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'Butcher's Crossing' filmed on Blackfeet Reservation hits theaters

Butcher's Crossing
Posted at 5:29 PM, Oct 20, 2023

In the video above, reporter Tommy Lynch talks with director Gabe Polsky and actor Paul Raci.

Butcher’s Crossing, a film about bison hunters in the 1870s and starring Nicolas Cage, hits theaters this week. Although the film takes place in Colorado, the entire movie was shot on the Blackfeet Reservation.

“[The Blackfeet] told us that they'd never done anything like this,” said Gabe Polsky, director of Butcher’s Crossing. “It was incredibly challenging for reasons that, you know, we were dealing with like a massive buffalo herd that the Blackfeet handler's supervised, and everything up here is sort of unpredictable. We had kind of a small, nimble crew and things were changing by the moment. It was just like flying by the seat of your pants.”

Realism was a top priority to the cast and crew, and so before they even began filming, they involved themselves in the Blackfeet culture.

“Yeah, well, we had a lot of ceremony before we shot with the buffalo, and that was really special,” Polsky said, “We did, you know, tobacco and prayers, and that was really interesting and spiritual in certain ways.”

The film is a coming-of-age film that actor Paul Raci describes as an “anti-western," in that it does not romanticize what 1870’s western America was like.

“Being a child of the 50s, growing up with John Wayne movies and Bonanza the TV show, which is just a Hollywoodized version of the west,” Raci said, “This is truly… a real depiction of what I think everybody should witness… to get a feeling of what it took to put this nation together and destroy it at the same time.”

“It’s an intense film about a young Harvard dropout that goes out into the Colorado wilderness with a team of Buffalo hunters led by Nicolas Cage,” Polsky said, “And it becomes kind of like The Heart of Darkness or Apocalypse Now, where he is expecting to kind of learn more about life and find meaning and purpose. But you know, realizes that, you know, life isn't what he expected.”

Along with Nicolas Cage and Paul Raci, Butcher’s Crossing stars Fred Hechinger, Xander Berkeley, Rachel Keller, and Jeremy Bobb.

The film's website provides this synopsis:

Nicolas Cage stars in a gritty story about buffalo hunters in the Old West. Will Andrews (Fred Hechinger) has left Harvard to find adventure. He teams up with Miller (Cage), a mysterious frontiersman offering an unprecedented number of buffalo pelts in a secluded valley. Their crew must survive an arduous journey where the harsh elements will test everyone's resolve, leaving their sanity on a knife's edge.

On Thursday, the cast and crew watched a screening of the film with members of the Blackfeet Reservation in Cut Bank.

'Butcher's Crossing' screening in Cut Bank (October 19, 2023)
'Butcher's Crossing' screening in Cut Bank (October 19, 2023)

“Watching the movie with the Blackfeet Nation was a very moving experience,” Raci said, “You could tell that they were really touched by the realism of it.”