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SXSW: Tread

In 2004, Marv Heemeyer drove his bulldozer through Granby, Colorado destroying building after building. He carefully selected his targets. These were the townspeople whom he felt had been the cause of many injustices against his beloved muffler shop. Marv’s bulldozer was no ordinary machine. He’d modified it to function like a military tank and created an impenetrable seal armed with it cameras and semi-automatic rifles. He was on a suicide mission. Before that fateful day in June, Marv recorded his suicide note with incredible detail about his motivations behind. The rampage lasted for over 2 hours and no matter how many attempts by the local police force made to thwart his efforts the fact is that they couldn’t. A simple miscalculation was his undoing. Ultimately no one was killed in the incident, except for Marv, but it took years for his victims to recover from the loss. The event made national headlines before it was eclipsed by President Ronald Reagan’s death the next day. 

Director Paul Solet’s Tread is a compelling and slick documentary about this little known event. It explores Marv’s motivations for the rampage and features many interviews with his targets and also his girlfriend at the time. His family refused to speak on record for the project. Solet also recreates many key scenes with actors. The rampage itself is a thrilling reenactment done with very little CGI. The filmmaking crew created their own version of the modified bulldozer for those scenes.

I have mixed feelings about the film. Visually its stunning but perhaps a bit too slick. I usually don’t care for reenactments but these were tastefully done. I thought the film overall was a bit too polished with some fancy drone shots and slow motion action sequences that felt unnecessary. I did however appreciate the archival footage as well as Marv’s audio recording which juxtaposed with all the interviews made it feel very balanced. With that said, I was rooting for Marv the whole time. I’m not sure if that speaks more to my own feelings or to how Marv was portrayed in the doc.

In the end, Tread was for me a thrilling revenge story that probably should have been something else entirely.

Tread had its world premiere at the 2019 SXSW Film Festival as part of their Documentary Spotlight series.

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