Independent Lens: No Man's Land

About This Episode


In January of 2016, protesters gathered in Burns, Oregon to denounce the federal sentencing of two ranchers. During the protest, a group led by Ammon Bundy broke off and took over nearby Malheur Wildlife Refuge. The occupation quickly attracted a mix of right-wing militia and other dissidents. What began as a protest to condemn the sentencing morphed into a catchall for those eager to register their militant antipathy toward the federal government. The Malheur occupation drew the national spotlight, attracting media fascinated by the spectacle of cowboys and militia rebelling against the government, but also attracted the attention of the FBI, who set up a command center nearby to counter the occupiers.

During the 41-day siege, director and cinematographer David Byars was granted remarkable access to the inner workings of the insurrection as the militants went about the daily business of running an armed occupation before things ultimately took a bloody turn.