Refuge offers an intimate journey through the 2016 Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation and its aftermath, exploring identity, fear, and the nature of protest, while reimagining democracy across a politically and culturally divided national landscape.
We began producing this film at noon on Saturday, January 2, 2016, in Burns, Oregon. We already had plans for that day—a birthday party and a chance to try out our new cross-country skis. The sky was brilliant and the snow looked pretty good on this frigid second day of the year. But our plans changed….
As Ace Barton, whose family homesteaded in Hells Canyon in the early 20th Century, related to us about the day his grandfather discovered gold while moving livestock, “Well…cowpunching was over for that day.”
We traded the skis for a camera in the crowded Safeway parking lot in town, which was the site of a large rally organized by the Bundys. Just a couple of hours later, they took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and occupied it for 41 days.
As documentary filmmakers, we are inspired by stirring, transformative events, but even more, we’re led by our hearts. We’re in deep gratitude to all of you who have generously welcomed us into your lives, and we’ll work to do service to all the amazing stories you’ve shared with us. We look forward to seeing you again before long. Oh—and we’ll make sure to close the gate.