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Dawson City: Frozen Time

Panorama | Vancity Theatre Screening

This extraordinary film is many things: it is a history of the settlement of what became known as Dawson City (though there were First Nations to be bumped from that place first), a history that is irrevocably linked to the Klondike Gold Rush of 1896-97. But it is also the story of how entrepreneurs mined the prospectors, setting up hotels, bordellos, casinos, and soon enough, picture houses for their entertainment. (Donald Trump's grandfather was one of these men.)

3000 km north of Vancouver, Dawson City was the end of the distribution line for silent feature films: it might take years for a movie to wind its way this far north, and by the time it played Dawson City no one was prepared to stump up to ship the prints back south, and they were put into storage instead, initially in an empty vault, then later, as landfill underneath an ice rink. Despite such disregard, the freezing tundra acted as a good preservative for highly unstable nitrate film stock, and decades later, Dawson City would turn up what film archivists would describe as the motherlode: over a thousand reels of film stock from the art form's earliest days, films that had been written off as lost forever.

Bill Morrison's enthralling documentary is not just an account of times past, but also an essay on the passing of time, and how the invention of first, photography, then, motion pictures, has changed our perception of history. The past-time known as moviegoing is a form of time traveling, and fragments from old films, lost and found, present us with vivid memories that predate our experience.

Guests  Friday, July 21 -  Filmmaker Q&A (via Skype) +  Frank Barrett the gentleman who unearthed a treasure trove of "lost" silent films in the Yukon tundra forty years ago will be joining us opening night.

Free Screening Event - Sunday, July 23 - There will be a free screening of the Oscar-nominated Canadian short film about Dawson from 1957, City of Gold  (22mins) at 7pm - immediately after Dawson City: Frozen Time, courtesy of the NFB.

"One would be hard-pressed to think of a film more haunting than Morrison’s chronicle of the discovery of nitrate prints on a construction site in the Yukon." Ela Bitencourt, Reverse Shot

"Thrilling... an aesthetic knockout crammed with wild tales, amazing facts and unconventional personalities, a documentary that's also a detective story, a history of a particular place that turns into an examination of an art form as well as a gloss on the political history of the 20th century." Kenneth Turan, LA Times

"An instantaneously recognizable masterpiece." Glenn Kenny, New York Times

Director: Bill Morrison
Country of Origin: USA
Year: 2016
Running Time: 120 mins
Format: DCP
Classification: 19+
Featuring: Jack London, Robert Service, Calamity Jane, Diamond Tooth Gertie, Alexander Pantages, Sid Grauman, Charlie Chapin, Frederick Trump

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