GenreDocumentary, Adventure, Western ProducerIlisa Barbash CountryUnited States
Release dateFebruary 4, 2009 (2009-02-04) (Berlin) DirectorsLucien Castaing-Taylor, Ilisa Barbash CastJohn Ahern, Lawrence Allested, Pat Connolly, Elaine Allested Similar moviesLucien Castaing-Taylor directed Sweetgrass and Leviathan, People of the Wind (1976), Gods Country (1985), The Real Dirt on Farmer John (2005), Grass (1925)
Sweetgrass is a 2009 documentary film that follows modern-day shepherds as they lead their flocks of sheep up into Montana's Absaroka-Beartooth mountains for summer pasture. It was directed by Lucien Castaing-Taylor, a Harvard anthropologist, and produced by his wife Ilisa Barbash. The title derives from Sweet Grass County, one of several in which the film was shot.
Recording first began in the spring of 2001, when Barbash and Castaing-Taylor first heard of a family of Norwegian‐American sheepherders in Montana. These herders were among the last to trail their band of sheep long distances through Montana's mountains. After 8 years of filming and development, it premiered at the 59th Berlin International Film Festival. Since then it has regularly screened worldwide and distributed theatrically by Cinema Guild. In the United States, it premiered at the New York Film Festival, and in Montana at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival in Missoula, where it received the Big Sky Artistic Excellence Award.
Rotten Tomatoes gave 97% and certified "Fresh". Film critics have generally praised the film as "an anthropological work of art," focusing on its aesthetic minimalism, such as a lack of music and narration. The film is a New York Times Critic's Pick, a Washington Post Critic's Pick, and Manohla Dargis of The New York Times described it as "the first essential movie" of 2010.