“Grass” is a movie I recommend for anyone interested in pasture-based agriculture, donkeys, or for the misguided who might think war in Iran is a good idea. The movie was made in 1925 by explorer Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, and chronicles the annual 48-day migration of the 50,000-member Bakhtiari tribe of Persia (which is now Iran) — and their 500,000 animals — through deserts, icy glacial rivers and a snow-covered 12,000-foot mountain pass that is scaled barefoot because cotton shoes don’t work very well in the snow.
The migration makes the Fairplay Pack-Burro Race look like a half-mile stroll on the beach, and the Democratic National Convention look like a board meeting at the Denver Post. When the grass runs out for their animals, the tribespeople simply fold their tents, round up their animals and trek hundreds of miles in search for greener pastures. There is no 16-week Runner’s World training program or special diet. They don’t even give up smoking, though one wonders what exactly is in those pipes, especially given the film’s title.
This silent black-and-white story is told without any of the special effects of today’s movies, and is narrated only by titleboards between scenes. Horses, mules, cattle, goats, sheep and donkeys — thousands of donkeys — are driven over some of the most rugged terrain on Earth. Among films prominently featuring donkeys, it rivals “Treasure of the Sierra Madre.” On their backs are the tribes-people’s belongings, including some live cargo such as chickens, dogs, young goats and even children in cradles. It is an amazing documentary and one of the most incredible films I have ever seen.
Three clips from the movie are available on youtube.com (click on the thumbnail above for the first one), but you can also rent it from netflix.com.