// Presented as part of April's Docs in Focus II Series //
Bill Morrison / 2016, Venice, BAFICI - Buenos Aires Festival Internacional de Cine Independiente, BFI London, Doclisboa, Dublin, FICUNAM, Göteborg, !f Istanbul International Independent Film Festival, Melbourne, New York, NYT Critics' Pick, Rotterdam, Seattle, Sitges, Valdivia / 120'
In 1978, just south of the Arctic Circle, a man with a bulldozer hit proverbial gold: a long-lost collection of films from the turn of the century, thought to be lost forever. Situated on the Yukon River, Dawson City was a popular town during the Klondike Gold Rush, boasting a population of 100,000 prospectors at its peak—it also happened to be the end of the distribution line for many film prints and newsreels, a locale too remote to justify the expense of shipping them back. The highly flammable nitrate films caused Dawson City to burn down several times, or were simply sent downriver—entombed under the permafrost, however, these 533 rare prints survived the test of time, offering a unique history of the denizens of a bygone Canadian frontier town.
Prolific documentarian Bill Morrison assembles these long-forgotten films alongside archival footage, interviews, and historical photographs to evoke a bizarre, localized account of an early capitalist nation—with its attendant histories of racial, gender, and class exploitation—alongside a history of cinema itself. Set to an enigmatic score by Sigur Rós collaborator and composer Alex Somers, Dawson City: Frozen Time premiered at Venice, Rotterdam, Doclisboa, and New York; Dublin, where it won a prize for Extraordinary Achievement; and Sitges, where it won the New Visions Plus Award. Dawson City: Frozen Time also won Best Documentary from the Boston Society of Film Critics Awards and the Critics' Choice Documentary Awards, Best Editing from the IDA Documentary Awards and the International Documentary Association, and is a New York Times Critics' Pick.