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Arts & Culture

INDEPENDENT LENS: No Man's Land

Armed agents guard the command center set up by the FBI to monitor and neutralize the occupiers at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Ore.
Courtesy of David Byars
Armed agents guard the command center set up by the FBI to monitor and neutralize the occupiers at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Ore.

Airs Monday, May 7, 2018 at 11 p.m. on KPBS TV

Go inside the 2016 standoff at Oregon's Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

With unfettered access, filmmaker David Byars gives a detailed, on-the-ground account of the 2016 standoff between protesters occupying Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and federal authorities.

“No Man’s Land” documents the occupation from inception to demise and tells the story of those on the inside of this movement, attempting to uncover what draws Americans — the ideologues, the disenfranchised, and the dangerously quixotic — to the edge of revolution.

“No Man’s Land” premieres on INDEPENDENT LENS Monday, May 7, 2018 on PBS.

Related Article: Takeovers and Occupations: A Survey of American Mini-Rebellions and Political Stands

In January of 2016, protesters gathered in Burns, Oregon to denounce the federal sentencing of two ranchers.

During the protest, a group led by Ammon Bundy broke off and took over nearby Malheur Wildlife Refuge. The occupation quickly attracted a mix of right-wing militia and protesters.

What began as a protest to condemn the sentencing morphed into a catchall for those eager to register their militant antipathy toward the federal government.

The Malheur occupation drew the national spotlight, attracting media fascinated by the spectacle of cowboys and militia rebelling against the federal government.

The siege also attracted the attention of the FBI, who set up a command center nearby to counter the occupiers.

During the 41-day siege, director and cinematographer Byars was granted remarkable access to the inner workings of the insurrection as the militants went about the daily business of running an armed occupation.

Armed occupiers explore and secure buildings at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters in Ore.
Courtesy of David Byars
Armed occupiers explore and secure buildings at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters in Ore.

Events at Malheur took a bloody turn when federal agents waylaid occupation leaders en route to a community meeting.

A car chase ensued that resulted in the arrests of the entire insurgency leadership and the dramatic on-camera shooting death of LaVoy Finicum, the semi-official spokesman for the group.

“‘No Man’s Land’ lays bare what happens when a group of self-defined ‘pissed-off people’ turn their patriot movement into an armed militia,” said Lois Vossen, INDEPENDENT LENS executive producer. “In the months since this impasse between disgruntled citizens and government officials reached its climax the stories behind the standoff have become even more germane. David’s extraordinary film holds a mirror up to this microcosm of the deep divide in our country today and yet he doesn’t assign blame or point fingers. Instead he demands we see the human beings on all sides of the clash and comprehend their humanity no matter how much we disagree with them.”

The tower at the Malheur headquarters served as a surveillance asset for militia members to monitor the surrounding area. Ore.
Courtesy of David Byars
The tower at the Malheur headquarters served as a surveillance asset for militia members to monitor the surrounding area. Ore.

WATCH ON YOUR SCHEDULE:

This film will be available to stream on demand for a limited time after broadcast.

JOIN THE CONVERSATION:

INDEPENDENT LENS is on Facebook, Instagram, and you can follow @IndependentLens on Twitter. #IndieLensPBS #NoMansLandPBS

CREDITS:

Produced, Filmed and Directed by David Garrett Byars. Editor: David Osit. Producers: Jeremy Chilnick, Morgan Spurlock, David Holbrooke, Stash Wislocki, David Osit and Rachel Traub. Executive Producers: Thom Beers, Michael Bloom, Dan Cogan and Adam Pincus. Co-Executive Producer: Jenny Raskin. Co-Producers: Jeff Seelbach and Jim Hurst. Music by Low. Composer: David Osit.