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Film / Grass

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Crossing the river.

"They have reached the Promised Land—the Land of "Milk and Honey"—the Land of GRASS".

Grass is a 1925 documentary film directed by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack. It is a record of the nomadic Bakhtiari tribe of Persia, 50,000 strong with 500,000 animals, as they make their seasonal migration to better winter pasture land. The filmmakers followed the Bakhtiari over the rugged desert of western Persia, across the unbridged Karun River, and over the nearly 14,000 foot Zard-Kuh Mountains, on their way to finding grass for their animals.

Grass was a hit, and allowed Cooper and Schoedsack to follow up with Chang, a similar documentary that was nominated for an Academy Award for "Unique and Artistic Production". That film also did well, which allowed Cooper and Schoedsack to make a little movie called King Kong.

In 1976 another documentary, People Of The Wind, followed the Bakhtiari on the same journey in the other direction, to their summer pasture land.


  • Book Ends: The Bakhtiari strike their tents at the start of the journey and put them up again at the end.
  • Creator Cameo: Cooper and Schoedsack introduce themselves on camera before the film proper starts.
  • Crossing the Desert: Before even reaching the Bakhtiari, the filmmakers have to cross the "salt desert of Anatolia", and deal with sandstorms.
  • Deadly Dust Storm: Cooper and Schoedsack have to deal with "blinding desert sand-storms" while crossing the Anatolian plain.
  • The Determinator: An entire tribe of Determinators. Their sandals aren't suitable for mountain climbing, so they climb the mountain barefoot.
    • When they reach the Karun River, they make rafts out of inflated goat skins and wood. The crossing is perilous and quite a few of the livestock appear to be lost.
  • Documentary: One of the first, although it was proceeded by Nanook of the North (1922).
  • Earthy Barefoot Character: Not all the time, but when they have to do it to climb a goddamn mountain, they go barefoot.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: There are a lot of jokey title cards. One title card says "Ride 'em, kid!" The movie cuts to a shot of a baby goat—that is, a kid—perched precariously on the back of a donkey as a man guides the donkey through a river.
  • Just in Time: A title card actually says "Just in time.", right before cutting to a shot of a man with a float saving two goats that were about to drown in the river.
  • Organ Grinder: In one Anatolian village a street performer has a dancing baby bear on a leash.
  • Precious Puppy:
    • An incredible scene where a puppy hops out of a pouch on a camel's saddle, and the camel nuzzles the puppy.
    • A later scene shows a little dog riding on the back of a cow as the Bakhtiari cross the mountains.
  • Repeat Cut: Used when the Bakhtiari are striking a tent at the beginning of the journey.
  • Road Trip Plot: The first third or so of the film involves Cooper and Schoedsack's journey from Turkey to Iran to meet the Bakhtari, which is arduous in itself. Then the Bakhtari go on their own epic journey to better grassland.
  • Scenery Porn: Some amazing shots of rugged, snowcapped mountains, the river, the plains, the camels silhouetted against the sky.
  • Splash of Color: The first shot of the movie is what appears to be a hand-tinted scene of a camel train crossing the horizon, against a red sunset.
  • Title Drop: Haidar Khan, chief of the Bakhtiari, explains that the grass is withering, so they must move. The title is dropped again in the closing caption, which is also the page quote.
  • Wandering Culture: The Bakhtiari tribe, making its winter pilgrimage from Turkey to Persia.
  • Written Sound Effect: A title card spells out "B-R-R-R" as the Bakhtiari cross a cold mountain stream. Just to make the point stronger, the letters shake.