Dawson City: Frozen Time. 2016. USA. Directed by Bill Morrison. 35mm. 120 min.
The confluence of a gold rush in the Yukon and the birth of cinema in the waning days of the 19th century form the basis for this masterful, revelatory film, which uses film footage that was long feared lost to tell these interconnecting stories. When Dawson City swelled to more than 40,000 inhabitants in a matter of a few months following the initial gold strike, along came hotels, gambling halls, and saloons, as well as a movie theater. Because Dawson City was at the end of the film distribution chain, distributors instructed their Yukon clients to dispose of the film reels rather than returning them. Eventually, the films were buried in an unused swimming pool and covered over. In 1978, when a construction project required the demolition of the pool, a treasury of films from the 1910s through the 1920s was found, remarkably preserved in the subterranean permafrost. With a keen eye toward storytelling and the preservation of history, filmmaker Bill Morrison weaves an intricate feature from the salvaged frames. Featuring an original score by Alex Somers, Dawson City: Frozen Time is both the fortuitous story of an unprecedented economic boom and the melancholy account of the tragic exile of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in people of the Yukon. Courtesy of Kino Lorber.