Thursday, May 03, 2018
Director calls PBS documentary on Malheur refuge occupation 'a story about American identity'
The 41-day armed occupation of Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016 was a media sensation. The self-described “patriots” who took over the refuge, the FBI, and Harney County residents caught in the middle all added up to drama that drew local coverage -- including The Oregoian/OregonLive’s comprehensive reports – and national attention, with stories emerging on a daily basis. Among those on hand to chronicle the showdown was David Byars, an independent filmmaker whose documentary about the Malheur occupation, “No Man’s Land,” airs on the PBS “Independent Lens” series Monday, May 7. Byars thinks the fact that he was on the ground in Harney County, but not issuing daily reports, helped him in gaining access to some of the occupiers who followed Ammon and Ryan Bundy -- sons of rancher Cliven Bundy -- to Oregon. “They were dissecting all the news reports that were coming out about them,” Byars says, during a phone interview. “They were taking issue with anything that wasn’t toeing the line with how they pictured themselves. I was just there, with my little camera, good, old, non-threatening David. I wasn’t putting out any content at all, because I had no outlet. I think that made them comfortable speaking to me.”...Interviews with journalists who covered the occupation, including former Oregonian/OregonLive reporter Les Zaitz, Montana-based journalist Hal Herring and writer Linda Tirado add some necessary context...The “American Experience” documentaries “were more informational to me, and less narrative,” Byars says. “I wanted to tell a story. There’s something about shattering that fourth wall with a narrator that really creates space between the audience and the story, and I wanted not to do that.” Instead, Byars says, “I really wanted this story to be told by the people who were there, who were on the ground living this thing.”...MORE
Here is the PBS trailer for the documentary: