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by Karen Pecota

Julian Higgins, USA 2022

Filmmaker Julian Higgins makes his feature directorial debut GOD'S COUNTRYbased on the short story “Winter Light” by James Lee Burke. Higgins first read the story several years prior and proceded to make a short film in 2014, as a direct adaptation. Higgins recalls, “Winter Light” was such a contained story, I never imagined it could be anything more than a short." He continues, "After the 2016 election, the story surfaced for me again in a new way, one born of outrage and grief. The existential questions of “Winter Light” returned to me." Higgins asked himself, "What's the value of our ideals in a world that's falling apart? What does it matter if we're peaceful or destructive, selfish or kind?" Adding, "Is there any meaning to our choices when we find ourselves alone? I felt compelled to explore those ideas, and in a much more urgent and immediate context."

Higgins goes on to explain that this was not a feature as an adaptation from a short story or a short film but rather, "a repurposing of certain scenes, lines of dialogue and plot points to explore different themes." Adding, "We (with co-writer Shaye Ogbonna) were drawing from Burke's worldview and themes that run throughout his body of work and his priorities, i.e., what makes him angry, what he finds sacred, what he cares about, his sense of morality, and justice. And, of course, then adding our own personal raw material to tell a specific, emotionally-resonant story."

Higgins and Ogbonna write, direct, and produce a thriller that will most definitely garner food for thought and memorable discussions with audiences willing to address cultural challenges that we cannot ignore.


Sandra Guidry (Thandiwe Newton) is a Black professor living and working in a small college town surrounded by a snowy wilderness of the American West. For many years she was her mother's caretaker and enjoyed the peacefulness of a scenic landscape as a reprieve from her exhausting daily routine.

Feeling very alone after her mother's passing, Guidry is curious about seeing a red truck parked on her property. She waits for the owners to return to their vehicle and realizes they are hunters. She knows why they are on her property because it is an easy access to their hunting grounds.

Guidry approaches the hunters and politely asks them to refrain from using her private property as an access. They adhere to her request at the moment, but then they are back again the next day. She confronts them again and the younger, more aggressive of the two, makes an issue of their rights to her land. Guidry finds his response preposterous! Therein, begins a conflict that over time will determine each other's fate.