The acclaimed feature-length documentary will be available for free viewing Saturday and Sunday under the auspices of the Thin Line Fest.
Since you can’t come to the Thin Line Fest this weekend, the Thin Line Fest is coming to you.
The Denton, Texas-based film festival currently is offering free streaming of its 2020 fest offerings on its website. And one of the features should be of special interest to C&I readers: Cowboys: A Documentary Portrait, which can be viewed at 4:30 pm ET/3:30 pm CT Saturday (March 28) and 6:15 pm ET/5:15 pm CT Sunday (March 29).
Co-directors Bud Force and John Langmore and producer Jeffrey Brown are scheduled to participate in online Q&As after both screenings via video conferencing.
What’s it all about? According to the production notes: “Told in the cinematic tradition of classic westerns, Cowboys: A Documentary Portrait is a feature-length film that gives viewers the opportunity to ride alongside modern working cowboys on some of America’s largest and most remote cattle ranches. The movie documents the lives of the men and women working on these “big outfit” ranches — some of which are over one million acres — and still require full crews of horseback mounted workers to tend large herds of cattle.
“Narrated through first-hand accounts from the cowboys themselves, the story is steeped in authenticity and explores the rewards and hardships of a celebrated but misunderstood way of life, including the challenges that lie ahead for the cowboys critical to providing the world’s supply of beef. Cowboys was filmed on eight of the nation’s largest cattle ranches across ten states in the American West.”
When Cowboys premiered last fall at the Austin Film Festival, Matthew Monagle of The Austin Chronicle praised the documentary as “a collision of the modern and the mythical, showing how Western traditions with have found a way to coexist with society's contemporary achievements. There are vistas recognizable from any western — shots of cowboys and their cattle riding along dusty trails and snowy valleys — but little touches of contemporary life creep in around the corners. Cell phones peek out from the pockets of tattered leather jackets; fashionable glasses rest above lustrous mustaches and untamed beards. These touches culminate in the film’s final moment, when a group of cowboys guide their cattle underneath a busy highway. [Co-director] Langmore concluded, ‘We were just like, “Oh my God, that tells the whole story right there.”’”
Pressed on the subject, producer Jeffrey Brown hopes the Thin Line Fest online screening program doesn’t represent The New Normal when it comes to film festivals. Ideally, he said in a conversation with C&I, “festivals are meant to bring people together, so we can meet each other face-to-face… I’m not trying to be a curmudgeon or the old guy or anything like that, but I still think getting people together in a dark room for a shared viewing experience is still important. I think the vast majority of people, if not every single person, involved in film festivals would agree that, under the best of circumstances, they’re putting on an event to get people together.”
On the other hand, Brown added, at a time when most other film festivals in Texas and elsewhere have been forced to cancel their annual events, “We’re making the most of the current situation, and rolling with it. Because this is the best way right now to bring people together and show them our movie.”
Thin Line Fest founder and director Joshua Butler agrees: “Despite having to cancel all in-person festival events, Thin Line Fest is thrilled to continue our tradition of screening the latest and best documentaries from around the world. The response from filmmakers has been overwhelmingly supportive, and we are looking forward to creating a comparable festival experience online.”
You can find out more about the Thin Line Fest program here.