Brower: Watching the new documentary ‘Tread,’ seeing Heemeyer’s dozer rampage on the big screen
Patrick Brower / Special to Sky-Hi News
Granby, Grand Lake and Grand County are on center stage in the new documentary film “Tread,” which is about Marv Heemeyer’s bulldozer rampage that took place in Granby in June of 2004.
I attended the world premiere of the film at the South by South West (SXSW) Film Festival in Austin, Texas, two weeks ago. I saw the film twice, mingled with the producers, the director and other pertinent folks while there. I also digested the impact of the film.
Full disclosure here: I was hired as a “consulting producer” on the film. As well, I appear in the film, along with many other Granby notables including the Thompson Brothers, Casey Farrell, Glen Trainor, Dick Broady and others. And yet it wouldn’t be completely correct to say the film is completely based on my book “KILLDOZER: The True Story of the Colorado Bulldozer Rampage.” The terminology used is that the film is based on source material from the book by Patrick Brower.
So for those who have read my book there will be lots that was left out, which is almost always the case when films are made with a book in the background. As well, the film did have some interviews that I wasn’t able to get — mainly with one friend of Heemeyer.
The film is very well done. The production values are very high, particularly when it comes to the re-enactments of the early phases of the rampage at the Mountain Parks Concrete batch plant. Director Paul Solet was able to hire probably the best prop technician in Hollywood and they were able to make a very convincing-looking bulldozer-tank. Believe me — as the darn thing almost killed me — I can tell you that what they made looks very much like the real thing.
The re-enactments of the fight scenes at Mountain Park Concrete, when Marv was shooting at Cody Docheff and law enforcement officers, come across clearly and dramatically. Cody’s valiant fight against the dozer at the plant also comes across convincingly.
The narrative structure of the film is based, largely, on the two-and-a-half hours of tapes that Heemeyer left behind. At first the film sucks the viewer in to see and even believe the narrative that Heemeyer presents on his one-sided tapes. But as the film progresses, and as the dialogue from Heemeyer is subjected to scrutiny by many of the other players who were involved directly, the reliability of Heemeyer’s point of view sees the light of day.
That being said, the film does a very good job of presenting the event and its background in such a manner that the viewer is left to his or her own impressions on making any sort of value judgements about Heemeyer, the rampage itself, the town of Granby, the Granby Sanitation District and even me. The film is not spoon-feeding the viewer with any conclusions.
I spent time in my book writing about the phenomema in which Heemeyer has been made into what some call the Last Great American Folk Hero, based on false narratives about Heemeyer’s life and his interactions with the town and the community. The film does not delve into that aspect of the rampage, which is fine by me since it leaves my book as the unique voice that presents point of view.
In other words, both present unique products that are equally valid.
Reviews of the film have been positive. The SXSW reviewer states: “Many years after the fateful events in Granby have faded from the public conscience, Paul Solet revisits the killdozer incident in a fantastic documentary called “Tread.” Based on a non-fiction book by Patrick Brower, “Tread” is a substantive, visually rich doc with the dynamics of a narrative thriller.”
Another reviewer on the film blog Slash Film (/Film) states: “Director Paul Solet brings a polished cinematic edge to this documentary, which makes use of the typical talking heads as well as cinematic re-enactments that recreate key moments from throughout Heemeyer’s story. At times “Tread” plays like an audition for a Hollywood adaptation, with the undeniably well-made recreations suggesting that Solet could do the job as well as anyone.”
That reviewer gave the film an 8.5 out of a 10.
Does Granby come out OK or “good” in the film? The town isn’t made to look bad or corrupt in the film but the narrative approach leaves open to interpretation various aspects of the background leading up the Heemeyer’s rampage.
Many have asked when the world will be able to see the film. It hasn’t been purchased by any of the major film distributors yet (Netflix, HBO, Paramount Studios, Disney, etc). I was told it usually takes several months for that aspect of the release process to be completed. Once I know, I’ll tell the world and then maybe we can orchestrate local showings.
One reviewer, however, argued for a large format presentation: “It’s the reality of the current market place that most people who see documentaries catch them on video-on-demand or cable television. However, “Tread” is a documentary that really needs to be seen on a big screen for full impact.”
I agree. The film makes a real impact. Soon we’ll see how its presentation of our town and county gets distributed to the world.
Patrick Brower is the author of “KILLDOZER: The True Story of the Colorado Bulldozer Rampage.” He is the former publisher and managing editor of the Grand County Newspapers and he currently works as the Enterprise Facilitator for the Grand Enterprise Initiative. The website for his book is killdozerbook.com.
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