The long Easter weekend started on a big high with the Canadian premiere of Dawson City: Frozen Time at the Dawson City International Film Fest.

Dawson City: Frozen Time

I’ve been looking forward to this film for months! Bill Morrison, the film maker, attended the screening and had a question period afterwards with a couple of local historians.

The film focuses on all the film that was discovered, buried here in town. There were over 500 films discovered, all silent movies from the 1910-1920 era. The film medium was the incredibly flammable nitrate film. With so many films of this era released on nitrate film, most have been lost in devastating film warehouse fires.

Frozen Time tells the history of Dawson City and the history of how these films came to be buried in an old swimming pool a couple of blocks from here, using historical images, and clips from the found films.

My thoughts on the film:

  • the music – composed by Alex Somers – haunting, moving, loud and distracting at times. Really set the mood and cadence of the movie
  • the clever use of sub-titles to mimic the silent film clips
  • the subtle use of sound effects during the clips
  • emotional – the majority of these movies have otherwise been lost to history. Every single person in these movies is surely dead. Possibly the only legacy of their life’s work was found buried in the permafrost due to a long list of circumstances.
  • jaw dropping – I’ve been reading history of the Klondike Gold Rush and the history this town for a few years now. All the history is highlighted by the use of still photographs. This movie contained actual moving picture footage from a Dawson City street in 1898/1899! I can’t quite describe the experience when a place you’ve grown to love and adore, but you’ve seen only historically in old pictures, actually come to life!
  • great recap of how Dawson City came to be, but also nicely highlighted how tightly woven the history of the continent is with this small remote town – like how Tex Rickard who built Madison Square Gardens started out here, how Trump’s fortune started with his Grandfather’s businesses in the Yukon, how the Guggenheim’s grew their fortune on Klondike gold, that Alexander Pantages built his first theatre here, Jack London and Robert Service, and one I didn’t know about – William Desmond Taylor who was a gold miner here before he became a famous Hollywood producer.

The film has been picked up by a distribution company, so look for it at your local film festival and movie theatres!

Pictures Don’t Lie

I watched several other Yukon short films on Friday at the film fest. One was by Lulu Keating, titled Pictures Don’t Lie and told the story of JJ Van Bibber. I had heard of the Van Bibber family, but being rather new to the Yukon, I didn’t know much more than the name. I was so intrigued by this short film that I went and bought JJ Van Bibber’s book and read it over the next couple of days.

I was born under a spruce tree

This book is such a treasure! JJ Van Bibber passed away in recent years, but left a legacy in his family, a life time of photos, and his stories, some of which are shared in this book.

JJ is one of 16 babies born to native mother and her American husband who came over the Chilkoot Trail.

JJ’s stories often reflect on the life of a “half breed”, living and working throughout the Yukon, trapping, mining, putting in road, hauling supplies, running CAT trains, steamships, and log barges.

I loved reading about his life, and his tough as nails wife, who sounds like she was a real hunter and marksman!

This book is a real gem – not just the words, but the photos, and even the fonts and layout. It is a really beautiful book.

Second Nature: Feral

At the film fest, I also made sure I was there to see the screening of my cousin Veronica Verkley’s new film Second Nature: Feral. I just can not get over the talent, patience, and amazingness of her craft. She built a big house model, and slowly shows how it deteriorates over time, all by manually moving physical items and taking another shot. Her real expertise is with animal movements. She had birds, fox, bear, bunny, and squirrels. Their movements were so life like, it is amazing that they weren’t real. I was totally mesmerized!

Easter weekend

Outside of my film watching, and book reading, we also took a drive up the Dempster on Saturday. Just north of the Tombstone Interpretive Centre, we travelled back to full on winter. It was snowing, and everything was still frozen solid with no sign of any thaw. We saw some rabbits, ptarmigan, and plenty of red squirrels, but no big mammals are moving around yet up there.

We also drove south of town to Flat Creek where we went fishing last year at this time, but the river was still pretty frozen.

The thaw has been much more gradual this spring. It is still cold at night, and just 2-3C during the day. I expect it’ll be 2-3 weeks until the river breaks up. You can watch the progress of the thaw and breakup here:

I heard that bears were been spotted south of town this weekend! There is no grass or plant growth yet for them to eat, so hopefully they go back to bed for a couple more weeks!