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Emilie Mahdavian met the subjects of her documentary, BITTERBRUSH, while visiting some mutual friends in Idaho. Hollyn Patterson and Colie Moline were range riders who immediately upturned Mahdavian’s ideas of what that looks like. The pair herded cattle in the most remote parts of Idaho, going weeks at a time out on the range. There was something about their love for their work that made Mahdavian feel like there might be a film. We got to that when we spoke via Zoom on April 22, 2022. Before that, I asked about the spiritual bent the women have, then the sound design that uses natural sounds as well as an unexpected choice in music; why Mahdavian moved to Idaho; and meeting Hollyn and Colie for the first time.
We went on to talk about how rare it is to see depictions of female friendship like the one in BITTERBRUSH; challenging gender norms; keeping to a schedule; and filming on the range while she herself was pregnant.
We finished up with DP Derek Howard’s equine derring-do; being daring enough to risk being cheesy; a perfect film-with-the-film sequence; and why her next project returns her to her dance film roots.
The documentary presents a western story as unconventional as the music it chooses, but as authentic as the timeless landscape on which it plays out as Hollyn and Collie ponder the future of the land, and work, that they love. Mahdavian’s previous work includes two documentaries about dance, INTANGIBLE BODY and AFTER THE CURTAIN, as well as a poignant portrait of a refugee family fleeing the Taliban, MIDNIGHT TRAVELER.