“Bisbee ’17” revisits the mining town’s haunting past

“Bisbee ’17” revisits the mining town’s haunting past
Bisbee 17 (Source: Tucson News Now) (Walton, Elizabeth)

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A secret in the small mining town is now showing in theaters.

The premiere of "Bisbee '17" was sold out at The Loft Cinema Friday night. The capacity for the theater is 370, with many people turned away.

The documentary revisits the deportation of more than a thousand migrants in July of 1917 and how some in Bisbee still feel the effect today, one hundred years later.

"A very well kept secret, not only in Bisbee, but in the country as a whole," said Robert Houston, author of the novel "Bisbee '17." The book was published in 1979.

"It already had echos of what is going on now," said Houston.

After several trips to Bisbee, Director Robert Greene said he felt compelled to share the story.

"It's this amazing place and then you kinda feel like this level of awful that comes over the whole thing," said Greene.

Tucson News Now was at Warren Ballpark last summer, when filmmakers spent about six weeks working with community members for the documentary.

"When you're making a film like this, you are working with real people, not actors," said producer Bennett Elliot. "I think a lot of people who ended up playing the deporters kind of had their own feelings that they brought to it."

In July of 1917, more than 1,200 striking miners, most of them immigrants were rounded up at gunpoint and put on train cars, then deported to the desert in New Mexico.

"I'm just so glad the history, the story continues to be known because, we tend to forget so much of our history that we don't want to remember, don't we?" said Houston.

"People still debate and won't talk to other people down the street because of, because of their opinions of what happened, mostly because old mining families have relatives who were the deporters," Greene said.

There are several more showtimes scheduled for “Bisbee ’17” through the weekend and into the week. On Sunday afternoon, there will be a session with a family that took part in the documentary.

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