative Nonfiction Prize in 2017 and won the 2018 Fitzcarraldo Editions Essay Prize for her book length essay Surrender written while living in Montana. She teaches creative writing at the University of the Arts in London.

With thanks to Fitzcarraldo Editions.


Llisa Barbash, Lucien Castaing-Taylor



Running Time:

101 minutes


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