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Film airing on PBS recalls city's dark deportation history

The darkest, most violent chapter in the history of Bisbee was an open secret for decades in the funky old Arizona copper town 7 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border.

But few residents knew the details of how about 1,200 miners, most of them immigrants, were pulled violently from their homes a century ago by a private police force and put on cattle cars for their deportation to a desolate area of New Mexico.

The filming of "Bisbee '17," a documentary about what happened July 12, 1917, was a history lesson for residents recruited to play historical figures in the production that weds documentary and collective performance. It is, at turns, a Western, a musical and a ghost story.

This undated photo provided by 4th Row Films shows a meeting of striking miners and union organizers in "Bisbee '17," a story of how some 1,200 miners, most of them immigrants, were pulled violently from their homes in Bisbee, Ariz., by a private police force and put on cattle cars for deportation to a desolate area of New Mexico in 1917. The dark history of Bisbee was largely an open secret for decades in the funky old copper town just seven miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border. It's the sixth film of director Robert Greene, who said he learned about the town southeastern Arizona around 15 years ago. (Jarred Alterman4th Row Films via AP)

"Bisbee '17" will be nationally broadcast for the first time Monday night on the PBS documentary series POV. In Arizona, it will be shown at 9 p.m.

This undated photo provided by 4th Row Films, town residents dressed in period costume stand in a modern day classroom in "Bisbee '17," as they re-enact the deputizing of a private police force that broke up a brewing strike at a copper mine on July 12, 1917 when they rounded up some 1,200 miners, locked them into cattle cars and deported them over the state line into a barren part of southern New Mexico. The dark history of Bisbee was largely an open secret for decades in the funky old copper town just seven miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border. It's the sixth film of director Robert Greene, who said he learned about the town southeastern Arizona around 15 years ago. (Jarred Alterman4th Row Films via AP)

This undated photo provided by 4th Row Films shows striking miners being loaded in rail cars in "Bisbee '17," a story of how some 1,200 miners, most of them immigrants, were pulled violently from their homes in Bisbee, Ariz., by a private police force and put on cattle cars for deportation to a desolate area of New Mexico in 1917. The dark history of Bisbee was largely an open secret for decades in the funky old copper town just seven miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border. It's the sixth film of director Robert Greene, who said he learned about the town southeastern Arizona around 15 years ago. (Jarred Alterman4th Row Films via AP)

This undated photo provided by 4th Row Films shows Fernando Serrano, 23, who plays a striking miner in "Bisbee '17," a story of how some 1,200 miners, most of them immigrants, were pulled violently from their homes in Bisbee, Ariz., by a private police force and put on cattle cars for deportation to a desolate area of New Mexico in 1917. The dark history of Bisbee was largely an open secret for decades in the funky old copper town just seven miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border. It's the sixth film of director Robert Greene, who said he learned about the town southeastern Arizona around 15 years ago. (Jarred Alterman4th Row Films via AP)

This undated photo provided by 4th Row Films shows men in a planning meeting in "Bisbee '17," a story of how some 1,200 miners, most of them immigrants, were pulled violently from their homes in Bisbee, Ariz., by a private police force and put on cattle cars for deportation to a desolate area of New Mexico in 1917. The dark history of Bisbee was largely an open secret for decades in the funky old copper town just seven miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border. It's the sixth film of director Robert Greene, who said he learned about the town southeastern Arizona around 15 years ago. (Jarred Alterman4th Row Films via AP)

This May 23, 2019 photo shows modern-day Bisbee, Ariz., with itslarge open-pit copper mine in the background, the subject of "Bisbee '17," a story of how some 1,200 miners, most of them immigrants, were pulled violently from their homes in Bisbee by a private police force and put on cattle cars for deportation to a desolate area of New Mexico in 1917. The dark history of Bisbee was largely an open secret for decades in the funky old copper town just seven miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border. It's the sixth film of director Robert Greene, who said he learned about the town southeastern Arizona around 15 years ago. (AP PhotoAnita Snow)

FILE - This Feb. 17, 2013 file photo shows shops and restaurants on the main street in this once bustling mining town of Bisbee, Ariz. The town is the setting of "Bisbee '17," a story of how some 1,200 miners, most of them immigrants, were pulled violently from their homes in Bisbee by a private police force and put on cattle cars for deportation to a desolate area of New Mexico in 1917. The dark history of Bisbee was largely an open secret for decades in the funky old copper town just seven miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border. (AP PhotoRoss D. Franklin)

FILE - This May 12, 2019 file shows what's left of the Lavender pit mine outside the southeastern Arizona city of Bisbee, where the copper operation stopped in 1974.The mine and the town are the subject of "Bisbee '17," a story of how some 1,200 miners, most of them immigrants, were pulled violently from their homes in Bisbee by a private police force and put on cattle cars for deportation to a desolate area of New Mexico in 1917. The dark history of Bisbee was largely an open secret for decades in the funky old copper town just seven miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border. It's the sixth film of director Robert Greene, who said he learned about the town southeastern Arizona around 15 years ago. (AP PhotoAnita Snow)