Gabriela Cowperthwaite & “The Grab” at Mountainfilm!

Gabriela Cowperthwaite & “The Grab” at Mountainfilm!

Based in Telluride, Mountainfilm will celebrate its 45th year in the heart of the San Juan mountains, May 25-29, 2023. And one of the most anticipated films on the program is “The Grab,” by “Blackfish” director Gabriela Cowperthwaite.

Passes to Mountainfilm are here.

Go here for much more on Mountainfilm.

Behind the scenes of The Grab. Credit: Joe Bill Munoz.

Land grabbing. When a government, company, or other entity purchases large swathes of land in another country, which can affect local land rights and agricultural production and sometimes puts local food security at risk. What’s more, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, from 2009 to 2019 foreign ownership of U.S. agricultural land doubled.

According to the FDA, more than 35 million acres of farmland in the U.S. is owned by foreign investors.

In that context award-winning “Blackfish” director Gabriela Cowperthwaite examines food and water insecurity, as well as the world of high-stakes investigative journalism, in her latest documentary, “The Grab,” which screens at Mountainfilm 2023.

‘The Grab’ tells the story of a seven-year research project by Nate Halverson of The Center for Investigative Reporting, beginning with the 2014 sale of Smithfield Foods to a Chinese company for $4.7 billion, the largest deal of its kind. The acquisition put a quarter of America’s pigs under Chinese control. But what role did the Chinese government have in the sale and why does it matter? Why did a Saudi company purchase 15 square miles of arid terrain in the Arizona desert? Why did the founder of Blackwater shift his focus to facilitating land acquisitions in Africa? Why was Russia recruiting American cowboys to take agricultural jobs in a part of the country that was, until recently, too cold to sustain farmland?,” stated The Hollywood Reporter.

A still in Venezuela from The Grab. Credit: Scott Anger.


A still in Russia from The Grab. Credit: Scott Anger.


Lusaka Airport, in a scene from The Grab documentary. Credit: Anonymous.

“The Grab” connects the dots between commercial and government interests, agrarian concerns and mercenary military organizations, which come together in a race against the clock to control the new oil: food and water.

“The Grab” unspools like a thriller in one sense and a dystopian science fiction movie in another,” raved Variety.

“As suspenseful as it is demanding and damning, Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s gripper issues a wake-up call to the global community and offers testimony on why we need investigative journalism,” wrote the San Jose Mercury News.

“Cowperthwaite delivers on the promise of her breakthrough feature doc ‘Blackfish’…with another incendiary exposé,” said POV Magazine.

For more, listen to what Gabriela has to say in her podcast about her life and work:

Gabriela Cowperthwaite, more:

Gabriela Cowperthwaite has been directing both documentaries and narrative films for over 20 years, rising to prominence with the 2013 release of “Blackfish,” which examined the plight of orcas and their trainers at SeaWorld. The film became one of the highest grossing and most influential documentaries of all time, garnering the prestigious BAFTA award in 2013.

Most recently, Gabriela completed “ISS,” a space station thriller starring Academy Award-winner Arianna DeBose. That project opens Tribeca Film Festival this June. Her critically acclaimed film “Our Friend,” starring Casey Affleck, Dakota Johnson, and Jason Segel was released in 2020. “Megan Leavey,” starring Kate Mara and Common, marked Gabriela’s narrative directorial debut in 2015.

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