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Dawson City: Frozen Time

This 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.

"An instantaneously recognizable masterpiece."

Glenn Kenny, New York Times

"a wondrous, almost indescribable tale, a complete astonishment from beginning to end."

Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

"...the density of Morrison’s detail and the twists in his long-game storytelling make for a constant titillating simmer of discovery, a secret history round every corner."

Nicolas Rapold, Film Commment

"Morrison …takes the DNA of cinema’s origin -- an ephemeral commodity meant for diversion -- and turns it into a timeless treasure, mined (like gold) from the Yukon’s landscape."

David Morgan, CBS News

"Whether it features long-forgotten performers; silent screen stars like Charlie Chaplin, Fatty Arbuckle, and William Desmond Taylor; or fascinating historical figures and events such as the infamously fixed 1919 World Series, the rescued footage proves consistently fascinating."

Frank Scheck, Hollywood Reporter

Movie Info

Directed by Bill Morrison
120 minutes

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