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Sundance Review | THREE SUNS | "Murder in Big Horn"

Jeff Hutchens courtesy of SHOWTIME
A still from Murder in Big Horn by Nicole Newnham, an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Jeff Hutchens, courtesy of SHOWTIME

“Murder in Big Horn” looks at a dramatic real-life mystery that most Americans have never heard about—the disappearances and unexplained deaths of young Native American women.

The issue is starting to receive attention. It was the backdrop for “Wind River” a 2017 murder mystery filmed in Utah’s Wasatch Mountains by Taylor (“Yellowstone”) Sheridan.

Now it’s the focus of a three-part series on Showtime, centered on the Crow and Northern Cheyenne Nations Reservations in southern Montana.

The series examines half-a-dozen cases where young girls are found dead, in locations where they’re not far from help (a backyard, a short distance away from a rest stop). Most of the time, law enforcement declares the deaths are due to exposure, not foul play.

We see the despair and frustration of the victims’ relatives and friends. Meanwhile, police officers stonewall, are defensive, or pass the buck to another agency.

The most intriguing clue in this intractable mystery is the major highway that runs through the area—a handy opportunity for sex traffickers.

Directors Razelle Benally and Matthew Galkin are heartfelt, but could have been more concise. This is a story that could have been told in two episodes rather than three.