Power’s War, 2015, Cameron Trejo Films $29.95
Cameron Trejo’s engaging, precise documentary depicts Arizona’s most deadly shootout. No, not the one in 1881 Tombstone; that is merely the best known. The deadliest happened 37 years later, in 1918, at Jeff Power’s cabin in the Galiuro Mountains, after a four-man posse ventured onto his remote property seeking to apprehend Jeff’s sons Tom and John for draft dodging. In brisk but detailed fashion the film chronicles not only the shootout itself but also the events that caused it and its protracted aftermath—the latter encompassing the film’s most poignant moments. Trejo relates the complex, tragic and largely untapped story via firsthand accounts and journals, interviews with historians and descendants, and stylish, graphic novel-like animations (a welcome stand-in for more traditional re-enactments).
Of the many themes covered in the whip-fast 64 minutes, the most interesting and controversial is also the most topical: authority’s abuse of power. Who fired the first shot at the cabin is not known for sure, but the Power brothers’ account of the gunfight (depicted in the film’s most compelling animated sequence), in which the posse opens fire without warning on their father, is evocative of recent national headlines. “I put my hands up, and they shot me,” Jeff Powers reportedly told his sons hours before becoming the fourth fatality (the other three were lawmen).
Power’s War, which has screened at many festivals and events, was produced by Trejo and Dagen Merrill, researched by Trejo and Heidi Osselaer and narrated by Mad Men’s John Slattery.
Originally published in the December 2015 issue of Wild West.