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A film broadcast on PBS recalls the dark history of deportation

BISBEE, Ariz. (AP) – The darkest and most violent chapter in Bisbee's history was a secret of Polichinelle for decades in Arizona's funky copper town, 11 km north of the US border. -mexicaine.

But few residents knew how about 1,200 miners, mostly immigrants, had been violently removed from their homes a century ago by a private police force and mounted in cattle cars to be deported to a desolate region of the New -Mexico.

The filming of "Bisbee '17", a documentary about what happened on July 12, 1917, was a lesson in history for residents recruited to play historical characters in film production exactly 100 years later, between documentary and collective performance. It's in turn a Western story, a musical story and a ghost story.

The film mixes the past and present of the city, with locals dressing in period clothing but moving across the current Bisbee. Newly replaced strikebreakers are found in a classroom equipped with an overhead projector and modern luminous figurines. "Enjoy air conditioning while you have it!" Said a man standing in front of a modern bus, locals dressed as miners as they headed for the cars to be evicted.

After its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival last year, Bisbee '17 will air for the first time nationally on Monday night in the POV documentary series POV. In Arizona, it will be broadcast at 9 pm

This is the sixth film by director Robert Greene, director-in-chief of the Murray Center for Documentary Journalism at the University of Missouri. "Kate Plays Christine" had already won a jury prize for her writing at Sundance 2016. "Owning The Weather", her first documentary, was screened at the COP15 conference on climate change in Copenhagen.

Greene said he learned about the existence of the city of Bisbee about fifteen years ago, when he made his first visit to the southeastern part of the country. Arizona to help his future mother-in-law repair an old hut.

"I fell totally in love with the city," said Greene about the unusual community of old hippies, immigrants, biker mechanics and descendants of miners and corporate executives. The city today is leaning towards the political left and has an active cultural scene that includes live theater. It features Victorian-style homes built on rugged terrain, as well as other architectural gems. The gaping hole at the edge of Bisbee, formerly the Lavender Pit Copper Mine, is a constant reminder of the mining history of the region.

Greene said that he had begun to think of ways to make a film about the deportation of bees shortly after learning about them. As we approach the 100th anniversary two years ago, he said, "We knew the time was right."

The documentary tells how the bosses of the copper mining Phelps Dodge feared a strike of miners who sympathized with the "Wobblies", members of the radical group Industrial Workers of the World.

The United States had just entered the First World War and the company's executives feared that foreign-born minors would interfere with the war effort.

Working with the bosses of the mining industry, the local sheriff quickly hired about 2,000 scabs to gather about 1,200 miners, mostly immigrants from Mexico and eastern Europe. They were gunned down at the nearby Warren community baseball court, trapped in train cars and shipped to Hermanas, New Mexico.

The story emerges from the personal stories of the residents: a woman whose grandfather has deported his brother; a former mining company leader who remains convinced that the eviction was justified; and Fernando Serrano, 23, whose mother was sent back to her home country, Mexico, and imprisoned for drug trafficking.

Viewers attend a political awakening while he plays the role of a Mexican miner and sings the Spanish-language version of the union anthem "Solidarity Forever" on the air of the "Battle" Hymn of the Republic.

While exorcising demons from Bisbee's past, locals make a statement about the treatment of marginalized people today, said the filmmaker.

"You can not help but see what's happening at the border when you watch the film," said Greene, referring to the chaos that broke out along the US-Mexico border as the Trump government sought to remove a wave of asylum seekers, mainly from Central America.

"This echoes other moments in the history of our country where fear was used to motivate opposition," he said.

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