By Cecily Markland
Cameron Trejo’s cinematography has taken him around the world, including to Brazil to film “I’m a Mormon,” to southern Arizona, Mexico and Honduras for the “Reflections of Christ” and “Another Testament” documentaries; and to South Korea to do a piece on the reintegration of North Koreans.
Now, while his most recent project didn’t take him far from his Arizona home, the making of a documentary titled “Power’s War,” transported Trejo and his team of collaborators back in time to delve deep into events surrounding the deadliest shootout in Arizona history.
The shootout of February 10, 1918, in a remote canyon in the Galiuro Mountains near Safford, though not as well known, was bloodier than the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. It also has been more controversial and had a much greater impact on individuals in that area and on the country as a whole.
That day, four lawmen approached the mining claim worked by Jeff Power, his sons, John and Tom, and hired hand, Tom Sisson. It was just months after the United States entered World War I, and the lawmen carried with them arrest warrants for the two boys, alleged draft dodgers. When it was over, four of the eight men, including three of the lawmen, were dead, leaving 19 children fatherless.
The aftermath was replete with questions of who fired first and who shot who, as well as the larger questions having to do with a country at war and the changing face of the Old West.
“’Power’s War’ began as a historical documentary about a somewhat unknown shootout and grew into a study about the effects of war on even the most average of citizens and the catastrophic effects of speaking out against said wars,” says Trejo.
Those larger themes, as well as more personal aspects makes for a captivating story.
“I was fascinated that people still had so many questions and were so passionate about this story,” Trejo says, adding, “The cabin where the shootout occurred still stands, which I believe also helps keep the story alive. It’s a remote hike, but those who have get to experience history, and they become even more intrigued with the Power shootout.”
Trejo says he and his team have found the interest to be widespread.
“We’ve presented to a dozen historical conferences in three different states, each of them followed by adamant discussion about the century-old tale.”
In producing the film, Trejo says, “I worked closely with lead researcher, Heidi Osselaer, who was very gracious with her time, and we also collaborated very heavily with Arizona State University Library Archives, Arizona Historical Society, AHS of Tucson, and the list goes on and on. Roughly a year and half was dedicated to hunting down any detail we could find on the Power family and the shootout of 1918,” Trejo says.
Other collaborators on the project were co-producer, Dagen Merrill, who has directed five feature films, cinematographer, Wesley Johnson, a native of Mesa, and writer and award-winning documentarian Dodge Billingsley; and they traveled to New York to record with narrator John Slattery.
“Power’s War” is scheduled to be shown at various screenings and festivals. To learn more and to find a listing of screenings, visit www.powerswar.com. The PowersWar Facebook page also has comments from family members and other interesting posts.