Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Dawson City film cache at HotDocs Toronto

Hot Docs, the year-round program of documentary film showings in Toronto, today starts a run of "Dawson City: Frozen Time," a 2016 feature about the cache of 500 Hollywood films and Canadian newsreels from the 1910s and 1920s, found frozen in 1978 underneath a Dawson City building. Most of the films, made on flammable nitrate stock, were lost and unknown until the Dawson copies were found.

My friend the Yukon historian Michael Gates, then a curator with Parks Canada, participated in the recovery and preservation of the film cache and wrote about it in his 2010 memoir/collection History Hunting in the Yukon. [update: he's in the movie too, with his wife and fellow discoverer Kathy Jones.]

And speaking of Michael, he has a new book: From the Klondike to Berlin: The Yukon in World War I
Nearly a thousand Yukoners, a quarter of the population, enlisted before the end of the Great War. They were lawyers, bankers, piano tuners, dockworkers and miners who became soldiers, nurses and snipers; brave men and women who traded the isolated beauty of the north for the muddy, crowded horror of the battlefields. Those who stayed home were no less important to the war’s outcome—by March of 1916, the Dawson Daily News estimated that Yukoners had donated often and generously at a rate of $12 per capita compared to the dollar per person donated elsewhere in the country.  
Update, July 28: "Dawson City: Frozen Time" is a pretty terrific movie: kind of a Hollywood movie take on the history of the Klondike, and stylistically influenced by the silents that it presents.
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