Click here to listen to the interview.
One of the most unsettling moments in Julian Higgins’ GOD’S COUNTRY is a sequence in which the conflict that escalates between college professor Sandra Guidry and some local hunters comes to a head. They had taken offence when refused the right to park on her land, and after a series of increasingly tense and provocative encounters, the hunters return to her doorstep. The way they call out to her bore a striking resemblance to the way some January 6th insurgents called out to Nancy Pelosi. It was the first things I asked Higgins about when we spoke on August 23, 2022.
We went on to talk about changing the protagonist of James Lee Burke’s short story, on which the film is based, from an older white man to a 40-something black woman; bringing the audience into the character’s experience; the writer’s responsibility; and male privilege of anger.
We finished up with how the sound design provides an insight on the character’s perspective; critiquing idioms; writing from a woman’s point of view; and a scene of near reconciliation that is the heart of tragedy.
The film is a stark study of race, gender, and class as played out in rural Montana, where Guidry has moved with her ailing mother. As the situation with the hunters escalates, Guidry is also forced to confront her own choices when discrimination of a most subtle and insidious nature appears in her workplace, followed by worse.
GOD’S COUNTRY itself confronts the viewer with difficult questions that defy easy answers. It is a challenging film that is nonetheless compelling viewing with a performance by Newton that is career-defining.