DAWSON CITY: FROZEN TIME
dir. Bill Morrison / 2017 / 2hr
Described by “New York Times” film critic Glenn Kenny “an instantly recognizable masterpiece”, this visionary meditation on cinema’s past from Decasia director Bill Morrison pieces together the bizarre true history of a long-lost collection of 533 nitrate film prints from the early 1900s. Located just south of the Arctic Circle, Dawson City was settled in 1896 and became the center of the Canadian Gold Rush that brought 100,000 prospectors to the area. It was also the final stop for a distribution chain that sent prints and newsreels to the Yukon. The films were seldom, if ever, returned. The now-famous Dawson City Collection was uncovered in 1978 when a bulldozer working its way through a parking lot dug up a horde of film cans. Morrison draws on these permafrost-protected, rare silent films and newsreels, pairing them with archival footage, interviews, historical photographs, and an enigmatic score by Sigur Rós collaborator and composer Alex Somers. Dawson City: Frozen Time depicts the unique history of this Canadian Gold Rush town by chronicling the life cycle of a singular film collection through its exile, burial, rediscovery, and salvation.
Bill Morrison’s films typically pair rare archival footage with original contemporary music. His found footage opus Decasia (2002), with music by Michael Gordon, was the first film of the 21st century to be selected to the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry. Spark of Being (2010), with music by Dave Douglas, won the LA Film Critics Award for best independent film. The Miners’ Hymns (2011), with music by Jóhann Jóhannsson, has “become a phenomenon” (The Guardian). The Great Flood (2013), with music by Bill Frisell, was recognized with the Smithsonian Ingenuity Award for historical scholarship. Dawson City: Frozen Time (2016), with music by Alex Somers, was included on over 100 critics’ lists of the best films of 2017.