Montana film based on James Lee Burke story heads to Sundance

Cory Walsh

“God’s Country,” a feature film based on a short story by Missoula author James Lee Burke will premiere at Sundance Film Festival next month with Thandiwe Newton (“Westworld”) in the lead role.

The movie is adapted from the longtime Lolo resident’s story “Winter Light.” In 2014, Los Angeles-based director Julian Higgins came to the Missoula area to shoot a half-hour version, which follows a college professor who enters into a conflict with two hunters who trespass on his property.

“We’re very excited,” Burke wrote in an email statement. “Later the script was rewritten and expanded into a two-hour theatrical film.”

Higgins and Shaye Ogbonna created the new iteration of the story, which was shot in Montana as well during the winters of 2020 and 2021, according to Allison Whitmer, Montana film commissioner.

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Burke, an Edgar Award winning legend of literary crime fiction who published his 41st book earlier this year, said the project is of special significance to him.

“Our daughter, Pamala Burke, whom we lost last year, put the deal together with Julian Higgins, who I think is one of the most talented young directors

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