Dawson City: Frozen Time

A cache of Silent Era films was found buried under the snow in the Yukon Territory

The found-footage cycle has mostly played out by now, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t genuine footage out there still waiting to be found. Bill Morrison’s documentary Dawson City: Frozen Time relates the rise and fall of a Yukon Territory mining town, and the events that led up to several hundred Silent Era movies getting buried in a pool and curling rink, only to be rediscovered in the 1970s. Except for some spoken interview footage at the beginning and the end, the majority of the story is told via on-screen text over relevant contemporaneous footage. (Charlie Chaplin’s Klondike-set The Gold Rush pops up a lot, as do the buried films themselves, now part of the Dawson City Film Find.)

In addition to being captioned as such, the Find footage is easy to spot, because it’s all in various states of decay — and if it evokes the 2002 film collage film Decasia: The State of Decay, it stands to reason, since Morrison directed that film, as well. Indeed, Dawson City is like a far-more-accessible version of Decasia, providing a narrative and historical context. The town’s history would be interesting even if not for the films that were buried there, but that particular motherlode of frozen motion pictures makes it all the more so.

Dawson City: Frozen Time
Not rated.
Opens Friday at the Roxie Theater.

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